Bohemian Free Spirit

A Simpler Life - Embracing Minimalism

Saturday, January 24, 2015carly

The other day I wrote a post on my Instagram about how people, the world over, are slaves to consumerism. One of the intentions I set for myself this year (which you can read about here), and ultimately for the rest of my life, is to live a much more simplistic lifestyle than what I currently enjoy. So combining those two thought processes, I thought I'd elaborate on them here.

Please keep in mind that I am by no way trying to impose my beliefs onto others or judge the lifestyle that many people lead. I am merely discussing my views on how I believe I can have a happier experience in this amazing gift of life.

Modern Slave (Consumerism)

The Power of Consumerism

Taking a step back, and looking at how we humans interact and live on a daily basis, an outsider may describe us as zombies. The majority of us are stuck in the same routine. We spend most of our time indoors, surfing the internet or watching re-run after re-run on t.v., consuming so much garbage that we ultimately forget how to think or act for ourselves. Instead of living our own journey, figuring out for ourselves what makes us happy, we've essentially been brainwashed by mainstream, corporate messages that tell us how to live our lives. And that's just the mental clutter. Think of all the excess we have in our lives - at least one McDonalds in every town, a Tim Horton's or Starbucks on every corner, sure the convenience can be nice on occasion, but when did we get so busy that we couldn't feed ourselves or brew ourselves a cup of coffee in the morning? What about the 10 pairs of jeans you have hanging in the back of your closet? What about everyone's rush to get the latest iPhone, even though the one you bought only 12 months ago was the most powerful computer system this world has ever seen? In my mind, these things are simply unnecessary and are a major cause of the overall unhappiness of the world. We've created a culture of always wanting more but the fact of the matter is, we really don't need it. So what if you have last year's iPhone!? Look around you, compared to millions of people on this Earth, you live an extremely privileged life. You've got it good my friend!

It's easy to blame it all on politicians, the economy and big corporations, but the problem with that is there'll never be a resolution, corporations will always want you to buy their products so they'll always push that message on to you. The power to change has to come from you. You are free to make choices that affect how you live your life. If you're willing to change your mindset, then you may realize that you already have all you need to live a happy and fulfilled life.

You've heard it time and time again, that money can't buy happiness, and yet we all still continue to go down this path. But what if you did the opposite? Instead of filling your life with more and more 'things' to make you happy, what if you tried to eliminate the overabundance of 'things' you already own from your life. You bought them to make you happy in the first place, and yet you're still in the exact same situation now as you were then, craving more material things to fill a void in your life. Why spend your money on things that you have to work so hard to afford and then never have time to enjoy them because all your time goes into your work so you can afford these things in the first place? It makes no sense. So maybe consumerism isn't the answer to your happiness, maybe it's minimalism.

So what is minimalism?

Minimalism is essentially removing all the clutter from your life so you're left with very few personal possessions. I've heard people say you have to own less than 100 things, or less than 60 things to be considered a minimalist, but I don't think there's really one set definition of minimalism that suits everybody. We're all different and this is something we have to interpret in the face of our individual lives. I see minimalism as a way to relieve ourselves from the burden of consumerism, a way to find happiness without the need for possessions. There's so much more joy in life that passes us by each day because we're simply too busy or too greedy to notice it. I want to rediscover that joy.

It wasn't until very recently that I started to introduce this concept into my life, however I became aware of my need for it years ago. In 2010 I moved to England for a year as part of a law exchange program with my university. I ended up bringing 4 suitcases plus my carry-on of stuff with me to England and returned home with 6 suitcases. (To put this in perspective, my best friend just moved to Australia for a two year law program and she only brought a carry-on and one suitcase - that was smaller than any of my 6). It was ridiculous. But I felt like I needed to bring all of my possessions with me to feel comfortable and be happy. Looking back on it now though, I didn't even use half of the things that I had lugged half way across the world with me. It was a colossal waste of effort and money. What I thought would make me happy, actually caused me unhappiness in the long run by costing me so much money and eating up a good chunk of my savings.

"Minimalism is about getting rid of the things in your life that don't add value so you can focus on the things that do." - - Colin Wright

The benefits of minimalism

Acquiring a minimalist lifestyle is not easy, and I've barely made a dent in eliminating some of my unnecessary belongings, but I'm already starting to feel a sense of happiness and empowerment over my own life. Physical clutter leads to mental clutter and by reducing the amount of things sitting around on shelves collecting dust, my mind has started to free up because it has one less thing to worry about. My goal in life is ultimately to be a full-time traveler, so having less possessions makes me happier as it's easier to see that dream come to fruition knowing that I don't have as many things to pack up or leave behind. It's really amazing how one small action can make such a huge impact on my dreams.

After deciding to switch career paths and focus on my creativity as opposed to the law, I was worrying myself crazy with how I was ever going to support myself financially. But after adopting a minimalist mindset, I've found peace in realizing that I only need to make enough money to sustain my lifestyle, so by living a simpler way of life, I won't have as many financial burdens weighing me down. What good is it anyway to work so hard to afford to be able to live but never have the time to actually live? That realization did wonders in terms of my level of happiness.

The important thing to keep in mind though is that it's not the act of minimalism that makes you happy, it's the opportunities that you gain because of living a minimalist life that ultimately contribute to your happiness. Getting rid of all your possessions is not the key to happiness. But by getting rid of all the extra clutter in your life, you begin to realize what is truly important to you - you may spend more time outdoors, strengthening relationships with your friends and family, improving your health, pursuing your passions, and these are what bring happiness into your life!

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