I should’ve worn something lighter, you think. Why didn’t I wear my bathing suit? Oh, that’s right, because I didn’t want to deal with sunscreen. Lazy. The sun beats down on you. You haven’t made it far before becoming aware of your increasing warmth. And with the elevation in temperature comes an elevation in your irritability.
Behind you, as you walk, is a little red wagon. Within the red wagon sits your daughter. Well, your daughter, plus a backpack, plus a shovel and pale, plus another backpack, plus a blanket. And attached to that red wagon is your hand, pulling the wagon forward along with all of its contents (your daughter included). Beside you is your wife who has recently become aware of your newfound grumpiness.
You reach the bottom of the hill, having completed the journey from your car to the sand. With a sigh, you plow forward. As soon as the wheels of the wagon hit the beach, they lock up. Now you’re pulling your daughter, backpacks, supplies, and a wagon that doesn’t want to move.
Dragging it across the sand
Your thighs burn. The sun, mixed with the exhaustion of your effort, sours your mood even further. As you huff and puff, feeling like Sisyphus in reverse, you picture all the boring, suburban dads who have made this same trek. You’re one of them now. That doesn’t help your mood by any means.
Eventually, the saga comes to an end. You find a spot on the sand that is equal parts secluded and ocean-accessible. You and your wife unload your daughter along with the rest of the contents and set up camp. You’ll only be there for a couple hours, however you could probably survive for many moons based on the number of items you brought with you.
You sit on the hot sand. Staring at the empty wagon presently, you try to will it out of existence. It’s not going anywhere. After all, it’s very much looking forward to climbing that hill you initially walked down to get here. And it wouldn’t miss that for the world. You grimace.
Removing the complexity
Ultimately, you can’t be too frustrated. For one thing, it’s a beautiful day and you’re spending it at the beach with your wife and daughter. How amazing is that? For another, you actually like the red wagon. It reminds you of your childhood. But there’s something about it today that makes you despise it. It’s the complexity of it all.
This isn’t the first time the three of you have gone to the beach. It’s probably closer to the 20th. Yet this time has really gotten under your skin. And it’s not because of the wagon itself but because of the complexity it represents. It adds an extra layer of set up and tear down, of clean up, of hassle. Which, if you’re going to spend the whole day there and need supplies, then fine. But not for a brief beach jaunt like this.
Later that day, you and your wife, sharing in the frustrations of complexity, together create a plan. A strategy for making trips like the one earlier a lot less cumbersome. That way, you can spend less time lugging and more time enjoying. It’s a win for everyone. Especially your daughter, who’d rather sit on your shoulders as you walk anyways.
Buy for what you have, not for what you want
I once read – though can’t remember where otherwise I’d attribute it – that when buying a home you should buy for what you have today not for what you’re hoping for tomorrow. For instance, if you have a partner and one kid, buy a two-room place. Even if you want to have six kids, buy for what you have at present. Move into something larger when those kids actually come about.
From a financial standpoint, it makes sense. Why pay for a third or fourth bedroom today when you may not need it for a long time? You’re better off buying for your current circumstances with the knowledge that you can buy something larger later.
Consider that same argument, but now from the perspective of complexity. Why decorate, paint, accessorize, maintain, and worst of all clean rooms that aren’t needed? It’s a waste of time. It’s unnecessary complexity. Complexity that steals hours from your life in the same way that it steals dollars from your pocket. The more rooms you have, the more junk you get, the more time you spend managing that junk. For no reason.
Moving forward with one less wagon
I love the red wagon. I have zero qualms with the red wagon. My issue is with the complexity that items like that red wagon represent. Complexities that, like a house with extra rooms, are unnecessary. If we need the wagon, we have it, but that’s the outlier, not the norm. 99% of the time, that wagon could be left nice and comfy at home.
The thing to realize is, you have red wagons all over your life. Small things that add frustration, hassle, and annoyance to your day-to-day. Are you aware of them? I hope you’re not. Because if you are and aren’t doing anything about them… ooofff… that’s no good. So let’s assume this is your first foray into complexity. As you go about your day, notice the things that make you sour. Then, do something about them.
Be diligent about removing complexity from your life. Have the conversations that need to be had, take the steps that need to be taken. Make things simpler, not more complicated. In doing so, you will:
- Remove hassle from your life,
- Enhance fulfillment in those areas,
- And free up valuable time.
By all means, bring that wagon to the beach, the park, wherever you want. If you want to buy a castle even though you’re single, go for it. But realize what you’re adding to the experience. Understand the time, money, effort required to do such things. And ask yourself, is it worth it?
PS: The story of the beach is definitely based on a recent experience of mine.