Friday, February 11, 2011

Converting to Minimalism? Know Before You Go!

Minimalists place almost exclusive emphasis on getting rid of “stuff,” as if that is the panacea. Get rid of clutter, get rid of duplicate materials, get rid of ostentatious, overindulgent purchases, and so on.
While reducing dependence on assets is laudable, affluence is not the enemy, or is de-cluttering the solution to simplifying one’s life. By exerting oneself to part with items that have a link to your emotional or pedantic life, you are likely to experience a feeling of deprivation. It is one of the reasons why many advocates of minimalism recommend decreasing assets bit at a time, rather than immediately and thoroughly.
Why are we choosing to reduce our belongings? In many cases, it is due to the realization that we are wrapped up in a tornado of acquisition, seeking continually to own the best of everything.
Again, many minimalists suggest that the goal of minimalism is to reduce excess, so that we can focus on the remaining, valued items in our arsenal. What we are doing, then, is redirecting our efforts away from a blanket embracing of goods toward a bond with only a few, but a much stronger bond. In other words, we will be as reliant on assets as always, but we will cling to fewer of them!
For this reason, I urge that anyone who is considering a conversion to the minimalist lifestyle reflect very carefully on their reasons for doing so.
Is it because of the clutter? Then just reorganize! Is it because of the cost? Consider how to make your dollar work better for you. Is it because of the glamour of saying that you are unique? Consider how many “minimalists” live in the poor areas of your city, not by choice but by necessity.
Minimalism, as one blogger writes, has become the fad of white people. But few take the time to consider the impacts and consequences on oneself and those around us. Most importantly, we rush into minimalism like a crash dieter, and just as quickly fall of the regimen wagon.
Over twenty years ago -- ten years before I embraced minimalism -- I learned, firsthand, the impact of stuff on our lives. At the time, I had just entered into a business partnership that led into a huge growth of our operation. We went from annual revenues, between the two of us, of $125,000 per year to annual revenues of $1.8 million, in the space of a few months. We had hit the big time!
One of the “urgent” purchases I needed was a new car, given that I would be on the road for at least 80,000 kilometres each year.
I fell in love with a Plymouth Laser – hardly an expensive car, but what I really, truly wanted. My partner purchased a Mercedes – just what he wanted. However, I did not purchase the Laser. I imagined myself driving it, polishing it, speeding along Alberta highways in it. It had sex appeal! So I bought a Plymouth Colt 200 – a subcompact. I liked the Colt.
The reasons were simple. Because I loved the Laser, I would spend hours each week, cleaning, polishing, maintaining and driving it. Because I liked the Colt, I would keep it clean and in running condition. The Laser got 25 miles to the gallon, the Colt 42. The Laser cost $23,000, the Colt $12,000. I could repair the Colt myself. I could not repair the Laser. But the Laser came ever so close to winning the purchase lottery!
That one decision revealed to me that it is not the amount or the cost of the stuff we own, but the significance that we place upon things that controls us.
The big screen television may be more important than our daughter’s braces!
Not long ago, I walked through a coastal village in Mexico that had been devastated by a hurricane three years earlier. In beaten to the ground, I found a shell of a former home, now covered with six separate utility tarps, blowing freely. Two of the people who lived there were returning with 5-gallon jugs of water. The place was absolutely destroyed. Yet, in front of the home (where clearly, kids still lived), among the disarray of junk and broken lumber and two derelict cars were two –not one – satellite dishes!
The importance of that connection to television was so important that all other creature comforts paled.
There certainly was no doubt that this family lived minimally. But is it a choice that any of us would make?
If you are considering adopting a minimal lifestyle, I ask that you do one thing, above all. Sit down and evaluate, not the quantity of things you own, but the quality and tenacity of your attachment to items. Consider, thoroughly, what those items mean to you. If you do not, you’ll be like the impulsive parachutist who decided to jump, and then thought of putting on his parachute!

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