On Minimalism: Part 1 – Things
Minimalism is the act for reducing the unnecessary aspects of life which hinder your general day to day contentment. The following three posts will address issues surrounding Things, People and Actions. By looking at your life from a perspective where you are free from many of the pieces which hold you back from achieving new modes of self-awareness is completely freeing.
Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu said, “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
On the topic of limiting the physical things in your life it is the first and easiest method of minimalism. In western societies our homes are full of things. Our houses and apartments are packed with physical objects that we all ‘need’. We are bombarded by a lifestyle where we need this new car or that phone upgrade to be happy. However, now more than ever the items in people’s lives are growing and happiness is remaining stagnant or depreciating.
We live in a society where fear sells. A pill for every ill. Conspicuous consumption and the next best thing. It has been a progression throughout the evolution of capitalism. It is my belief that we are living in a society which is becoming increasingly controlled by the need for more and has declining self-respect. Our values are skewed to a degree. We are conditioned from a young age to want with little effort. A child kicking and screaming in a toy store isle is not far off of a middle aged adult who continually maxes out different credit cards in order to achieve momentary happiness. The result is a growing population of consumers who are marketed lives of pre-decision and were buying into it. Both with our wallets and actions.
Now hypothetically consider coming home one day to your home and finding that everything you own is gone. There is nothing left. You are forced to start over. Where would you begin? For anyone who has ever had a fire or experienced a natural disaster this is a very real experience. But it is here that you can see who you are and what you value. As humans we feel greater emotion from losing something then the act of having it. On a smaller scale consider packing your life into a few bags and shipping off to unknown parts of the world. The less you travel with the more you appreciate the things you have. I have gotten better and better with traveling light. When traveling by plane I never check a bag. Just the essentials. You begin to limit the items which are no longer a necessity. It also makes traveling more interesting. Invest your money in a few items of quality which allow you conduct your business and maintain your lifestyle. Your objects should not define who you are. You are your own definition.
So go look about your house and consider all of the things you do not need. The majority of people living in the world do not have storage closets, so get rid of all of that. All of that furniture you had to have. The CD and movie collections. The closets full of clothes. Drawers of old pens. Basements and crawl spaces heaped to the rafters from a lifetime of incessant collecting. Each thing representing a moment in time. They are only things, so get rid of them. Find value in your experiences and memories. Spend your money on these moments in time instead.
George Clooney says in the movie ‘Up In the Air’ regarding all of the things in our life stuffed into a backpack that, “We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. And make no mistake moving is living.” Choose the few things that are important to you. Make them count, but don’t let them become your identity. You will be much happier for it.
I’m not saying you should get rid of all the things in your home and sleep on an air mattress. I’m saying you should rid yourself of the things which clutter up your life and take away from your ability to be the kind of person you can feel proud of. In western societies we live in castles we call homes and fill them with duplicating items of televisions and furniture in order to satiate the empty spaces of our own personal shortcomings. I find it is easy to sometimes get caught up in this type of consumption when I return home to visit. However, when I am out in the world where my experiences and memories are what define me, I am less apt to fall into that trap. I know my motivations. Living abroad helps you understand the unnecessary act of filling your life up with things. Define yourself on your actions, how you carry yourself and what makes you content. Items come and go but your experiences are forever. Once you get down to your true goals and aspiration you can begin to throw out the physical trash in your life.
Next time I will discuss how to project your true identity through the people you choose to interact with.