I’m not sure when I first encountered the concepts of minimalism and living small but I think it was very early in my college experience. I attended a Christian university in Southern California and it was there I discovered the historical accounts of the Essenes, Hindu mystics, and Buddhist monks who took voluntary vows of poverty to live with less.
Still, even though by all accounts it was a life of deprivation, I was strangely drawn to their minimalist style of living. It was decades later, after I’d accumulated a huge house full of stuff, that I was able to appreciate the simplicity of living with less.
Like many middle-aged men with families, I, too, thought a fancier car, a bigger house, and more money could address the unhappiness I felt with my life. In vain attempts to quell my unease I purchased items I didn’t need on credit and soon ran up about $5,000 in consumer debt. With some help from my parents I was able to get out from under the weight of that debt. It taught me a powerful lesson.
If I can’t afford it outright, I won’t buy it.
With the exception of educational debt, I’ve not entered into a long-term consumer debt agreement since. I don’t have any credit cards and instead rely on a rather simple lifestyle. My motorcycle is paid for as is my son’s Jeep. My monthly expenses are minimal compared to those of the households in my area here on the Central Coast of California. For years I compared myself with others because of not being a homeowner. My parents, siblings, and just about everyone I’ve ever known own their own home. It caused me no little amount of suffering.
It wasn’t until I started reading about those, like Henry David Thoreau, who were choosing to live life deliberately – a life that was an alternative to living the lifestyle of consumerism and owning more for more’s sake- that I started my own journey.
Minimalism Is the New Black
About five years ago I started reading more about modern minimalism. I read blogs about owning less and living lightly. It seemed that minimalism was rapidly becoming the new black. Owning less, including property, suddenly became cool. Steve Jobs was a multimillionaire and yet he chose to live simply without furniture and relatively few possessions. Even with a fortune at his disposal, he chose to live smaller and lighter.
I started following individuals like Colin Wright, Ev Bogue, Leo Babauta, Tammy Strobel, and others who embrace the same ethic. They were enjoying life, living it fully while deliberately living a smaller life, owning less, and focusing on the truly important. I, too, wanted to own less and live more lightly.
Though I call myself a minimalist, I feel I still have too much in my life. I’ll go through phases where I’ll purge my house of unnecessary items and it still seems as if the backlog of crap is endless. I get disheartened and stop. But then I’ll start again. I’ve not yet attained that same level of light living as some of my friends, but I know that it’s where the journey will take me.
Minimalist Living is a Journey
The journey toward becoming minimalist is exactly that. It’s a journey. It’s one that requires constant vigilance to keep from giving in to impulse buys, opening credit card accounts to gain sky miles and travel points, or spending lavishly on new gadgets. I have to remind myself that I’m still on this journey and it’s not over until it’s over.
Will I ever reach the goal of owning just 100 Things? I don’t think reaching that goal is as important as being on the journey itself.
Everyone who strives to live a minimalist life does so to rid himself of the extraneous. As Leo says, to focus on the essentials. The essentials are all we really need and I will remind myself of that tomorrow when I again being purging my extraneous possession in order to find the level of living small that suits me.