Over the course of the last three months, I have been reading a lot about minimalism. It's a subject that has fascinated for me a while now as last year, one of my three words that function as waypoints for the year was, in 2016, simplify. I was driven by a belief that the two of these could live together, hand-in-hand, thereby learning more about the art of minimalism could help with my drive to simplify my life.
It turns out that the subject of minimalism has been a little bit of a rabbit hole for me and it's slowly becoming an increasingly important part of my lifestyle.
The first thing I learnt is that minimalism is not all about getting rid of your material possessions, disconnecting yourself from your family and friends and living in a 6 x 4 room with no furniture or connection to the outside world! Far from it, minimalism is about fostering a feeling of freedom and helping to focus on the things that are truly important in your life.
I'lll give one such example, which is common amongst people who start looking at adopting a minimalist lifestyle in some form. A visit into my loft/attic last year quickly showed me that there were a lot of items sitting idle that were not serving a purpose. Two of these had a reasonable monetary value that could be assigned to them. One was an Xbox 360 with all of the add-ons you would expect - a large number of games, extra controller, Kinect sensor etc. The second was a Nintendo Wii, again, with a host of extra peripherals and games.
My first thought upon seeing them was financial. How much can I get for them? So I looked on some local marketing sites, as well as the standards (Ebay etc) and saw that there wasn't much of a resale value. As well as this, there was certainly a lot of effort involved in getting them boxed, photos taken, listed, posted etc. So I did what the majority of fairly well-to-do people would do in that situation.
I left them where they were.
Then I read The More Of Less by Joshua Becker and I quickly realised my perception of the situation was wrong. My first thought was to assign a monetary value to the two consoles, yet this was wrong and against my core values in life. I've always considered myself to be a kind and generous person, however my desire to ensure that I am a good role model for my wife and children has been driven by money. I have to make money and provide for them in order to earn their respect.
I took some of Joshua's advice and detached the monetary value from them (which to be fair, wasn't much now). Instead, I looked at the joy and pleasure that others may derive from using them.
It didn't take me long to find a fantastic British charity (I'm in the UK after all) called GetWellGamers. They receive donations of video games and equipment and distribute them amongst over 65 childrens hospitals in the UK. One quick communication to them on their site resulted in a volunteer collecting the consoles and games and they are now providing far more joy to people that need it than they were collecting dust in my loft.
How did this make me feel? Pretty good, I can tell you.
When I told my wife about this, I was so pleased to see that it had an effect. Again, it's only a small thing, yet we had a large pile of old blankets and pillows that my wife was organising ready for selling. Now, they are going to be heading towards a local charity for young families that are in desperate need of food and warmth.
A soft minimalist approach to household possessions was able to give us the freedom to do something we always thought we weren't financially able to do - help people. That, in a nutshell, is one of the core fundamentals of minimalism - allowing you the freedom to focus on the things that truly matter to you.
Do you feel like you have too much 'stuff'? Do you find yourself spending more time working and tidying yet not enough time with your family? (if you have children, I'm sure you relate to that!) Do you frequently find yourself overwhelmed? So much to do, yet you can't fit the time in?
If so, I recommend these resources - give them a try:
- The Minimalists - they have a great website and podcast, as well as a documentary (recently released on Netflix too)
If you have found that minimalism has affected your life, I'd love for you to share your tips and advice.