“The average American household contains more than 300,000 possessions.”
Read that sentence. Now read it again and really consider it. Astounding, isn’t it?
It’s just one of the tidbits I learned in “Essential,” a book of essays written by The Minimalists. I known I’ve written about these guys before, but wanted to touch base on their book of essays, published in 2015. I requested my library purchase a copy and finally got my hands on it!
At its core, minimalism is about making you think. Rather than mindlessly buying more “stuff,” think about WHY you’re doing it. Rather than stashing things in your closet to collect dust for months, think about WHY you’re doing it. In a world of often-mindless consumption and consumerism, it’s nice to take a step back and think about WHY we own the things we own, WHY we do the things we do, etc.
What value is this [object/person/job/relationship/experience/etc.] bringing to your life?
That’s the question we should all be asking ourselves, and it’s definitely one I need to ask more often. The Minimalists look at that question from a number of perspectives, and in respect to various subjects, in the course of their essays in this book.
From our material possessions, to how we deal with technology in our day-to-day lives, to gift-giving, our health, relationships and passions and everything in between, minimalism can somehow be applied to pretty much everything. It’s about simplifying, paring things down to get to the root of what brings you happiness.
There were points in this book that I had to stop and say “Wow! That is ME!” For instance, I’ve definitely gotten caught up in the constant email checking. Why? I… honestly don’t know. It’s not as if I’m waiting for some urgent email, or as if they can’t wait a few hours to be replied to. (In reality, probably 97% of the email I receive is junk, and I’ve been working over the past months to pare that down.)
How often do we keep things “just in case” we need them? I’m guilty as charged. No, I can’t get rid of that dress, I might want to wear it someday. (Spoiler alert: it usually ends up in the back of my closet.) I can’t get rid of that book, what if I want to read it again? (Hello, there are libraries!)
I took parts of this book to heart and hope to work on applying them to my life more going forward. One such topic: gift-giving. In a world where we’re all being convinced we need more stuff, I want to focus less on giving things and more on giving experiences. It might be a challenge come this holiday season, but I want to try!
After all, most of us don’t need more stuff. Things will either get used or not, or sit around and collect dust, or be re-gifted or donated half the time. Experiences, however, can be enjoyed, and the memories can last a lifetime! This also goes into adding value into other people’s lives, a contribution we can all get behind.
I don’t think I can say I’m ready to dump half of my possessions, or stop buying things, or whatever. But I’m ready to think about the things I buy in a different way, and think about WHY I’m buying them and what value they are, or are not, adding to my life. I’m ready to think about why I’m holding onto a lot of “stuff” for that “just-in-case” day that will never actually come.More importantly, I’m ready to focus less on material possessions and more on experiences. Less on constantly checking my emails, text messages and all other forms of social media and more on fostering communication with the people around me, in real-time. Less on “looking cool” or “being cool” or subscribing to some brand and more on discovering, and
More importantly, I’m ready to focus less on material possessions and more on experiences. Less on constantly checking my emails, text messages and all other forms of social media and more on fostering communication with the people around me, in real-time. Less on “looking cool” or “being cool” or subscribing to some brand and more on discovering, and being, my true, authentic self.
How about you?
“An extraordinary life – a life to be proud of – is a decision. Not a single decision, but a myriad of little decisions each day. Daily decisions about money and health and passion and contribution. One day at a time. These decisions add up until one day you look over your shoulder and realize you’ve created an extraordinary life.”