Subscribers get two chances to win a free audio copy of Jim Collins's The Simple Path to Wealth in December. Mr. Money Mustache reads the Forward. Don't miss out. Subscribe today!
Back when Doc* was alive he played cards with us every Friday night. One night we got a call the police were at his house. It seems someone had broken into his home and may have started a fire. We thought the card game was over as Doc would head home to assess the damage. Instead he stayed tight in his chair and demanded the cards be dealt.
That night at cards I discovered the real priorities in life. The card game with family and neighbors was more important than stuff accumulated over a lifetime. Of course Doc never tossed anything out, but if someone wanted to steal his stuff, have at it.
My grandfather (Doc) was a Stoic without knowing it. He knew there was nothing he could do if his house was on fire or he was burglarized. He wasn’t going to grab a bucket and start tossing water on the flame; he was 88 years old. It seems it takes a lot of years for the wisdom to develop on what has real value, like a card game with people you care about. You can act like a chipmunk standing guard around your stash or you can value stuff at zero and relationships as priceless. Your choice will determine the level of happiness in your life.
How Much Is Enough?
The goal is earn more money so you can buy more stuff, also known as the moronathon. Before long you have a house filled to the rafters and a storage unit to hold all the stuff that does not fit in your home/apartment. You are living the dream. Now you add security to your home (don’t forget the storage unit) and bump your insurance coverage. People go to crazy lengths to dispose of money while complicating their lives. Worse, it costs money to have lots of stuff. And the work! All the work moving, cleaning, storing, and protecting the growing hoard of things in your fortress is an exercise in madness.
I have a distant relative who doesn’t lock his home, ever. His windows and doors don’t even have locks on them. “Why have’em,” he says. “What they gon’na steal?” He has a point. His home is Spartan to say the least. When you buy stuff you tend to want to protect your investment. “That is mine,” you say. Ownership. You own the stuff you buy and nobody can use it without your permission. So you swing the metaphorical rifle over your shoulder and pace back and forth in front of your fortress guarding your hoard. Crazy!
At what point do you say “enough”? How happy can guarding all the junk you acquired over the years be? You can downsize and declutter, but I am talking about something much more intense here. What I suggest is a commitment to living with very few items in your possession. Each person has different circumstances. Children will require having a few more things than a single person. But look around your home. How many things could go? Most belongings haven’t been touched in ages! Can you live with only 100 possessions? Until recent history, people did just that.
What Is Minimalism?
Minimalism is different than downsizing or decluttering. A minimalist will have an uncluttered life and can easily live in a smaller place than most, but a minimalist also works to have the least amount of possessions possible.
Here are some things minimalists have other don’t:
- Freedom to move where and when they want without a pile of stuff to pack or protect.
- Easier travel. No worries about someone taking care of your stuff when you are gone. You don’t have that much stuff.
- Less anxiety. All the effort and mental work to protect your belongings is driving you insane (and broke).
- Need almost no money to live. Stuff takes money to buy, store, use, protect, and later dispose of. No wonder people work until their bodies wear out.
- Peace of mind. Hey, who is going to rob you if you don’t have anything of value to steal? Minimalists find value in friends, family, and relationships. You can’t steal those.
- Follow their dreams. Nothing is holding you down. You can plant roots for a while or pull up stakes and head across country at will.
- Retirement is sooner and more fun. When you are spending less managing clutter retirement is possible a lot sooner. Retirement is also a lot more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about the home fort when traveling.
There are more benefits to minimalism. It takes time to get there if you are the typical Westerner. Don’t worry. Help is on the way.
The Minimalist Lifestyle
All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
Minimalism is easier than ever. The library has all the books, movies, and music you could ever want. The internet replaces so much stuff today it is mind boggling. Music, movies, books, newspapers, and magazines are all online. Cloud computing means you can access important papers and family photos from any computer anywhere in the world.
Western culture causes us to yearn for the simple, uncomplicated minimalist lifestyle. Deep down we know our stuff is turning us into slaves. Where do you start when you have so many things to deal with? Decluttering is a start, but we want to get some minimalism in our life today. I have a suggestion.
Start with one room. Clean the entire room of all belongings, wall hangings, and any other distractions. This is your room of solitude. You can meditate here or sit against a wall reading a good book. Try adding a table and one chair or a sofa. You can sit comfortably thinking about your day, reading, or talking with family. There are no pictures allowed on the walls nor any ornaments on the table. A lamp for light might be needed, but make it a basic lamp with no frills.
It is hard adjusting to the Spartan nature of your new room. We are so used to distraction in our modern world we forget how to turn it off. Cell phones and computers are off limits in your room of solitude; they only replace the clutter we are so familiar with in our daily lives with disruptions. One book and a cup of tea while you sit quietly in your minimalist room with only a chair is a disturbing experience for many until they learn to accept the simplicity minimalism brings and the calm your mind feels when the clutter and constant distractions are removed.
Once minimalism starts growing on you it is time to start minimalizing another room. Before long your entire home will turn minimalist. As the disorganized, over-stuffed life is replaced by sanity you can consider taking the 100 item challenge. You might find you have too much home. The minimalist décor will help sell your home faster and for more. The extra money added to your investment account allows you the freedom to choose where you want to go. Stuff no longer holds you down. You can take the wife and kids out camping for a week without worrying about your belongings back home. Preparing for a trip takes about four minutes for a minimalist. (Just toss a few pieces of clothes in a bag and you are ready to go. No need to call your neighbor Charlie to watch the house, feed the cat, mow the lawn, on ad nauseam.)
Physician, Heal Thyself
A few days ago I enlightened you with my deluttering manifesto. As you know I am far from living the minimalist lifestyle. What you don’t know is I do have a room where I can go to think. The room is empty. I sit of the floor or lean against a wall. A small window is the only light in the room. I go there to think and to calm my mind. It is more empty than solitary confinement in prison, the only difference is I can leave whenever I want and I don’t stay locked in the room from years at a time.
There are some things I do to minimalize my personal life. My cell phone has the volume off 99% of the time. I refuse to allow unfettered distraction into my life 24/7. My tenuous mental stability is unable to handle such an assault. Parts of my life have turned minimalist, but I still have way too many things to truly be a minimalist.
Decluttering and minimalism are things I always have aspired too. It is now a mantra. I have taken steps over the last few months to declutter and even minimalize my life. The feeling of freedom is strong as each weight is lifted from my neck. There is no doubt my life will change radically over the next year or two. I have dreams I want to live while I am still young. There are so many things to learn and explore. The best part is I always kept the awe a child feels when they see something awesome.
My world is changing; so is yours. It is time we walk that road with only the shirt on our back. We will meet wonderful people along the way. We will grow old; we will die. There will be nothing to clean up after we are gone. A minimalist is a traveler who leaves no trace when he leaves. But it was an awesome moment when we were there.
* Doc is the fond nickname we gave my grandfather because he read everything on natural remedies.