How much stuff do you have? Minimalism in all aspects of my life.
So I recently watched a new Netflix movie “The Minimalist — Less is Now”. I would definitely recommend giving it your time. It’s through an extreme “American” lens and really surfaces to life this knee jerk reaction we have with accumulating stuff in an attempt to find “happiness”. It sparked me to share and put together my own thoughts around my own journey with a minimalist mindset/lifestyle. That and inspired a challenge to see if I could write down everything I own = see how much stuff I actually have → Scroll to end if curious.
It’s funny when you are a student / making your way in the world you are somewhat a minimalist by default since you don’t have much of a budget. Not to mention if you start a company there’s often not a lot of extra $ that’s not being reinvested back into a business.
Looking back I will definitely say that living in Norway and really loving Scandinavian design this clean, simplistic, yet bold aesthetic probably planted the seed to making a more conscious minimalism choice. Like comparing an “American” home vs “Scandinavian” I had at my core this distaste for clutter, busyness, quantity vs quality. Note: Quick google will argue Minimalism is more philosophical where Scandinavian design (similar perspectives) focuses on practicality to leave space to create warmth. Either way it appealed to my practicality this simplicity.
So after a year or two in San Francisco, working in tech I was at an interesting crossroad in my mid 20's. All of sudden my student loans were paid off, even after paying SF rents, entertainment, etc. I was left a bunch of disposable income… yet at the same time I was working crazy 50+ avg hour weeks and finding myself looking forward to getting home to find an…
Yes that’s right…an Amazon box or some online shopping, because you know what?? I fucking deserve whatever it was I bought. At least that was the justification when you are sitting in an office at 9pm after staring at some spreadsheet model for the last 4 hours… There literally was a delivery without fail every few days for something, add in the fact that if my phone hears me mention massage gun, next thing my Insta / FB feed is full of Theragun ads. That’s right all our innovation is dedicated to finding ways to get you to buy more stuff… psst that’s why when a product is free = you are the product being sold (your eyeballs and wallet).
Thankfully an upside to being in Silicon Valley is often you are not the only one, let alone the first to tackle a problem. With some blog posts from people I followed I saw more and more articles creep in about this “Minimalism” idea. Interestingly enough you can find a lot of parallels from “Stoic” philosophy.
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but an idea that kept repeating itself in my head, my takeaway from the stuff I was reading, listening to, watching was:
The less you own = the less that owns you
I saw it in people around me, more stuff means needing more space for that stuff, means working more to pay for more space, and then more stuff to fill that space. The idea that I would be a slave to stuff terrified the shit out of me. It made me think oh I don’t want to switch to a different job because the salary is less, or I can’t take time off because I need to work, it was the epitome of not having freedom. Yet, here I was choosing to shackle myself.
Thankfully, I had good financial habits so I never went into debt just to buy “stuff”, but you don’t have to look far within your own network to see those who do just that.
Now I am not saying you should live in a forest and not have anything, it’s more the things you buy/own should serve either 1) A Purpose or 2) Bring you Joy. Yet, what was at the root of wanting all this “stuff”?
Our mental manifests itself in the physical.
It was this perpetual wheel of trying to just distract, fill space, fear ie. well I need this in case…, if I get this then I’ll be happier. Where it really stemmed from was a pretty simple fact — I was insecure and unhappy. Period. I felt lost, I had a cool tech executive job title, had the BMW, had all the toys I wanted for myself, and there I was still floating without a purpose.
What drew me to minimalism was this idea that you get rid of all the “stuff” that takes up space both physically and mentally in your life. That way you leave yourself the time to find true love for yourself, and in that journey discover how you want to share that love. Which for me brought me back to how I could be a resource for my family, contribute greater then myself, and lastly pursue my activity/passions with friends.
With those clear goals in mind I embarked on a #LiveSimply year where my overall theme was keep it simple. I started to purged stuff, clothes sat unworn in my closet for 1+ years, people, things, etc.
What helped me was anytime I wanted/tempted to buy something, or if I should keep something I asked four fundamental questions:
- What useful/usage purpose does it serve? ie. surfboard I use 3–4x a week
- Does it bring joy? Photo booth pictures of me and friends = Yes!
- What does this take away from? As I was clearer on my purpose buying x meant less $ towards taking my family on a vacation, or a charity donation, or surf trip with my best friends.
- The last was more an environmental impact influence but if I couldn’t REDUCE the need, could I reuse something? repair? borrow? rent? to fulfill it instead.
Like how many people have a drill at home? You don’t need a drill, you need a hole. Think how many times/holes did you ever drill? and the rest of the time it just stays in a drawer. What about clothes, cars, all these seasonal “trends” what doesn’t get sold that cycle just goes to the dump.
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One last thing I did to help stick to this was I made it hard to buy things. I disconnected my credit card from Amazon, and I had a 2 week buy rule. Like if I found I wanted to buy something I would put it on a list, and 2 weeks later if I still needed it and it fit the 4 fundamental criteria I would do it.
3 years later I’ve been able to keep things still to a minimum, as a sabbatical, and remote work will force you into that. However, when I was home for a few months I found it very easy to start wanting stuff again → justification being it’s for my future house (nest) lol So hence this blog post to remind myself again going back to the four principals and being grateful for the freedom of having less stuff physically, and mentally.
So I’ll leave things with I hope this story inspires even if it’s a curiosity to watch the Netflix movie, or read more about it, or just asking question what you need stuff for? Letting go has tremendously improved the quality of my own life and relationships.
Also, I challenge you to take an inventory of all the stuff you have. Seriously, can you do it? I’d love to know how many items you end up with on this list. I broke my list into categories to make it easier to remember/fill in:
- Clothing (Tops, Bottom, Jackets, Training, Shoes)
- Gear (By activity ex. Surf, Climb, Moto)
- Home (Furniture, Kitchen, etc.)