“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” – Nigel Marsh
How much stuff do we really need in life? Do the things that we own end up owning us instead? I found the answers to this and more in a recent podcast on Knowledge for Men featuring Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist. In the podcast, Becker shared how his journey to minimalism began one day when he was cleaning out his garage while his 5-year old son was in the backyard asking him to play with him. While Becker was busy clearing his garage, his neighbour commented “maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff” while his son kept urging him to play.
As his day slipped away, Becker had an eureka moment. His belongings were not adding value to his life. Rather, they were subtracting from it. This triggered a major “downsizing” exercise.
“We began donating, recycling, and removing as many of our possessions as possible. We embarked on a minimalist journey to own less stuff. As a result, we discovered more money, more time, more energy, more freedom, less stress, and more opportunity to pursue our greatest passions: faith, family, friends.”
Simplifying 10 Most Important Things
To live a more balanced, joyful life, consider Becker’s tips on simplifying the 10 most important things in your life, namely:
1) Possessions – Material possessions drain our bank accounts, take up space, and take on a life of their own.
2) Time Commitments – Instead of packing our days to the brim, schedule some “me” time and release yourself from commitments that are not aligned to your values.
3) Goals – Reduce the number of goals you plan to achieve and focus on the top two. Once you have completed one, you can add the next goal to your list.
4) Negative Thoughts – Bad feelings like resentment, bitterness, hate, and jealousy are quite useless and should be eliminated. Forgive past hurts and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
5) Debt – Reduce all debts as soon as possible and get help if needed. Sacrifice luxury today to enjoy freedom tomorrow.
6) Words – Use fewer words, keep your speech honest and avoid gossip.
7) Artificial Ingredients – Avoid trans fats, refined grain (white bread), high-fructose corn syrup, sodium, medicine, and other unhealthy processed foods to live more healthily.
8) Screen Time – Do not let television, movies, and video games dominate your life. Learn to switch them off now and then.
9) Connections to the World – While relationships are good, constant streams of distraction are bad. As such, learn to shut down your smartphones, log off Facebook, and skip Tweeting.
10) Multi-Tasking – Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking increases stress and reduces productivity. Embrace mono-tasking. Do one thing at a time.
Letting Go of Our Crutches
Beyond the basics of minimalism espoused by Becker, I’ve chanced upon a wonderful Zen Habits article titled Letting Go of Your Crutches for more “hardcore” cases. Let me highlight the salient points:
Instead of having big suitcases and cupboards of stuff just in case we need them, build a network of backup solutions. Borrow from neighbours and friends. Form a borrowing network.
Learn to be mindful. See beauty, surprise and wonder in every moment. Get rid of your addiction to digital distractions, busy-ness, and trying to do all the “fun stuff” that everyone else is doing.
Being busy does not equate to being productive. On the contrary, it probably means that you’re not good at choosing the most important things in your career and your life. Say no to the less important stuff so that you have more time to focus on what’s vital.
Stress relief and comfort
Habits like smoking, excessive drinking, caffeine, television, Internet, food and shopping are crutches used to relief stress. Shun these. Adopt healthier substitutes like exercise, walking, meditation, talking to a good friend, or creative pursuits.
We love to keep gifts and items that hold treasured memories. However, we need to understand that the love isn’t in the item but the people we love. Instead of dwelling on the past, spend time loving the people in our lives right now.
Last, but not least, do spend some time watching this TED talk by Nigel Marsh on achieving work-life balance. Some of his words of advice are particularly insightful.
The crux behind Marsh’s talk is this:
If you do not design your life, somebody else will. You may thus not get the balance that you want. We should thus be individually responsible for how our lives are to be led. To do so, we should ensure that we look after the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual sides of our lives.
Ultimately, small things matter. With the smallest investments in the right places, we can radically transform the quality of our relationships and the quality of our lives.
Let me end with some useful words of advice provided by Jesus Himself:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Luke 12:33,34 Do you have any thoughts on living a balanced minimalist life? What would you find most difficult to give up and why?