How to Win in Business

This self-made millionaire got rid of everything he owned to live in Airbnbs—and he's thrilled

Entrepreneur, investor and writer James Altucher has had as much as $15 million in his bank account and as little as $143. Today, he's somewhere in between. On his journey from success to ruin and back again, Altucher has been twice married and divorced and has two children. He also acquired the material trappings of family life.

Then, about a year ago, at age 48, Altucher decided to leave his two apartments and get rid of everything he owned except for one bag containing two-to-three outfits and a second with a computer, phone and Kindle.

He now lives exclusively in Airbnbs.

James Altucher is a self-empowerment writer of books including "Choose Yourself" and "The Power of No."
CNBC
James Altucher is a self-empowerment writer of books including "Choose Yourself" and "The Power of No."

While the extreme measure may be shocking, it's in character for Altucher. The entrepreneur and writer has built a brand for himself by being unconventional and by trying to normalize what many people deem preposterous. Altucher doesn't think most people should go college, for example. He calls it a waste of time and money.

When Altucher decided to get rid of all his belongings, he had two apartments full of stuff (one near his kids' home and one in New York City). He paid a friend to go through everything and donate, keep, sell, or throw out every object. It took two weeks of sorting and an eighteen-wheeler to get rid of a lifetime of possessions.

Altucher asked his friend to not contact him at all while she was helping him purge. She called him just once, when she got to his college diploma.

"I said, 'Lisa I have not used that college diploma in the past thirty years. Just throw it out! It's the most useless thing. You can't donate it. It's the most useless thing in the apartment, so just throw it out,'" Altucher tells CNBC.

Altucher received a degree in Computer Science from Cornell University.

Keeping track of physical belongings created anxiety for Altucher and got in the way of his doing his best work, he says.

"I really like to focus on my own creativity," says the entrepreneur. "I like the freedom in not having that many things and not having a real place to live, a real address, because I think it makes me feel more creative."

Altucher's two kids live with his ex-wife most of the time, and when they come over to wherever he's staying, they bring a suitcase.

"I like the freedom in not having that many things and not having a real place to live, a real address, because I think it makes me feel more creative." -James Altucher, investor

The self-made millionaire admits his lifestyle choice is not for everyone: He wouldn't be able live in other people's apartments, for example, if nobody owned homes.

And while he feels some nostalgia for sentimental items from his past, Altucher says the trade off is worth it.

"I miss some things that I used to love, but I also gain things which are more intangible, which is an enormous sense or feeling of freedom for me and creativity."