Modern culture has sold me a lie for the last 29 years. The lie that the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. I’ve been conditioned to believe that more is better and I have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store.
I won’t be fooled anymore. I am bravely trying to step off the treadmill of consumerism in search of happiness elsewhere. I've started a quest to rid myself of life's excesses to make room for what is more important: experiences, relationships, growth and contribution.
I’m becoming a minimalist, meaning I am intentionally going to try to live with only the things I really need. Here is why:
Humanity is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to "own" something. Instead of buying a car, we share one, instead of purchasing a home we rent one, instead of buying an album we subscribe to a streaming service. Nowadays, the traditional measure of success — owning lots of expensive stuff — is out of date. The Atlantic columnist, James Hamblin, explains the phenomenon well: ’Over the past decade, psychologists carried out a great amount of research proving that, in terms of happiness and a sense of well-being, spending money on experiences is much more profitable than buying new things. It brings more joy.’
Minimalism to me creates flexibility along with financial and geographical independence. I am looking to gain a more global perspective- owning lots of ‘stuff’ is at odds with that objective. To me, the accumulation of stuff is like an anchor; it just ties us down, shackles us to the status quo and creates unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Relationships matter more to me than owning status symbols, and I want to be free to pursue them, no matter what that means. I want to be free to fly across continents to help a friend at the drop of a hat. I want to be free to invest my whole soul into my passions and the work I love. I want to be free to steer the course of my life based on the people I meet and love, and not be forced to make decisions based on the items I own (or that own me.)
For me, memories matter much more to me than stability. I want to collect memories at a feverish pace. Why? Because they’ll stay with me forever. Even if they aren’t the greatest memories, they’ll comfort me in my old age in a way that none of the trappings of wealth ever could. For years I have lived in a constant state of FOMO, a mortal fear of missing something great in life. I’m no longer prepared to live with this fear.
Another reason I am going down this path is because, surely less consumption equals less use of the earth’s natural resources. At present, consumer demand is giving corporations a license to produce vast quantities of products which has a devastating effect on the environment. Each new product requires the extraction of raw materials from the earth by farming and mining. Materials and energy are also required by the manufacturing process, in transporting the goods to the consumer, and ultimately in disposing of them safely. By adopting a minimalist mindset, I am doing my bit to reduce the toll on the environment.
Finally, by getting rid of life’s excess ‘stuff’, I’ll create space for the things that really matter: growth and contribution. The best way to live a worthwhile life is simple: continuously grow as an individual and contribute to other people in a meaningful way. Growth and contribution: that’s the meaning of life, that’s how I want to live.