[pullquote]”A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” – Henry David Thoreau[/pullquote]
There are all kinds of minimalism and minimalist philosophies. Some people believe that in order to be a minimalist you must not own more than 100 things. Others believe that that it is merely intentional living. Some bring a spiritual, almost religious, aspect to their minimalism while others are decidedly practical and agnostic. I guess if you had to put a label on it, I would call my minimalism – mindful consumption.
Before I decided to take early retirement, sell most of my possessions and travel the world I felt like I was in a rut. I was living a pretty typical middle-class lifestyle but it felt hollow. I had plenty of possessions and toys but they brought me little joy. On top of that much of my time was engaged with cleaning, maintaining, licensing, updating, troubleshooting and rearranging my “stuff”. I wanted more freedom in my life to do things that interested me but I was being crushed under the weight of my possessions. My accumulation of “stuff” had become more of a burden than a blessing.
So, I decided to take control and pare my belongings down to what I truly felt I needed or brought me pleasure. Actually, it is an ongoing process and I have done that a few times. I now have only a minimum of possessions but I feel that I live very richly. Escaping the consumer culture that I had built my life around freed me from being overwhelmed by things that in hindsight were purchased only for the fleeting thrill of acquisition. I no longer fear losing my possessions (or pay to insure them) because I have so few and, they could be easily replaced. It is also nice not being as vulnerable to advertisers whose main reason for existence is to get me to put my hard earned money into their pockets.
[pullquote] “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau[/pullquote]
I am sure there would be those that would argue that my lifestyle is hardly one of minimalism. I try to live every day for maximum enjoyment and adventure. One day may find me camping in the jungle eating food from a can and the next by the beach at a five-star resort. If I need to rent a car, I rent a car. If I need to get on an airplane, I get on an airplane. To me, it is about variety. If I want to buy something – after consciously and deliberately deciding to – I do so without guilt. When I decided to sell everything I own and live a life of minimum possessions this was what I had in mind. I never intended to be modern-day acetic, just more mindful of my consumption.
Minimalism has made me aware of how we as consumers are manipulated into buying things we don’t need. How something that one day seemed very appealing to own can quickly turn into a burden.
It has shown me how much time is wasted earning money to purchase something only for that temporary rush of consumerism. It has also taught me that I don’t have to possess something to get pleasure from it or admire its beauty. A painting on the wall of a museum is just as beautiful as one of the walls of my house.
Minimalism has brought me freedom of location. I can pack-up and move to a new location anywhere in the world with just a few checked bags on an airplane. It has brought me sanity because I don’t have to search through hundreds of things looking of something. It has freed me from worry and that overwhelming feeling you get when things are spiraling out of control. My kind of minimalism isn’t about happiness, but it has made me happier. It isn’t about finances even though it does save me money. It is about freedom.
There is a luxury in living life unimpeded by your possessions. For me, minimalism is a way of managing my time and resources in ways that simplifies things and allows me to concentrate on the things that matter. Giving up everything gained me the world.