About a year ago I found myself living out of a suitcase in a small room of a house away from all of my possessions that I had left behind. Although it was a tough time in my life, the experience itself was completely liberating.
It was during this time that I realized how little I actually needed and how happy I was without all the possessions I left behind.
Reflecting back, I now realize what I experienced during that time.
A method that assists us in ridding ourselves of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important to us so that we can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression and anxiety. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer lifestyle which we’ve built our lives around.
Yesterday I got the opportunity to attend a small get together right here in Boston put on by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, otherwise known as The Minimalists.
Their message was simple:
Determine what it is that makes you happy in life and what doesn’t. Get rid of the things that don’t make you happy or add value to your life so that you may make more room for the things that do.
As minimalists, they search for and establish happiness through life itself and not through things.
Minimalism is a method, a system, a way of life that assists you in living a happy, more meaningful life.
I could be wrong here, but isn’t that what we’re all looking for?
Happy, fulfilling, meaningful lives filled with more of the things we want and less of the things we don’t?
I think it’s fair to say I have and own more now than ever before. A new car, new furniture, new apartment in Boston, nicer clothes, a rental property. All things that I own. Am I happier today with all of these things than I was without them? Grateful, yes. Happier? Not really.
Associated with all of these things I’ve just mentioned owning is more financial commitment, more debt, more stress, more to take care of, more to worry about. In this case, more is definitely not better.
On the flip side of things, at this point in my life, I’ve also created many more meaningful relationships with my family and friends, deeper conversations, happier more joyful experiences, a greater sense and appreciate for what I have and what I want. Am I happier today because of this? Absolutely! Is this because of all the things I now own? Absolutely not.
Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.
Some of the best memories and times I’ve had where I felt happy, fulfilled, and a sense of freedom was when I had less of the things I have now.
Growing up, our family was lower to middle class at best. We didn’t have much of material things but we did had lots of fun, love, laughter, and family gatherings.
My toys consisted of small pieces of plywood I would use to build small roads for my matchbox cars, tools from my grandfathers tool shed which I would use to dig a huge hole in the garden.
Not sure exactly how I found that fun, but I did. Simple, but fun. No Xbox, no internet, no fancy toys. Just pieces of wood and a shovel.
My college years are another example of a time when I had so little, yet was so happy. No fancy apartment, just a crammed dorm room. No expensive meals, just Ramen noodles. No brand new car but an old beat up Honda Accord. My clothing consisted of wind pants and tee shirts. I didn’t have many things but I had many great times and experiences with friends, with learning, getting to know myself, my interests, what I wanted and didn’t want. Because I didn’t have many of the things I have today to worry about and consume my thoughts, I had the time, the space, the mental bandwidth to focus on the what really mattered to me and was important to me.
MINIMALISM = FREEDOM
Here are some ideas and examples of areas in your life where you can start to exercise minimalism and begin ridding yourself of the things you don’t want, to make more room in your life for the things you do want.
Perhaps it’s cutting back on that daily cup of Starbucks coffee, happy hours, and social dinners so that you have more time to focus on your health, eating better, going to the gym, exercising, meditating, whatever it may be that contributes to your overall health not to mention giving your wallet a break.
Be aware of all the negative thoughts you have throughout the day such as you can’t do it, you’re not good enough or smart enough or not deserving enough to be happy, appreciated, or loved. Take inventory of these thoughts and slowly begin to rid yourself of them so that you may replace them with positive thoughts, thoughts such as you are good enough, you are smart enough, you are deserving enough to be happy, successful, and loved. The only way to make room for the good thoughts is to rid yourself of the bad ones.
I hate my job. I feel stuck here. I’m miserable. I can’t just leave. I have bills to pay and a family to feed. It may not be an overnight fix, but there are fixes available to you if you’re willing to work for them. Getting up every morning to go to a job that is unfulfilling, that makes you unhappy, miserable, depressed, and anxious is no way to spend a single second of your life let alone forty plus hours a week. Begin to simplify your life so that you lessen your financial obligations, therefore giving yourself more options for a job that may not pay as much but provides you happiness, fulfillment, and more freedom.
Free yourself from those who drain you and your life, who take more than they give so that you have more time to spend with those who appreciate you, love you, support you, and enrich your life.
“You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.”
Look around you. What things do you possess that are of true value to you? One of the best ways to decide this is to go through an exercise that Chris Brogan, a fellow Bostonian and amazing blogger, calls the “Oh shit, there’s a fire” drill. If you had just minutes to gather up all of the things that truly matter to you in your home, what would they be? For me it would be my laptop, photo albums (yes I still have these), a few picture frames, and a few small possessions that hold sentimental value. Maybe a small bag of clothes as well but that’s it. Everything else is just things.
As much as I love the convenience of online bill pay, it makes me realize how many financial obligations I have. Car lease, insurance, utilities, credit cards, memberships (gym, Costco, etc), rental property expenses, and many others. Take inventory of all your expenses and debt and identify which ones you really do need and are of value to you. Not the nice-to-have things but the ones that mean the most to you. Keep those and rid yourself of the rest. Simplify your finances so that you may simplify your life, ease your stress, and have more money to apply to the areas in your life that have the most meaning and provide you the most happiness and fulfillment.
With every decision you make, whether it’s what you’re buying at the grocery store, purchasing at retail stores, or the friends you keep, ask yourself if what you are deciding on will add value to your life. If the answer is no, walk away.
Less is more.
Quality not quantity.
It’s the little things that mean the most.
Love people and use things. Never the other way around.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
~ Goethe ~
There’s an around the world trip on the horizon for my girlfriend and I. We’ll be traveling the world with nothing more than a backpack for an entire year. Needless to say we’ve begun to embraced the minimalism method in preparation for the trip.
What are some ways you have or will implement minimalism in your life? How has it changed the way you live and feel? Please share your experiences with me in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.
Photo Credit: Bloggs74