So, I was sitting up at 2am today, thinking (because that’s the hour of the day that my creative juices start to flow apparently). Before I had gone to bed last night, I was listening to a podcast by The Minimalists and they were taking about dealing with “Unpleasant” things.
I guess I should back up the boat a little and explain just who/what The Minimalists are. Basically there were these two 20-something year old guys, that one day just had enough of their six figure, corporate job, rat race lives. One of them, Joshua Millburn, had been faced with some of life’s more horrible un-pleasantries, by loosing his mother to cancer and his wife to divorce, all in one week. So after life had given him the big F-you he decided to change how he lived his life by learning about Minimalism. He soon realized that there was no amount of “stuff” that could ever make him (or really anyone) happy. So it didn’t matter how much money he made, if all he was going to do with it was buy more stuff and in his case, get further into debt for that stuff (go figure right? Making 6 figures and still in debt). After downsizing literally everything in his life, including his job, home, wardrobe, use of technology, and then some, he truly realized that he could be happy with less. His friend and former co-worker, Ryan Nicodemus, noticed in no time that Joshua just seemed happier. He asked Joshua what his secret was and after explaining Minimalism to Ryan, he too started to downsize his life. Unlike Joshua, Ryan’s universe already forced him out of his job when he was downsized from the same job that Joshua willing left months prior. So with life’s little push; so forms the Minimalists. Now over the past 6 years they have created a website, gone on tour, wrote books and done podcasts all about Minimalism and the joy of living with less.
Now back to what I was doing/thinking at 2am this morning. I was actually petting my 13-year-old cat, Sammi, that for sometime now insist on sleeping right next to my pillow and purr-furs to have some part of her body pressed up against mine. She was pretty happy to be getting some loving from me when she very well knew I should be fast asleep. I got to thinking about her life (a well taken care of house cat) and Minimalism.
My cat Sam, and her kitty sister Rasberry live the most purr-fect example of Minimalism that I can think of. I mean honestly, they don’t really have any possession; except for the collar around their neck’s, a litter box that their human-slave (myself) keeps clean for them (most of the time), a heated bed (that Sam tends to hog all for herself), along with a couple of catnip toys. That’s it. No mortgage. No car payments. No bills to pay or job to go to (although sometimes I don’t think they keep up with their end of the kitty-rent-free deal when they leave me moist, hairy, surprises to step in with bare feet, just saying). And I can tell you this, they are two of the most happy kitties. They really have no worries and live a very pam-purred life. They seem 100% happy in their carefree, minimalist style lives. They don’t require “things” to make them happy. They just love living life from day-to-day, soaking up an occasional sun beam or taking in the smells from our raised patio and of course the head scratches from mom and dad. They don’t need to watch tv or get online to enjoy their lives. They don’t have iPhones or Amazon accounts. They live in the moment and flourish off of our love for them.
What a novel way to live.
Once all our basic needs are met (food, water, shelter and in my opinion love) what more do we really need? I am just starting to learn how to live with less stuff and instead push to live through my experiences and passions. It’s a hard process. I’m not going to lie.
Unlike my furry friends, I was not raised to not want things. Ever since childhood we are consciously and subconsciously, raised to want more. To want better. To keep up with the Jones’s in away. Advertisements are everywhere for the newest, latest, and greatest, must have, things. Peer pressure is real among children and adults to provide and have nothing but the best for ourselves and our families. But what does it leave us with? Latch key kids, whose parents have to work over 60 hours a week to be able to afford the house that is too big, with too much stuff, and too green a lawn to take care of. Then those kids look for love in the things that their parents can afford to buy for them. New phones, video games, clothes, cars and so on. And the cycle starts over. Maybe this time, the 60 hour work weeks drive these new parents to divorce. Families are spilt apart rather than growing together. And all for what???? Stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff and more stuff. Instead of raising our children to feel entitled and devalued, why not raise them to understand that they can never get back time that is lost with their families when they are a slave to their things? Take them to the park, go on road trips, read together, just spend time together! Teach them compassion and empathy and above all love. Self love and a kindness. Teach them about things that cannot be bought.
