My parents are in the process of moving into a new house. They lived in their previous home for over 30 years. Over the course of those three decades they raised seven children, drifted into and out of various hobbies, and witnessed technological advancement. As such, they have accumulated a lot of stuff.
Moving from a larger house into a smaller one necessitates the downsizing of one’s possessions. If in your old house you had four bedrooms and your new house has two, there is no need to retain four queen sized beds. Your new house just can’t fit them. If your old house was chalk full of various cabinets, entertainment centers, and desks that spanned two full living rooms and your new house has a single living room, good design principle requires one to get rid of some things to avoid clutter.
This brings me to a maxim I have been thinking about for the past few months that I believe has applicability to multiple aspects of one’s life. That maxim is the title of this essay. You can have anything you want, just not everything you want. I want to relate this maxim to three different areas of life, design, finances, and diet.
My mother does not understand this principle. She wanted my father and I to pack up everything she owned and move it to the new (smaller) house. Predictably, the new house is now so cluttered it is nigh unlivable. I sat down and told my mother that she could have anything she wanted moved to her new home, she just couldn’t have everything. She could have her entertainment center, her roll-top desk, or her china hutch. None of these things on its own would destroy the aesthetic of her house. In choosing everything, she created a cluttered claustrophobic mess.
In finances and diet you are ultimately working with a budget. I only have $xxxx to spend every two weeks. That $xxxx has to pay for vehicular expenses, rent, debt services, food and entertainment. If I spend more than that I have to take out debt to finance it, which is ultimately destructive to my future. Ideally, I will spend less than my biweekly paycheck, allowing me to save, invest, and pay down debt faster.
I definitely have more than $xxxx in biweekly wants. I’m sure that I could double or triple that amount without even blinking. As we all know, it is very easy to live outside of your means. The good news is that many (not all, by any means) people can spend their income in a way that allows them to buy anything they want. As above, though, you cannot buy everything you want. Love computers, buy the best computer you could possibly want. This may mean that you don’t get to take that trip to Iceland next year, however.
The best way to do this is to maximize the happiness that you buy with your money. Find out what makes you happiest and spend your money on that. Through introspection, find out what doesn’t make you all that happy and cut your expenses in that area to the bone. We all have those areas in life that we spend money on but do not increase our happiness. On top of this, at some point we reach a point of diminishing returns, where the more money we spend on an area does not appreciably increase our happiness. Once you have a decent wardrobe, does having any additional clothing actually increase your happiness?
The third area is, for me, a key revelation. I am an overeater. If I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted I would (and did) balloon up to 260 lbs or more. Fortunately, sticking to a diet is in principle the exact same as sticking to a budget. For my size and activity weight I can eat around 2000 calories a day. If I eat more than that I will gain weight, less than that and I will lose weight. In the past I have done extreme restriction on certain foods to get to my goal weight. However, once I realized the principle elucidated in this essay my goal of maintaining my weight has become easier.
I can eat anything I want. I cannot eat everything I want. If I want to eat pizza for dinner I can definitely do that. Eating an entire pizza for dinner is probably a bad idea, although it can be done. As long as I eat under 2000 calories a day I am good to go. This works even better if I string it out to an entire week. As long as I eat less than 140000 calories a week I’m golden. This can often afford me an entire Saturday of extreme eating as long as I make up for it during the week. However, for my mental sanity I like to keep my day to day diet pretty similar.
The logical process of taking what you learn from one system and applying it to another is called abductive reasoning. It does not always work perfectly, so care must be taken that the different systems are similar enough to allow the conclusions to follow. In these cases we are dealing with systems that have budgets. In design there may be something called a space budget. In finances there is a budget budget and in regards to weight loss there is the calorie budget. Budgeted systems allow one to have anything they want, just not everything they want.