1. The more stuff you own, the more stuff owns you.
Have you ever seen the show hoarders? It’s so easy to criticize those people, and we often see ourselves as polar opposites because we may have a tidy house and an organized living space, but what if this dichotomy between hoarders and organizers doesn’t exist? What if these are just two sides of the same coin?
Joshua Fields Milburn argues “organizing is just well-planned hoarding.” It may even be worse than hoarding because it involves spending your most valuable asset, time, on organizing all your stuff.
Consumerism ends up controlling our entire life because not only are we spending our extra time organizing our stuff, we also have to work a job to pay for all our stuff, it’s the never ending cycle of hedonic adaptation(soon after you purchase something you get that instant gratification and then you return back to your baseline level of happiness and then start desiring more stuff with the thought that is will make you happy). It ends up creating a cycle of desire induced unhappiness, never able to be satisfied with what you have.
An interesting quote I heard by Naval Ravikant is “Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” And the thing about the American dream is that we’re in a perpetual state of desire which may be one of the causes of our mass unhappiness as Americans, or as western culture in general.
The alternative is minimalism, and no minimalism does not mean that you have to own less than 100 things. Instead, it’s the intentional decision to live only with that which brings value to your life. What if this were the preferred track towards happiness rather than the constant desire for an unattainable happiness put onto us by our society, more specifically be advertisements.
2. Ask: “What are you Passionate about?” NOT “What do you do?”
Think back to a time when you were at a party, or get together and started talking to someone you’ve never met . One of the first questions we ask is What do you do? Seems like a fine question right, well think again.
We put more emphasis on “How do you earn a paycheck?, than we do on pursuing our interests and passions.
This could be because it’s much easier to regurgitate a ready-made answer, such as “Oh, I’m the regional manager of blank.” After all, it’s easy to prove you’re another cog in the wheel, just like everyone else. But to talk about your interests, and have deeper conversations about life, society, and the truly important things. Whoa, now that might bring you out of your comfort zone, but after all there’s no growth without discomfort. Being a little emotionally uncomfortable at time, means growing to new levels that you could’ve never even dreamed of.
Do you really want to listen to another boring conversation about where someone works and live the rest of your live in the degrading level of small-talk or do you want to have meaningful conversations that actually help you grow as a person.
Instead of regurgitating the one-sided conversation of “How do you make a paycheck”, maybe you could ask “What are you passionate about?” Or “What are your interests?” instead.
3. Why over How
The how of minimalism is the easy part. Just get rid of all your stuff. It’s simple because it’s the same for everyone. But this does you no good unless you have a solid grounding into the why of minimalism. If you skip the why aspect than there’s a good chance that you’ll end up right back where you started in a couple of months.
The why aspect of minimalism isn’t so simple, it’s much more individualistic. Minimalism is going to be different for someone who wants to travel the world and live out of a backpack, than it is for someone with a family of four.
But what minimalism does for just about everyone is to help you focus on your passions. Maybe it’s writing, music, traveling, research, personal development, etc. Free Time increase because you’ll be spending less time in the cycle of compulsory consumption. Having a passion and a purpose in life is one of the most important prerequisites to growth. In his book, Milburn talked about Passion as completely different from Excitement. Excitement comes and goes, but true passion is long-term. Have you ever heard the statement “Follow your passion?” Well frankly, that’s not very good advice because passion isn’t followed it’s cultivated. Cultivated with hours and hours of dedicated work and effort.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking about the why of minimalism.
- When did I give so much meaning to material possessions?
- What is truly important in my life?
- Why am I discontent?
- Who is the person I want to become?
- How will I define my own success?
And that brings us to the next point.
4. Happiness + Growth + Contribution = Success
You can skip the pursuit of happiness altogether and just be happy. Success isn’t about the amount of money in your bank account, rather it’s about being happy in the present moment, while also striving to grow as a person, and contribute to something larger than yourself.
Happiness is merely the act of stopping and being grateful for everything around you. Simply put, Gratitude = Happiness, but even better you can define success as the amount of gratitude and growth in your life. And then the final aspect of success, contribution, can come in many forms. It could mean donating part of your paycheck to your favorite charity, or maybe just small acts of selflessness each and every day. It’s fulfilling to know that you are making the world a better place.
5. Is this Worth my Freedom?
Going forward, one of the easiest things to do is the following. Whenever you’re at a store, or looking into purchasing something new, ask yourself “Is this thing worth my freedom?” For example, if you make $12 an hour and have been wanting to buy a new shirt that is $24, ask yourself. “Is this shirt worth 2 hours of my freedom? It truly puts everything into perspective when you phrase it like this “Am I going to get more value from this object or my freedom?” Now that’s your decision to make, but now you have the option rather than mindlessly consuming more and more.
As a final anecdote, I wanted to state that the minimalists have personally impacted my life, I met them at one of their speeches at a local bookstore, in fact, that’s where I purchased the book Everything that Remains, the Minimalists ended up signing the book and I had an amazing conversation with them. This was around 4 years ago and I was one of the youngest kids they had met at a speech.
They changed the course of my life forever, I went from having the goal of working at a good 9-5 Job in a field that I liked, to living a simpler life and questioning the societal norms of consumerism and hedonism. They put me onto the track that I’m on today. If I wasn’t inspired by the minimalists I probably would have never pursued Meditation and spirituality because I wouldn’t of had the interest in pursuing simple living and zen.