Looking back on my own childhood, I do remember having some great Christmas’s and birthday’s. My parents were not rich by any means but I never went without anything that I can remember and I’m sure I got a lot of great things for these occasions. But what I remember most is the time that I spend with family and friends during those occasions. I remember taking walks with my grandmother. Going swimming at my aunt and uncles house and hanging out with my cousins. I remember going to the flea market every Saturday morning with my dad or coming home everyday to my mom after school. During the summer it was fun to hang out at my friend’s house or go swimming. I always felt loved. And I always felt like I belonged. But I honestly could not tell you much about the gifts I received. Sure I remember a couple of the bigger items (getting a brand new Nintendo back in the 80’s was crazy amazing) but most I don’t even own any longer. They severed their purpose at that time in my life and now they are gone. But the things that I wish I could get back are not things at all. It has taken me a long time to realize this. And now I hope to move forward in my life knowing this and embracing the time that I have with all the important people in my life.
I mean going back to my cat analogy. I could leave my two babies alone for a whole day with tons of toys and treats and stuff to keep them occupied, but I can guarantee you that the second they hear me coming to the door they will be on the steps waiting for me to come in and love them. They will have forgotten about whatever toys are scattered around the floor and just want to have an open lap to lay in. (I slow blink you too Sammi and Rasberry.)
What it all boils down to is stuff is stuff. Stuff does not equal love. Stuff does not fill the holes in our hearts or our souls. It just gets in the way of what is truly important. Your passions, beliefs, families, friends, furry babies, goals, adventures, and time that you can never get back.
One of the questions that was asked of the Minimalists during last nights podcast, was, “Is there anything you removed from your life that you now regret that you removed?” Both Joshua and Ryan’s answers were No. Actually Joshua’s regret was that when he found out that his mother was deathly ill, he regretted that he had let so much time pass without any contact with her prior. Granted they had a very rough mother to son relationship (she was an alcoholic and he a latch key kid, both with no money) but at the end of her life he wanted nothing more than more time with her. I am not sure where I have heard this before, but I believe a lot of nurses and care givers who work at hospice organizations or homes for the elderly all hear the same thing when people are in their finally days. Everyone just wishes they had more time. Time. Time with their family and friends. Time to go on that trip that they never got around to. Time to just sit back and enjoy the wonderful life that they had. Time for more sunsets. Time for more visits with their children. So, even though it sounds so cliché, “you can’t take it with you in the end”, couldn’t be truer of a statement.
Another point that was brought up about “regretting something that you removed” was that if you were that attached to a material object that you actually felt it pain when it was gone, then you were probably putting too much energy and life force into that object in the first place. A set of fine china from your grandparents house, is not your grandparents. It’s just stuff. You may remember the times that you ate off of it, maybe at the holidays, but those memories are far more important to have then the box of plates and tea cups that you have stored away in your garage. Write down those memories. Blog or journal about those times in your life. Share the stories with younger family members that may have been too young to appreciate them in the same way. But let that box of unused stuff go.
Sure, I do understand that everyone has their own personal vise. Maybe pick out one tea-cup to have just for yourself and then let the rest go. I know my vise is greeting cards. Even though I made a promise to myself about a year ago, that I would stop sending/buying greeting cards (because what a big waste when you really think about it, but mom if you are reading this, which I know you are, I will always continue to send you cards because I know how much you love them) I have kept every single card my mother has sent me since I moved out-of-state over 13 years ago. I have no idea why, and they just sit in a box in a closet in my condo. The only time they get touched is when I add another one to the box. But now when I come to think about the why even more, I realize that this was a learned behavior because I can go to my parents right now and my mom would have a huge pill of cards from my dad and I probably from longer then I have been alive. I don’t even know if I have ever really asked her why she has kept them all? Not that there is anything wrong with it, but it may not be the best use of space. I’m sure when the horrible day comes that my parents are no longer with me, I will find solace with them, but I do try to remind myself that they are just cards; not actually physical extensions of my parents themselves. I think that is the hardest thing to deal with when deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. We personify inanimate objects. We feel like we will be “hurting the feelings” of the object we are trying to part with, because someone we love dearly, gave it to us. That’s where the real issue lies; in separation of feelings vs what actually is. That’s what makes it Unpleasant.
Well I have rambled on a lot longer then my original thoughts from my 2am cuddle feast with my cat. I know it has been quit sometime since my last entry (almost 4 moths, yikes!) but I do hope to be writing more and more as I allow less and less stuff to enter into my life. I hope you will continue to follow me as I go down the rabbit hole of Minimalism and learn how to find joy in my life from more experiences and less clutter!