I’ve been embracing minimalism for several months now and it’s very freeing.
For the past year, I’ve surprised myself – I own very little material goods, yet I feel rich.
Previously, there were years of amassing material goods. Consciously or unconsciously, the household items, apparel, real estate, unnecessary goods, etc started to become very extraneous, superfluous, and yet, my life and well being was not awesome. Far from it. I was in fact, quite miserable, for personal reasons, and no amount of retail therapy could fix what I was enduring. I won’t go into it any further, but I’m not in that place anymore, I’ve walked away and have found freedom and peace.
Our society encourages us to consume more more more, but our quality of life has nothing to do with consumer goods. Acquiring things will not make you happy, really, it is a cliche but a profound statement. I’ve found that life is more fulfilling when an emphasis is placed on experiences with people and not things.
I started with basically nothing from scratch in 2013, in contrast to previous years. And I’ve travelled more for fun this past year than my entire life, met so many fantastic people, and found that I was much more content, and I wasn’t a slave to consumerism any longer. I’m still in the process of editing my life, and it will be an ongoing process. There’s a term we have in photography where we ‘cull’ out the extra, erroneous or bad images and save the best to keep. It applies to all aspects in life, paring down everything that may be unnecessary, excess, distracting, and keeping what’s important and essential.
Another thing I observed is, why do we as a society have to chase status symbols, or display successes in terms of image? It’s inevitable, the bombardment of advertisements guaranteeing ‘you’ll be happier if you get this or that’.
But if one constantly compares themselves with the Joneses, they will feel depressed, anxious and unhappy, trying to medicate oneself by buying more and still feeling an empty void.
People aren’t going to like you more because of what clothes you’re wearing, or what car you drive, or how many square feet you live in, or how big your engagement ring is. In most cases, they will be indifferent. However, people will judge you on who you are as a person, what you say and think, and how you make them feel.
Having ‘stuff’ is not a measure of success as a human being. We should redefine ourselves by what we are, rather than what we buy.
I find it liberating to be able to ignore ads on the latest ‘it’ gadget or new shoe design, breaking free from the unnecessary pressures of society.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want ‘stuff’. I’m normal like any human being and it’s natural. But I do ask myself “do I really need this” and I resist the impulsive buys that used to creep up on me. I limit myself to things I will treasure, and keep for a long time because it improves my quality of life and find a lot of value.
For example, my little suv that I’ve had for 4 years, it does its job really well, I will happily drive it in contentment until it can no longer serve its purpose. My minimalist camera setup, tiny yet very functional, will yield some spectacular shots, can fit in a small international carry on bag. My Camper sandals, which I’ve gone on and on endlessly about, will be my staple until probably the day I die because I will get them re-soled. I’ve found a high quality shoe that I simply adore and have not found anything that is better.
As a photographer and piano teacher, I work with many types of people in all levels of income in life. Some are in epic mansions and some are in tiny urban dwellings, but it doesn’t affect me one bit on my life outlook – I don’t feel ‘less than’ or ‘more than’ any of them, and I don’t think of people ‘less’ or ‘more’ because of what they have or don’t have. It simply doesn’t matter.
I can remember some of my happiest times are when I am living with just a suitcase or backpack during a trip, experiencing the different cultures, taking photos of the beautiful landscapes and eating the newfound foods that I’ve never tried before.
What is worth more to you? A depreciating object, or a great memory from a trip?
And finally, with minimalism comes more space, more time, more freedom and more joy.