The Start Up Diet


For too long, early on in my life, I thought that one of the major parts of being happy was being rich.  I think back on it now and realize that all the things I thought one had to be rich to enjoy were actually just things you had to be FREE to enjoy. Like taking long walks on crowded city streets (I’m not much of a nature person) or eating yummy hot dogs from a food cart (again, my desires are simple &  urban). When I hit this realization it changed everything for me, I got rid of tons of crap I kept for no reason other than the fact that having more stuff made me feel wealthier.

Today the start up diet, as I call it, is one of my secret weapons that I use whenever I’m  starting a new venture or getting ready to embark on a new adventure. The start up diet consists of going through all the physical things you have and slimming down a few sizes, thus keeping only what you need and use the most. Not only does this do wonders psychologically (having less makes you feel freer, more agile and more empowered) but it does wonders when you need a little infusion of quick cash or want to get mobile to make your travel dreams come true.

Most of us won’t get rich of the first business we start, but we don’t have to live in poverty while we try to make our way to ultimate success. Instead I suggest people focusing on what they love, use often and need, then getting rid of all the rest.

Tightening your belt this way will free up funds for you to do what you really love instead of spreading yourself thin keeping up with the Jones’. It also allows you to be very mobile (I make sure I can pack all I own in my car at any given time) so when opportunity comes a knockin’ you can greet it with a smile.

To illustrate here is the latest start up diet I’ve been going through:

  1. I realized that my beloved Lexus was too much car for me and that if I was going to have a luxury car I was going to own it outright. So I am in the process of selling it (if you know any buyer’s I’ll throw in some free consulting and even road trip it out to you!) and putting a plan in action that will get me a new Prius (far more fuel savvy) without having to spend a dime on my end (more on that later).
  2. I decided that I had too many techy gadgets, like an expensive podcasting microphone, a new camera and a flip cam (when one will do the same job as both) etc. So I’m debating whether to eBay them in a bundle and promote it on this blog or to just sell them one by one.
  3. I went through my closet and executed the 80/20 principle. Clothes went flying and the only things left were the stuff that I use regularly and really love. Now I realize that I can spend more money on a few items of clothes that are versatile vs. lots of money on tons of cheap clothes which will go out of style and shred up fast.
  4. Now every time I seem to hit a glitch in my start up I “self medicate” by going through my kitchen, bedroom or vanity and chucking everything I don’t absolutely need into the “buh bye” bin (also known as the salvation army bag).

I know that I am doing this, possibly subconsciously, in preparation for my next big move. I don’t know where I’m going to go, I don’t know exactly when, but I do know when the time is right I can chuck everything I own into my soon to be hippy mobile (i.e. Prius) and hit the road.

I hope that as you start up a business that will hopefully change your life you remember that entrepreneurship is only one part of living an extraordinary existence. Freedom is the true goal and less really is more at this stage. So tighten your belt, free up cash for what you really love to do and stop buying into our more is more society. I’m no hippy (seriously I have like 5 silly expensive hand bags and love guns), but I do realize that the old Warren Buffett quote about looking at what everyone else is doing and doing the opposite applies to not only business, but to your life. Don’t try to catch up the Jones’ they don’t live extraordinary lives and are probably neck deep in credit card debt instead be like the odd balls out there who have just enough to make them happy & all the freedom in the world to enjoy it with.

photo credit

  • KathleenKOConnor

    Love it. This is also my philosophy. But I've also been forced to live minimally because I've moved so many times in my life. I've made the mistake of chasing money and material things, too, but seriously, I have all I need to be happy right now.

  • rao

    it is absolutly right i obey that it nothing but a contenment is bliss , but for sustaince a littly bit is nessary

  • Matthew Needham @Bigredtomato

    Great post Maren. I think this simple life is a great thing to aspire too. Plus, reducing outgoings puts less demands on the business in the early stages and hence achieves profitability much more quickly.

  • Nicholas Tozier

    Great post, Maren! I'm totally behind this article. Throwing things away & selling them has improved my life tenfold. Easily. And it continues to improve every time I focus a little effort and take a critical eye to my home/workspace.

    I'm down to my (admittedly ubiquitous) bookshelves, a few cozy reading chairs, a bed, a piano, guitars, and three desks. It's been a long struggle, but I'm finally habitually neat. I guess you could say that I'm housebroken.

    When I hit a snag in my work, or if I start getting overwhelmed, it usually helps to look around and make sure all the desks are clear, or that each one has only one project on it. And I get rid of everything that's not essential to my core values and my goals. Whatever books have stacked up on the bed or chairs get shelved, unless they're vital to a task.

