Do things make us happy? I wrote an article to an Estonia magazine about minimalism, and I thought you might like to read it. Please let me know how you liked it and if this resonates with you, I appreciate the resteems. :)
I have been talking about the act of letting go as a powerful practice that will lead to happiness and freedom. I have usually talked about it as a mental, emotional and a spiritual concept. Now I’m taking it to a more practical level. I’m moving towards minimalism.
What is minimalism?
Typically I don't like these types of labels, like minimalism or vegan because labels don’t really tell the whole truth. I’m Jocke, not a vegan or a minimalist. Labels have their purpose though and that is to give an idea about something. Like if I say I’m vegan, it gives you an idea of what type of a person I am, what kind of values I might have, but it doesn’t describe my identity. I’m much more than a vegan. I’m Jocke, and I follow a vegan diet because it’s the most natural, logical and the right thing for me.
Minimalism is really a new thing to me and I’m in no way an authority on the subject. My life so far has been more about maximalism rather than minimalism. I don’t really know if that is a correct term but by that, I mean that subconsciously I have been living in a way of “more is more”. Not consciously, but subconsciously. Without me being aware of it, things/clothes/shoes/bags/etc. have gradually been filling up the closets in our home. Most of them I have received through sponsorships, etc, but it doesn’t really make any difference. They are still cluttering our life by filling up any free space there might otherwise be. “Do I really need all of it?” Does it give me more freedom? Usually, the answer is no. I don’t need more things. I don’t need anything to give me more freedom, rather it’s the opposite. The less I have, the more freedom I have.
"Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom." (http://www.minimalists.com)
"It’s simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly." (http://mnmlist.com/)
"I have learned minimalism is always a matter of the heart. After the external clutter has been removed, minimalism has the space to address the deepest heart issues that impact our relationships and life." (http://www.becomingminimalist.com)
What these minimalists are describing above resonates with me strongly. I have been talking about happiness in many of my articles and the key message has always been that happiness is not out there. I have talked about happiness being a state of freedom. The minimalists are talking about the same and by decluttering their life, they are able to create more time and space, more freedom, and to focus on things that actually matter. In spirituality, we like to use the term space. We want to create space in our mind, to focus on the space in between our thoughts. Minimalism is taking that space to a more practical level. Creating space in our home and in our practical daily living. By simplifying our practical life we are able to establish a better connection with ourselves, to understand what truly resonates with our hearts and to take action regarding it. Taking action becomes easier when our practical life is simplified. The more rigid structures there are, the harder it is to choose something new.
This winter I spent five weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand and studied Thai massage. During my stay there I met many people who followed a minimalist lifestyle. They had left their old “traditional” life behind and now live a simple life in Asia or wherever their heart desires. I met people whose belongings could fit in a backpack! This for me is total freedom. You find happiness in the present moment, not from a future moment that you will actually never reach. Life is happening right now and if we declutter and simplify our life, maybe we can realize that. Most of us are living a life full of distractions. There are things to do, bills to pay, goals to reach and fears to avoid. These distractions take us away from the present moment and away from the understanding of what we are actually here for. Were we born here to this place and time just to pay bills and taxes? To buy more stuff in a futile attempt to find freedom? That doesn’t resonate with me. I believe there is another way and that is the way of simplicity. It’s time to get rid of some distractions and start living a more spacious life.
When I came to the realization that decluttering my life in a practical, material level, has the potential to take my life towards the one thing that I value the most, freedom, I knew that I needed to do something right away… and I did. I looked at my wardrobe full of clothes, most of them hanging there unused. “Maybe one day I’ll wear it.”. In less than 30 minutes I got rid of about 80% of them. It felt just amazing and after a few days of owning fewer clothes, I was even more convinced. It just feels right. I have more space for my clothes, I have fewer options and it makes everything more simple. In my case, having more clothes to choose from doesn’t give me any extra value, but just the opposite. It clutters my life and doesn’t give me more freedom. Freedom comes from having less, not from having more.
The wardrobe is just a beginning of course but it’s a great start. If any of you readers are considering doing something like this or if this article made you think about it, I support you 100%. Please give it a try. Pack away the clothes that you don’t think you need and see how you feel. You can always unpack them if you feel it wasn’t a good idea. I will personally continue this path and gradually declutter all areas of my life. Eventually, when our children move out from home, I believe I will get rid of most belongings. I will hold on to just the essentials, the amount that I can fit in a backpack. I will make sure I have no debt and I will be free to travel the world and do what I love. Maybe eventually I want to stay somewhere permanently, in a nice tropical place where I can grow fruit trees in my garden. If that’s the case, I will most probably build myself a “tiny house”, a minimalist version of house building. If you are not familiar what tiny houses are, go ahead and google it. You might be surprised.