If you had millions of dollars, what would you do?
Your answers would surely be varied, but I bet very few of you would say: Get rid of all my stuff and my home and live with only a duffel bag.
Who is this guy? And why does he do this? I had to know more…
Who is James Altucher?
In a Reddit AMA, Altucher introduced himself as the “founder of 20 companies (17 of which failed), author of 11 books, and writer.”
“I’ve made millions, lost it all, made it back, and written about everything I’ve learned along the way,” he continued. He’s perhaps best known for “Choose Yourself,” an entrepreneurial self-help book.
As for how rich he is, it’s anybody’s guess.
Though one website estimates his net worth at more than $20 million, he answered the question on Quora by saying: “Infinite and 0. No matter what, I’m going to die. Then it’s zero. Right now, I have everything I can ever possibly want. So it’s infinite.”
Bottom line: We’ll probably never know — but from his past and current successes, I think it’s safe to say he’s a multimillionaire.
So, Why Does He Only Have 15 Things?
A few months ago, Altucher “dumped or donated virtually everything he owned” and let the lease expire on his apartment, the New York Times reports.
He now stays with friends and at Airbnbs, traveling with a duffel bag that includes a “laptop, iPad, three sets of chinos, three T-shirts and a Ziploc bag filled with $4,000 worth of $2 bills.” (Apparently, people remember you when you tip with $2 bills.)
That’s the how, but what about the why?
“My brain is not so big,” he explains on his blog. “So now I can think about other things. I can explore other ways of living more easily” — like not going to college or getting trapped in a mortgage, both of which he believes are scams.
And minimalism, but not necessarily the minimalism you’d expect.
“Love is minimalism,” he writes. “Desire, possession, and control are not minimalism.”
It’s not necessarily a minimalism of things he espouses, but a “minimalism of fear, anxiety, stress, mourning.”
Before you click away because that sounds way too woo-woo for you — or because you could never live as he does — take a second to think about what that means.
Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) give up your house and all the things in it, you can reflect upon what’s truly important; upon what composes a rich and stress-free life for you.
Because it might not be the same as everybody else.
When you have fewer resources than Altucher (as most of us do), it’s even more important to figure out how to use them.
I would never choose to live with only 15 things, but I understand Altucher’s motivation — and appreciate his desire to live an unconventional life.
Rather than letting the river of societal norms determine your journey, make sure you’re actively choosing what you spend your time and money and energy on.
Or, as Altucher says, “Figure out the 10-15 things you want in your bag before you die tomorrow.”
Your Turn: What 15 things would you take in your bag?
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.