(Disclaimer: this post doesn’t cover anything about Teaching, Canada, Immigration or Prague – there might even be some philosophy in it)
Anyone who knows me would agree I am not a person who identifies with groups. I don’t join teams, listen to only one kind of music, wear a certain type of clothing, collect anything at all, follow any religion or have particularly strong political opinions.
Not so long ago I stumbled upon The Minimalists, a blog about minimalism and it just clicked with me.
What is a minimalist? Dictionary.com defines it this way:
1. a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals or who holds minimal expectations for the success of a program.
2. a practitioner of minimalism in music or art.
3. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of minimalism.
4. being or offering no more than what is required or essential
Number four resonates with me: being no more than what is required or essential. Once I identified that I am a minimalist and there are others like me I felt a little better about myself, I’m not completely strange after all. When I tell people I know that I realized I am a minimalist the response has been pretty much universal: “Well, duh! This isn’t news”.
Not wanting to accumulate a bunch of stuff puts me outside societal norms, especially in North America. If you don’t want things there must be something wrong with you or you are denying yourself somehow. I am also an atheist and draw a strong analogy between these situations. Atheism is often described as “not believing in anything” when in fact I believe in something quite strongly, just not that a deity or omnipotent being created us. Minimalism is not simply “not wanting stuff”, it is more about wanting the things that you can have by not having stuff or by making sure the stuff you do have adds value.
What are these things?
Freedom comes in two flavors – financial and physical. As a result of not having a lot of things I now have more money available for other things such as travel. Further, I am not tied to a job I don’t like in order to support these purchases. The physical freedom comes from not needing to care for, insure, clean or store things. I feel so much lighter without things to anchor me down.
Appreciation for what you have:
My possessions are very specific. If I don’t get some value from them I won’t get them or won’t keep them. Most of the things I do have are things I like and use regularly. Every purchase goes through two questions: Will this add value to my life? Is it worth the time I need to spend to earn the money to pay for it? If the answer is no, I don’t make the purchase. Does this mean I have nothing? No, of course not. My flat has everything I need to live comfortably, and things such as a nice computer and high-end mountain bike because they are things I enjoy having.
Minimalism, or whatever you want to call it, looks different for different people. For some it might be about stripping down to the absolute bare essentials such as getting down to only 50 possessions. Others have families and homes and obviously more things are required, Leo Babauta has a fantastic blog about minimalism as a whole. It is all about personal choice.
I’m not trying to convert people. I’m simply suggesting that giving some thought before purchasing another new thing might add some value: do you need it? will it add value to your life?