Another Episode from Julie’s Radio Program
It might seem like just another trend, but living with less is of great interest to plenty of people, young and old.
You might think of minimalism as just a trend, but it’s probably more so the result of decades of encouraged consumerism that has exhausted and overwhelmed so many. The 80s and 90s were all about chasing the American dream of having the best of everything, and not just the best, but a lot! Bigger homes, fancy cars, the latest fashions and all the material goods we wanted as they poured in from outside our borders inexpensively and easily accessible. People got caught up in a vicious cycle of trying to earn enough money to pay for lifestyles that were physically and mentally draining.
We now see a shift, people valuing experiences over material things. Over and over again we hear about friends or family who are struggling with helping their baby boomer aged loved ones clear out homes filled with years’ worth of accumulation, while trying to juggle their own work and family life. They are vowing to not burden the next generation with massive downsizing projects, and are coming to realize that their legacy need not be made up of things, but of memories, experiences and living a full life, not a life full of possessions.
You might have heard some minimalist dictums like an expensive watch won’t give you more time, you don’t own your stuff, your stuff owns you, or live more with less. Okay, that all makes sense, but how does one go about living minimally? Does it have to apply to all aspects of your life, or can you start small in one area just to see how things go before jumping in with both feet? Is this a change or a transition to living differently? A change is an event, changing trains, clothes, or jobs, while a transition is more about the process and the aftermath of change. So you can change how you feel about shopping just for fun, but the transition will involve what you do with the time you used to spend on shopping for fun.
You can start incorporating minimalist ideas by identifying what’s important to you. Jot down your top priorities, make a list of the people who matter the most, and clarify your goals. I wouldn’t worry so much about your five-year plan for the immediate future. Just by putting pen to paper and hashing out your true objectives, you might realize that material belongings are lower on the list than you first thought.
Now look around you at everything you own, all of your possessions, and see if you can imagine what your life would be like without some of them. Which possessions are essential to living, to comfort, to health and well-being? Which possessions are superfluous, for mere entertainment or just there because it’s always been there? What do you own because you NEED to own it, versus what do you own because you WANT to own it? As you begin to take inventory of your surroundings, you might be able to identify things that you simply can’t live without,. Some may be utilitarian and some may be sentimental. There is no right or wrong here, this is just an exercise in really seeing your possessions from an angle you might not have considered before.
You may have heard of the idea of owning only what sparks joy. I appreciate the sentiment, and while it’s an admirable ideal, let’s not forget practicality. A toilet plunger may not make you smile, but the day that you need one, you’ll be glad you have one. A snow shovel doesn’t give you warm fuzzies, but it’s essential. So there is definitely a balance to be struck. Deciding to live with less doesn’t mean renting a dumpster, applying some strict reduction percentage to everything you own, therefore pitching most of it. It can mean that you are moving forward with more intention. That you’ve decided that you are really going to contemplate future purchases, to try to curb impulse buying, and that you want to more out of life, than more stuff in your life. It’s not just about material stuff; it can apply to relationships, to mental clutter, to your creative self, to your career or retirement or your finances.
Minimalism is about simplicity and eschewing complications. You can intensify your focus when there are fewer distractions and less peripheral static. You can achieve freedom from some of your life’s constraints when you better understand what is truly worth your time, energy and attention. Are the best things in life really free? A lot of them are, but we have to make room and time to enjoy them. Simplicity doesn’t mean deprivation. It can mean appreciating the value of every little thing, embracing basics and essentials, not exalting the extraneous.
To live in a more minimalistic manner, try starting small. Identify low hanging fruit, clutter that’s both physical and mental. Ask yourself what will be the worst thing to happen if you recycle that stack of year-old magazines? What will be the worst outcome if you don’t upgrade your smartphone when the newest version is released? Will there be long-term repercussions to your kids if they have fewer toys to play with? If you stop over committing your time, will you really be judged as an inconsiderate, selfish individual?
Make some changes but give yourself time to accommodate to the transition. Evaluate how the changes are affecting you and those around you. You may need to reconfigure how simply you want to live. Hopefully, you’ll find out that you are NOT your stuff and that you are more than what you own. As the internet meme says: No one is going to stand up at your funeral and say “She had a really expensive couch and great shoes.”