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Weekend reading: Minimalism is for life, not just for Netflix

What caught my eye this week.

I first came across Marie Kondo when a friend’s departing ex left him The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up [1] as a parting gift.

Quite an intimate detail to share with me, you might say, except he didn’t do so deliberately.

I literally stumbled across the book on top of a pile of about 50 others – surrounded by four or five other such piles – when I visited to see how he was doing.

This isn’t a cute metaphor. He really was a messy hoarder, his stuff was all over the place, and she’d had enough.

My friend eventually got rid of a lot of his junk, but it wasn’t because he rejected consumerism.

Rather he leveled up by buying his own expensive – but not expansive – London flat. He couldn’t fit everything in, so he was forced to clear out.

Indeed I didn’t even think about Kondo in the context of tactical frugality until I read the excellent Reset [2] by David Sawyer. For Sawyer, a critical step towards intentional living with fewer shopping trips was to jettison vast amounts of material from his home.

This does seem to me an odd notion.

I lived my ascetic graduate student [3] lifestyle for many years, and so I never accumulated much expensive flotsam and jetsam.

But the key advantage wasn’t that I could open my cupboards without a crash helmet or dodge choice paralysis when confronted with my barely half-a-dozen pairs of shoes.

It was that I didn’t spend the money on lots of stuff in first the place! Let alone on having to hire vans and skips to take it all away again.

When Kondo’s KonMari method reached Netflix this year, my skepticism returned. Perhaps Sawyer’s readers do find the hard reboot of a spring clean an important step. He’s wrapping it up within a redesigned frugal living package, after all.

But for many Tidying Up viewers, I suspect clearing space in the closet will just leave a void to fill.

According to a (securely paywall-ed) Wall Street Journal [4] article this week, Kondo’s impact is now rippling across the US thrift economy:

A global ‘Tidying Up’ frenzy is burying donation centers with goods that truly, nobody wants.

“We aren’t a place for people to just dump their rubbish.”

Call me cynical, but I suspect many of these new Kondo converts filling their SUVs with unwanted things (a) are signalling how soulful they are (b) showing-off how well they’re doing, perhaps unconsciously, via their rejected excess stuff, and (c) will be restocking before summer is out.

But maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps a retail rout will follow. Time will tell.

I stress again, I’m not knocking the general philosophy. When I was at the height of my minimalist powers in the early 2000s, a visiting friend asked if I’d been robbed.

But has anyone out there used Kondo to jump start a permanent switch from shopping til dropping?

From Monevator

Robot angels: Automated seed investing on the Seedrs crowdfunding platform – Monevator [5]

The Gordon Equation: how to calculate expected returns for equities – Monevator [6]

From the archive-ator: Learn how to get rich from a video game – Monevator [7]

Archive-ator bonus: It’s 10 years ago since the bear market bottom – Monevator [8]

News

Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1 [9]

Life expectancy falls by six months in biggest drop in UK forecasts – Guardian [10]

House prices bounced back 5.9% in January – AOL [11]

UK cash system ‘on verge of collapse’ says report – Guardian [12]

World’s largest sovereign wealth fund to drop oil and gas stocks – CNBC [13]

Google’s AI-powerhouse DeepMind will open a huge new London HQ in 2020 – Wired [14]

Private equity has trillions, but research shows women get little of it – Bloomberg [15]

Workplace theft is on the rise – The Atlantic [16]

[17]

Your scheduled reminder that fund out-performance is typically fleeting – Bloomberg [18]

Products and services

ISAs: Who wants to be a millionaire? [Search result]FT [19]

Almost 90% of UK shoppers use Amazon [20], and 40% have access to Prime – Guardian [21]

The £100 bonus from Ratesetter boosts your expected first year return on £1,000 to 14% [22]  – Ratesetter [23] [Affiliate link]

Will these be the worst new ‘rabbit hutch’ flats in Britain? – Guardian [24]

Terry Smith’s Smithson investment trust seems off to a solid start – IT Investor [25]

Comment and opinion

Average long-term returns hide a lot of ups and downs – A Wealth of Common Sense [26]

Lighten the load – Humble Dollar [27]

What happens after you win? – The Irrelevant Investor [28]

Even Keynes couldn’t time the market – The Evidence-based Investor [29]

Most investors should be satisficers not maximisers – Behavioural Investment [30]

The single woman’s guide to retirement planning [Paywall, but clickthrough] Barron’s [31]

Recessions: It’s been a while – Morgan Housel [32]

From gloom to boom – Investing Caffeine [33]

Is Unilever still a no-brainer for dividend investors? [PDF]John Kingham [34]

Hargreaves Lansdown Vs. Nick Train Vs. Terry Smith – Sharepad [35]

Valuing Lyft ahead of the ride-sharing company’s IPO – Musings on Markets [36]

Brexit

Brexit in a nutshell – via Twitter [37]

Kindle book bargains

The Complete Guide to Property Investment by Rob Dix – £0.99 on Kindle [38]

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini – £1.99 on Kindle [39]

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau – £0.99 on Kindle [40]

Off our beat

Does social status still matter when you hit a certain age? [Search result]FT [41]

Also: The life-changing magic of discovering grey hair – Quartz [42]

The people who eat the same thing for lunch everyday [Is me!]The Atlantic [43]

What does ‘self-made’ mean (or matter) anyway? – Hunter Walk [44]

The Stormtrooper problem: Why thought diversity makes us better – Farnham Street [45]

Having fun is a virtue, not a guilty pleasure – Quartz [46] [via Abnormal Returns] [47]

…though work isn’t really so bad [Research]Marginal Revolutions [48]

You are not trying to be liked. You are trying to be judged – Medium [49]

And finally…

“Being a citizen is an active state; being a consumer is passive.”
– Roger McNamee, Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe [50]

Like these links? Subscribe [51] to get them every Friday!

  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. [ [54]]