    As a musician I struggle sometimes with the accepted ways of making money—which requires mobility, but it sure isn't freedom. I decided long ago that any tours I take will be short and I will stay with friends along the way—I don't see much romance in the idea of rushing from city to city, seeing only a restaurant and a venue, then getting back on the road after washing my shirt in a sink somewhere.

    Love this website because we modern musicians have to think as entrepreneurs if we are to survive in the current climate, when all our music is free.

    What're you going to use to record podcasts if you sell your Blue, Maren?

  • Maren Kate

    That's an awesome place to be :) I'm glad to finally be getting there.

  • Maren Kate

    It really makes everything – business & personal – simpler and that makes everything go far better :) in my case at least

  • Maren Kate

    Hi! Glad you commented :) I may keep the Blue – I used it today and it is just soo nice… I love the way it sounds. Lol, it's more of an emotional thing than anything else. You are right, musicians do need to think like entrepreneurs because if you want to make a living off your passion that is truly what you are.

  • Brooks Briz

    Maren, I'm a long-time reader and now a first time poster; you hit the nail on the head with this one.

    As a quick back story, when I was getting out of grad studies and getting ready for the working world; all I knew was going after money. I figured that I was young, unmarried, had no children and had not incurred substantial fiscal responsibility so it was my time to work as hard as I could to make as much money as I could.

    But was money what I, or we, as a group are really chasing? Is it the physical, green stuff? Absolutely not; it's security. It's security for ourselves, security for our families and security for all of those that we care about. We don't need all of the techno gadgets, lavish vacations and so forth to truly be happy.

    Gary Vee said something recently at the Rails conference in Baltimore, MD and he said that he talks to as many old people as possible. Why? Because they have perspective and they have played “our game.” He continued on to say that every single one of them tells him, “Gary, I don't care about how much money I made. I just wish that I had spent more time with my family and did what I loved; that's it.”

    Hope this helps and keep up the great work Maren :)

  • Bigfoothunter69

    This is great stuff. Keep growing and keep the dream alive. I am debt free, I don't have a car payment, credit cards or even a house payment. I realized a long time ago that riches don't make a person wealthy. Happiness does.

  • Lauren Lionheart

    Great mindset tip, Maren. The decluttering process seems like THE life changing topic lately. Everyone I know and meet is somewhere along the path. And they're all feeling more free; less owned by their stuff. It's been years in the making for me, and I'm finally down to 1.5 suitcases. It's allowed me to travel the world for over 10 months. Something I never would have considered with an apartment full of STUFF!

    It brings up an unexpected question for me though… now that I'm feeling drawn back to California, I can't imagine getting another home and filling it up with new things. Does this mean I will be a nomad forever? Or find a new way of living that blends hyper minimalism & a static address? Not sure yet, but I'm excited to find out.

    Have fun with the rest of your “diet” and enjoy whatever new life you decide on!



  • Maren Kate

    That really is a good idea – talking to people who have lived their lives and now are looking back. It's not the money, you are so right, it is the experience that matters. We need a certain amount of money to live the experiences we want, like traveling the world, having security to start a family, etc. but we don't need a million in the bank waiting for retirement… to me there is nothing that sounds more sad than “Retirement”.

    Thanks for commenting Brooks! I love hearing from people who've read for a while and are just now saying hey!

  • Maren Kate

    That is amazing – being debt free rocks – good for you and you know what I've noticed, it seems like a trend that is sweeping the world, more and more people are holding the idea of being debt free and not “chained” to anyone in high respect. It's a good sign for things to come.

  • Maren Kate

    1.5 suitcases?! Whoa! also 10 months, I'm so jealous! I'm working my way to that point too :)

    Let me know how transitioning back to the California lifestyle goes, I'd be interested to hear more about your journey!

  • The Yakezie

    Hi Maren! I think you are my new favorite blogger! We've built a 100+ personal finance and lifestyle blog network with, and we're looking at ways to build a business and help all members.

    It's great to read your perspective on things.


  • Ben Lumley

    Such a great post Maren

    You point at the end about “Don’t try to catch up the Jones’ they don’t live extraordinary lives and are probably neck deep in credit card debt” is spot on for me.

    For ages I used to, and occasionally still do it, compare myself to those around me who I perceived were more wealthy. In reality they usually weren't and just had lots of credit (thankfully I have none – and only owe a bit of money to my dad)