Recently I saw a documentary, ‘The Minimalists’ – which highlights primarily the work of two friends, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn who have books, a website and lectures that support the concept of minimalism. They are a pair of young, former high-flyers who discovered that despite their amazing jobs and top salaries and the myriad of possessions they had accumulated, they were far from content and happy. They subsequently abandoned these lives to take up the challenge of living with a very small footprint.
Their message definitely resonated with me as ‘simplify’ has become a big goal in my own life. For many years life was very complicated and burdensome and I’m now in a place where things are far simpler. I was kept busy doing a myriad of things to support the multitude of ‘stuff’ going on in my life and it felt heavy and at times drama-filled and even out of control. So much time, energy and money are involved in maintaining a life like that! It can mean we sacrifice what we consider truly important – people, both others and ourselves.
So to continue with ‘The Minimalists’ Ryan and Joshua simplifed their working lives so they could be more in control, more in the moment, work less and be less stressed but they also embarked on a major downsizing in their possessions and I feel myself being drawn to this concept as well. And it isn’t about giving away everything you love and existing in a life without esoteric pleasure. Instead they explained that they have fewer versions of everything but absolutely love what they do have! For example, instead of having twenty shirts that are ‘ok’, they have six they absolutely ‘adore’! I love this idea too – how freeing to look in your wardrobe and be happy to wear anything in it! I’ve still got some way to go – my wardrobe is way too big! I wear perhaps 20% of my wardrobe but every outing and every day involves wading through it all to make the decision of what to wear! I feel a new project coming on!
They weren’t the only minimalists featured in the documentary, they shared a myriad of people living in a very similar way. One was a permanent traveller whose total life possessions were in two small carry bags. There was another who had chosen to abandon the big house for a tiny one so she could reduce her expenses, work less and lead a simpler, more connected life. Another segment featured a young family and the parents decided to minimalize their personal possessions and household items substantially. However, they felt the kids didn’t need to be so strict with their own personal stuff so were using their own example of how they live to positively influence their children towards leading a less materialistic life. I admire that gentle parenting approach – it’s thoughtful on many levels and joins the other people featured in a common theme of mindful living.
‘Love people and use Things’ –Joshua Fields Millburn made this comment of undeniable wisdom in the documentary. It keeps going around in my head. I understand that most probably we all agree with this sentiment in an intellectual sense but do we actually live our lives according to it? For me that is at its essence what this is about – it’s about honouring people – ourselves and others and to treat possessions as what they really are – things to be gratefully used! If we make mindful decisions about how to live our lives, how much attention we place on accumulating ‘things’ we will find far more time, energy and yes even money for the things that matter – people and that includes ourselves as well as others.