My mom has told me the story about my first Christmas and it goes perfectly with the topic of this post. I was just old enough to open my own presents. I sat there, in the living room floor, with tons of people around me, staring me down, and gifts on top of gifts on top of gifts surrounded me like a mini fort of wrapped boxes. I opened up as many as I could, box after box being shoved at me, when suddenly I looked up at everyone, tears in my eyes, I yelled, “Stop, no more!”. Everyone thought it was hilarious and knew that this would be the last time I ever asked for the gifts to stop. It was true. After that first Christmas I learned that you actually want lots of gifts and it’s completely normal.
We are taught at such a young age that gifts, items, objects, material things make us happy. It takes every child a few years before they really understand the true meaning of Christmas, but we don’t really do a good job at practicing the true meaning of Christmas. If no one ever told me the true meaning of Christmas, I would have always believed it was a time meant for giving and getting lots and lots of things. That first Christmas was great, I had more than I could have ever wanted, but I remember as I got older, it became more about how many presents I had. I would count them. I would judge the box size. I didn’t do this because I naturally wanted a bunch of presents. I did this because it is exactly what we are taught.
The secret is, things, gifts, items, objects, clothes, cars,…none of these things make us happy. We are taught that when you get something, it will immediately make your life easier, better, it will bring you joy. The more time goes on and the more things you buy, we get addicted to the feeling of getting. You see something in the store, something you don’t need but you want, and in your head you picture yourself with the item. You tell yourself it will make your life better if you had it. You buy it, you feel good about it for a little while, until you see something else, a different item, and then the cycle starts all over again. We do this with clothes, food, cars, houses, pretty much everything. We put all of this emphasis on material items, we associate them with success. The American dream is to be rich, wealthy enough to own a house, a car, and to buy anything you want. A million people live this dream every day but it’s never enough. Everyone is addicted to wanting more, more, more. You get the house, the car, the things, but you need more. We are simply addicted to the act of buying but nothing we buy is ever enough.
I moved out of my parents house for the first time nine months ago. When I moved out I thought I needed all this stuff. I needed dishes, bowls, plates, coffee cups, can openers, towels, a table and chairs for the non existing dining room, I needed stuff to put my stuff in, rugs for the bathroom and by the door, lighting, and don’t forget the decorations, oh and I need a new comforter, because this old one just won’t do. We moved out right around Halloween, so we also had bought all of these decorations for that and Christmas too. I remember trying my best to shove a Christmas tree under our bed, because a one bedroom apartment doesn’t come with a lot of storage space. I put all this pressure on having these things our first year living on our own but none of it mattered. I found Fung Shui and I got really excited about it. It sounded like exactly what our tiny apartment needed. Less stuff.
Fung Shui is about balance, zero clutter, and making all aspects of your home function. That was the key to our tiny home, function. I de-cluttered, got rid of a ton of stuff and immediately felt…calmer. I felt weight lifted off my shoulders. I got rid of clothes, decorations, stuff people had bought us that we didn’t need and I felt great. Instead of buying useless decorations, I invested in a plant..and that made me feel even more better. When you have all this useless stuff…. it’s just there, it doesn’t make your life better, it just sits there, weighing you down. When you make the items you buy more meaningful, you buy less, but the things you do buy are more valuable.
Being unemployed for five months has taught me something (besides the fact that jobs suck). It has taught me that I don’t need that much money when I don’t buy useless things. I really can live with less. Not only can I live with less…I can live more with less. Not having a constant source of income has made my spending and urge to buy things go from 100-0. But during this time I have put more emphasis on doing things instead of buying things. When I had my job, I was so miserable that I would make up for it by spending almost all of my paycheck. Nothing I bought made me happy or made my life any better, it was only a fast fix. Things I bought that I do remember were events, concerts, movies, road trips. Those are the things worth spending money on.
There is a word for the lifestyle I am striving to have and that is Minimalism. Minimalism has different forms but it is essentially the act of living with less. Minimalism is not only good for your life but it’s also good for the world and the environment. When we take care of the things we have and do more with less, we can actually focus on the things that matter. Minimalism is basically living your life mindfully. Many people might think, aren’t we always living mindfully? Look around you, how many people spend more time talking in person than they do on their phones? Probably no one. We are living life as consumers. You don’t need a huge house, you don’t need a new car, you don’t need more things. When you get rid of things you can focus on the important part of life and that is people. Use your time wisely… not on social media, but being with people you love and care about.
Living minimally doesn’t make the quality of your life less, it makes it more. See how much better you will feel getting rid of 5, 10, 20 items in your home. See if you can save money by downsizing your home. Instead of buying a new car, go on vacation. When we die, nothing we bought will mean anything. People will remember you for the memories you made, not the things you had. Less is more.