I've discovered the secret to true New York City happiness: quit your job and throw all of your shit out.
A couple of months ago, I had an epiphany. I had recently graduated from NYU's business school, and strapped down with 120k of MBA debt, I was seriously considering taking one of those white collar MBA jobs-- some job with a title like "management consultant" or "ebullshit strategist." There was only one wrinkle in this otherwise perfect plan: the idea of doing one of those jobs made me feel like throwing up-- all the time. I was literally nauseous for two weeks, and then it came to me: why was I doing this? Sure-- to make money. But why did I need to make money? To buy stuff, to buy an apartment-- the materialist dreams of every New Yorker. But what if I flipped that equation around: instead of making more money to buy more stuff, and buying a larger apartment to hold all that stuff in, what if I threw out all of my stuff, slimmed down my material needs, and learned to live in a smaller space? If I did that, I'd need a lot less money, and that would give me the freedom to choose a job that I actually wanted to do: working on Gothamist full-time.
So I did it. I turned down the corporate job, got a small office for Gothamist down on Chambers Street, and began tearing down the materialist apparatus of my life. First, I got rid of all my DVDs. That was easy-- I considered using Ebay, but then went with Spun, because it was easier. Then I tackled my books: I boxed them up (16 boxes!) and moved them to Manhattan Storage. I would have just donated the boxes to Housing Works Bookstore, but my wife has a sentimental attachment to some of the novels we read in college. I figure after a year of storing them, that attachment will fade, and we'll get rid of them then. Dealing with my CD collection was more difficult-- I had already ripped them to iTunes, but I knew that at some point in the future, I might want to remaster them at a higher sampling rate. Rather than take a chance on throwing them out, I boxed those too and put them in storage as well.
Once all the media was dealt with, I moved to the next phase of my plan. First, I got rid of all the technology I wasn't using-- all the old watches, screens, computers, cameras, video equipment, and MP3 players that were collecting dust around the apartment. Ebay took most of those-- the rest I gave to friends or put out on the street. Next, I went through my closet-- and put out every item of clothing that I hadn't worn in the last twelve months. Then, I took a final spin around the apartment, collecting every thing that didn't have a specific use-- all the decorative tchotchkies and knick-knacks, all the toys and miscellaenous stuff, all the furniture that wasn't completely and totally necessary. All gone! Afterwards, I looked around the now-empty apartment, and felt a wonderful sense of relief. I felt totally unburdened.
My plan for the future is simple: earn as much money as I can, doing what I love, and spend money only when I have to-- on stuff that I absolutely need or will use. Of course I'm keeping my computer, my camera, and my clothes-- I need that stuff to do my job, and I make no apologies for that. The money that I don't spend will go into savings. Some of that money will go towards great experiences: travel, eating good food, going out, things like that. At some point in the future, maybe we'll use some money to buy an apartment-- but maybe we won't. It seems silly to renounce materialism and then spend some ungodly amount of money to buy an overpriced apartment in a neighborhood that doesn't excite us.
So I urge you to consider doing what I've done: reduce your material needs, find a job that you love, and spend your money on things that really matter: tools that you'll use and experiences that you'll remember for the rest of your life. Trust me-- the happiness is going to blow your mind.