Today’s modern society is all about materialistic consumption. We are made to believe that more is good and success is having the most and fast. Chasing materialistic happiness is elusive as the satisfaction from possessing a tangible thing is short lived. The more we hoard, the more complicated our lives get. Minimalism is about leading a uncomplicated and decluttered life.
To begin with minimalism is not a fad, it is way of living. A life where less is more, being happy and content with less. Minimalism does not mean self denial, it just means being a conscious consumer. If we do not have a lot to take care of, to tidy up, it leaves us with time on hand that can be utilised for contemplation, reading, writing or any other fulfilling hobby.
Having grown up in India in a family where Mahatma Gandhi was considered an idol, I have never had an extravagant lifestyle. But it was not a conscious choice to lead a minimalist life. Some years ago I came across the Marie Kondo way of tidying up. That struck a chord within me, I questioned myself if I really needed all the stuff I planed to buy. Most of the times, I did not. Which then made me introspect a lot about the importance of intangible things around us that bring pleasure.
I, then, came across a fiscal fast challenge. I was not sure I would be able to suppress the intermittent guilty retail therapy trips but lo and behold I did! Not only was this about spending less money, but also evaluating my life choices, getting out and about in the nature more often to practise mindfulness and really valuing relationships. This lead me to believe that minimalism is not about less, it is about making room for things and people that make you happy.
I started actively looking for resources to help me practise this new way of life and found a lot of inspiring material on the net.
- Joshua Becker runs minimalism blog called http://www.becomingminimalist.com
- Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have a lot of wisdom to share on http://www.theminimalists.com/
- Leo Babuta’s http://zenhabits.net/ and also http://thepowerofless.com/ emphasizing the importance of simple living.
- The capsule wardrobe has helped me get a lean wardrobe, saving on money, space and the stress of choosing the right combination of clothes and accessories.
It can be easier said than done to practise a simple life with a lot of distraction around us. However, once you have had your awakening, there is no stopping you. One does not have to turn a minimalist overnight, it is a transition and takes time. Once you have made a conscious decision, after having realised the effects of a happy life, one thing will lead to another and you will find your calling. Meanwhile, to keep you focussed, you can try to inculcate the following:
- Find your tribe – Once you have chosen your path, you need to follow the trail. It is more than likely to find like minded people on the trail who will help you stick to your goal. The blogs about minimalism and zen habits never fail to inspire. Being surrounded by people who have similar beliefs helps immensely. Spend time with people who really value you as a person rather than your possessions.
- Do not follow the herd – People who lack self belief, look for external factors to feel good about themselves and get bogged down by peer pressure. This ofcourse leads to dejection. Happiness is a state of mind that a promotion at work, the next best car or a bigger house cannot contribute to. Chasing wealth is an endless race which often is disappointing. Standing apart from the crowd is an empowering feeling that boosts your self confidence.
- Finding a passion in life – This could be your childhood hobby of sketching Mandalas or writing, anything that ignites a spark in you. In my case, I discovered the art of painting stones. I can spend hours painting and not miss a thing going around in the world around me. That, to me is meditation. The contentment is inexplicable. Some people take to travelling, getting to know new cultures and meeting new people is an exciting experience. There is a saying – own less, travel more!
- Enjoy nature to its fullest – This lead me to read up on friluftsliv. It is a Norwegian word describing a way of life, where being out in the nature is described as good for human mind and body. It does not have anything to do with expensive equipment, just a walk in the forest goes a long way in freeing up the mind. Hiking, trekking, skiing are all good ways to connect with nature.
- Do not let acceptance and recognition direct your actions – Everyone else is fighting their battle to come to surface as the best. Do not get into the survival of the fittest race. Slow down and be happy with little progresses in your life, like a healthier life or quit smoking. The below quote says it all.
“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now.
Let it teach you Being.
Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.
Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”
– Eckhart Tolle
If you are reading this, chances are you are considering treading on the path to a minimalist life. It does not require a lot of effort to turn into a minimalist, it is a matter of choice. We live in a society where most succumb to the allure of wealth and razzmatazz, that has lead to an increase in the number of people suffering from depression and anxiety, apart from physical health deterioration due to unhealthy eating habits. The chosen few, who prefer to lead a unpretentious life, do not experience bouts of disillusionment.
Start with baby steps. It could mean
- Being conscious about piling books. Check if the books you plan to buy are available at the local library or better rent ebooks from libraries.
- The amount of money spent on eating out and casual cups of latte, when added up is not always a meagre amount. Bring world cuisine to your kitchen!
- Plan unplanned weekends. Too many activities during the weekend does not allow the mind to rest properly before bouncing back to work on a Monday.
- Invest time in walking or running. Not only does it have physical health benefits but also cognitive benefits.
To each their own. There are myriad ways to lead a frugal and happy life, you will have to choose the path that best suits your life. The most important part is to start living, not just existing.
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living”
– Eckhart Tolle