This year has been transforming in so many ways. I learned that one concept, Minimalism, could help me clear out the clutter, physically and mentally. At the beginning of this year I had the realization that I’d been acting out of fear, and not really living a life I want, so I knew I needed to make changes to live a happy life that brings me joy and peace. I’d been familiar with the term for a while and had read some blogs on the Becoming Minimalist website written by Joshua Becker. But a few years had gone by and the only thing I had really done was kept a quote that I liked around that reminded me to be thankful for what I have, and take action to make positive changes in my life. This year, Minimalism reappeared in my life and became a center-stage player, after a friend told me about The Minimalists, who were kicking off their Less Is Now tour in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A few of us took the four-hour drive to the burgh from the burg (Harrisburg, PA) to listen to their story and get our “Free Hugs” as we left the theatre.
The trip had been right in the middle of starting the “Minimalism Game” in which a few friends and I began slowing combing through our “stuff” to find what’s important and what we can get rid of, throw away, or donate. At the end of the month, I’d freed myself from over 500 “things” including clothing, a DVD player, all my DVDs, all CDs, just about all the books I had, and lots of other stuff that just wasn’t important to me.
Following the game, and as the months pasts, and I began to focus on getting out of debt, finding time to volunteer, and striving to have a life with more meaning and purpose.
I started to listen to others more, and speak less (sometimes) and I shared all that I was learning from the essays that the Minimalists would share as well as the podcasts, and some people started to ask me questions about Minimalism.
“What have you learned from Minimalism?”
“My response : “A LOT.
Here’s a list of 10 things I learned.
- TO BE PRESENT in the moment. To really pay attention to the world around me. To realize THIS reality, is the only one I have. Once I got rid of lots of distractions around me, I was able to give my full attention to each task, or conversation. With less clutter visually and mentally, I can be fully present and that’s the greatest gift I can give to friends, family, customers, coworkers, and people I meet, or greet. It’s also the greatest gift I can give to myself, to be fully aware of where I am and to really enjoy each moment.
- TO HAVE MORE TIME! I realized that if I had Less to choose from, I could select only the clothing I knew I loved to wear. I knew that since I didn’t have to take all that time to figure out what to wear, I wouldn’t be late, and wouldn’t get stuck in traffic, and wouldn’t have to get upset while driving…. so small changes lead to BIG results of PEACE and CALM! Who knew!! I also eliminated junk emails from my inbox, so every time I got an email that I didn’t want to read, I would make sure to Unsubscribe.
- TO HAVE MORE MONEY! Another amazing thing is I learned is to stop spending money on things I didn’t need. When I stopped going out to eat, or stopping at the store for one thing, that lead to 12 things I didn’t need, or just made choices to eliminate things from my budget, I was able to put more money toward getting out of debt. I realized that it is possible for me to be DEBT FREE!
- TO BE HAPPY, REALLY HAPPY. I learned that I was happy with what I have and I’m able to be happy today, not “When …. fill in the blank… happens” Being happy doesn’t cost anything, and it doesn’t require any objects, tools, or people. It is possible to be happy and content with the life I have right now, and to be thankful for the life I have right now. This is a big one for me. I struggle with my present life that I have on a day-to-day basis. The truth is, I’m lucky to have a home, a car, a job, a bed to sleep in, water and food, and so much more.
- TO FIND MY PASSIONS, MANY OF THEM. After reading the essay “Why Following your Passion is Crappy Advise,” I realized that I didn’t have to figure out what to “DO” with my life, I could simply “Live” and figure it out as I go, and realize that I don’t have to do just ONE thing. I can be passionate about many things, and that makes sense. Years ago, I went to Art School to learn how to be a photojournalist and studied how to write stories about the people around me so I could document the world in hopes of shining a light stories needed to be shared. That’s what I hoped for, that I’d make a difference with my photography by inspiring the world to change by telling the stories of people all around our world. I thought I’d be traveling with the AP by the time I was 30. I didn’t know that the world would change, and it wouldn’t tell me. To keep it short, I’ll just say that I thought my goal in life was to be a Photojournalist. It defined me. To be honest, I believe now that I had a dream, but didn’t ever make that a reality because of fear…. anyway, when I was fired from a daily newspaper, because it really wasn’t what I wanted to do, I lost my identity. After the dust settled, I realized that I was more than a journalist, and I could be many more things. I became an artist and sold my artwork to galleries, hotels, and law firms in the past few years. I’m a sales person who enjoys talking to people and learning about their business. I’m passionate about wellness and finding healthy ways to deal with stress. So I’m not just a photographer, or a sales person, I’m passionate about many things, and it doesn’t need to be listed on a business card that I hand to people when they ask “What do you do?”
- TO LET GO and MOVE ON. Let’s face it, I’m nice. I want to help people. I’ve learned to let things go and take things less personally. I really have focused working on letting go of negative energy and people. I deserve to be happy and I want to choose happiness, not sadness, not anger, and not fear. The essay “Letting Go of Shitty Relationships” was really profound for me to learn that I have the control and I’m making decisions every day to allow people in my life, and I have done that without much thought as to if they should really be in my life.
- TO BE FOCUSED, NOT BUSY. I’m learning that in order to get to where I want to be, out of debt, living on my own, and having the ability to travel one day, means that I need to say no to a lot of things in order to get there. I’m working full time, and have a part time job, and I try to get to the gym or for a walk outside everyday. I commute 40 minutes twice a day to work. I have a busy schedule, but it works for me and I know that if I don’t wake up at 7:30 every morning so I have enough time to do yoga and meditation before I leave the house, I’m not going to feel my best. These things have become habit to me, and help me stay focused on the goals that I have set for myself. This means that I had to say no to volunteering so much, because I am focusing on getting out of debt and making sure I am available to pick up work on the weekends. It also means I have to say no to work trips (which we have on the weekends from time-to-time for fun events). I’ve stepped back my duties with groups I was volunteering my time. All in the hopes to keep myself laser-focused on getting as much money as possible towards paying down my debt.
- TO BE ABLE TO WALK AWAY. “It was C.S. Lewis who, 50 years ago, eloquently said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” Minimalism also taught me that I don’t want to cling to a person, place, or object. All people leave, all places change, all objects lose their “newness” and that’s okay.
- TO ESTABLISH MY VALUES. I always thought of things as Black and White and it wasn’t until my 30s that I was able to see that life is full of shades of colors, and there’s no ONE way for living, at least that’s what I believe. When I listened to the Minimalists talk on their podcast about having different beliefs but similar values, I realized that is how I want to live my life. In addition to studying and reading up on Stoicism, there’s a great book that I read by Colin Wright about Relationships, and I also used this worksheet.
- TO CALM DOWN AND MEDITATE. The best and most valuable thing I learned from Minimalism is to relax. With less stress from removing the excess stuff in my life, and having the ability to focus on my goals, it became clear the next thing I needed to work on was clearing my mind. In the documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, a guy named Dan Harris spoke about his experience in learning meditation and how it helped him to embrace Minimalism. “Meditation presents a radical notion: that our happiness doesn’t have to depend on external factors. Happiness, it turns out, is a skill—one that you can train, just like you train your body in the gym. This is the next big public health revolution. Get on board.” Now I’ve been meditating on a daily basis and I’m already seeing the difference in my mood and how I am able to deal with stress, sadness, anxiety, and depression.
So that’s the not-so-short list of reasons on why minimalism is the best thing I rediscovered this year. Below is a photo from October’s Minimalism meetup, which I attended for the first time in Philly. It was a great experience to meet people who are also interested in discussing what it means to live a meaningful life with less.