In my mind there have always been two types of people: minivan drivers and non-minivan drivers.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. Some of my best friends drive minivans. And they love them. And I love those friends.
I, on the other hand, somehow got it in my mind over the years that a minivan equaled a life without excitement and a lack of self image (cough, cough….others thinking you were uncool.)
You see, we are all conditioned to have certain preconceived notions. This is no one’s fault, really. It just comes with growing up and living in a household, community and culture. And in many ways it is a good thing. It helps us find and bond with kindred spirits (i.e. friends and soul mates) with whom we have things in common. These are the people who you often feel most comfortable with.
But on the flip side of that, it also causes biases that don’t often serve us well in life. And it definitely doesn’t help us be a good minimalist.
Sometimes we have difficulty moving from one phase of our life to the next and that holds us back from cleaning the clutter from our lives. For example, I held on to clothes from my 20’s and later from my 30’s because I still saw myself as the cool, hip girl. Never mind the fact that I was no longer actually wearing most of them. Because (a) they were still in my possession, and (b) I MIGHT wear them SOMEDAY.
Would it surprise you to learn that never happened?
Me neither, looking back at it now.
But there are three things about this type of situation that seem to always hold us back, no matter how long we have been a minimalist:
- Holding on to memories. Lots of people have garages or attics full of memories, and let me tell you those memories can take up a gigantic amount of space. Now, I never advocate for getting rid of sentimental items that you can never replace (or that you actually use). I am talking about sports equipment for sports you no longer like. Or old furniture that you know will never be used again. If you don’t use it, lose it. You can always take a picture that will last forever. Maybe you enjoyed that certain activity in college but if that is not you anymore, then it is okay to move those items out of your life. Make a scrapbook with pictures of these items and send them on to someone who can and will use them.
- Fearing the next stage. This is definitely where I landed with the minivan. I still thought of myself as the snazzy dresser who attended interesting cultural events and saw the hottest bands in concert. (How would it look if I pulled up to see Foo Fighters in a minivan?) If I wasn’t that cool and happening person anymore, then who was I? Can you say identify crises?
- Caring what other people think. This holds most people back in all aspects in life, sometimes without us even realizing it. This was definitely happening to me. But one day something happened and I suddenly JUST DID NOT CARE ANYMORE. It suddenly made more sense for everyone to travel in comfort than for me to look “cool” – whatever that even means.
So the day we purchased a minivan I knew it was the right choice. I then used it to haul multiple loads of extra stuff away from my house and to a place where others could benefit from it. I hate to admit it, but this included some clothing and other items from my “cool” days.
How To See the Light
You see, we are all constantly changing and becoming a better version of ourselves, and with this wisdom comes a few points that we all need reminding of sometimes:
- It’s okay to evolve as a person.
- People who love you will still love you.
- People who don’t like you will still not like you.
- There’s no need to impress strangers (or your neighbors, your college ex-roommate, etc.)
And yes, buying a minivan added another vehicle to our driveway, but that is okay because it simplified our lives in other ways. It is now our go to vehicle for trips of any length, and therefore, stays loaded with most items we will need. It also carries all sports equipment and lawn chairs for practices, among other things.
It saves us so much time in planning and physically loading (and unloading) items that it was well worth the purchase.
And looking back now, I can see where our lives could have been much simpler for several years now if I had made the right decision – although my hubby was my partner in crime on that one.
So when working to simplify your life, make sure you look at what serves you best and gives you the most joyful life possible – regardless of what your ego says about your self image.
A few years ago I realized I had a BIG problem.
I was at the beach with my family, and as always, I was looking for something exciting to do. You know, I wanted to tour some historical location or find some quaint little antique shop to peruse or maybe look for an amusement park….anything besides sitting aimlessly on the beach staring out into the horizon for hours. I couldn’t imagine just sitting there being unproductive for a whole day. My brain was relentlessly going over all the reasons that would be a waste of time, boring, and generally NOT fun…….when it hit me.
I had become one of THOSE people!
Somehow I had lost the ability to feel happy and content in silence and tranquility, but instead needed constant entertainment and input. And even worse, I felt like this type of down time was unproductive and wasteful. Now, this truly sneaked up on me because I have always been the type to put down my phone and turn off other electronics. I consciously revel in my alone time.
So I was completely overwhelmed when I realized I lost the ability to enjoy the simplest joys in life – quiet, uncomplicated time that allowed my body and brain to completely rest.
After all, there are many ways to fill our minds and time, right?
Consider this quote from Psychology Today titled “Flooding Your Brain’s Engine: How You Can Have Too Much of a Good Thing” by Joanne Cantor, Ph.D:
“According to a recent international poll by LexisNexis, workers around the world are increasingly overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to manage, and information overload is widely seen as a growing threat to workplace productivity.”
So here’s the problem: We live in a world of constant input. We have gone from a slower, more natural pace of life that evolved around the seasons and agriculture to a life that is always switched on.
Many elements of our modern life have contributed to this shift, but here are the main offenders:
- the Internet
- 24 hour television stations
- 24 hour stores
I remember when I was young (which wasn’t THAT long ago) and most stores closed on Sundays….or at least kept shorter hours. In fact, I actually remember when Wal-Mart used to close. Sounds strange now, doesn’t it? (What I can’t get dog treats after 10:00 pm????)
We are used to getting what we want, when we want it. This has caused our addiction to instant gratification. No one has to actually wait for anything now.
Want to watch a movie? Boom……it takes than less than a minute to find it on Netflix or Amazon Prime. How about reading a new book? Download it in about 30 seconds on your Kindle. Or music. No wonder we are all so spoiled and entitled.
And with this comes the need to be the coolest, hippest person in any room. So you try to ready EVERY new best seller-book, and watch EVERY discussion-worthy movie, try EVERY fashionable new recipe, and try to fit in EVERY attraction on vacation so you don’t feel like you are missing something….etc, etc., etc……
Which leads me to the next problem……
How and When to Turn Off the Noise
Let’s be honest. The world of constant input has become our “normal” now. Even those of us young enough to remember a slower life are now acclimated to the constant barrage of information that is currently our world.
So when should we turn it off?
Every chance we get!
I used to mindlessly come home and immediately turn on the television or radio for “background” noise. But why? Because that was my normal. Is that your normal, too?
Here are some ways to cut out some of the noise in your life and also find ways to do nothing and rest your brain.
- Place a small fountain in your living/family room and use it instead of turning on television/music.
- Open windows and listen to the sounds of nature.
- Turn on low, calming music such as classical or slow jazz (instead of other music).
- Sit on your front porch with a cup of tea or coffee (we installed an outdoor fan so we could do this more often).
- Sit outside at night and watch the stars.
- Go on vacation and purposefully plan time to do nothing except sit on the balcony.
- Don’t put a television or radio in your camper.
- Turn off the radio in your vehicle and just listen to the lulling sounds of the road.
Science has proved that resting our minds and bodies gains more productivity in the long run, so there is your excuse to try all of the above.
How To Find the Joy in Doing Nothing
Okay, you now have a list of ways to do nothing, but how do you learn to enjoy it (instead of constantly thinking about things you could or should be doing)?
This one is simple: Give yourself permission to do so.
It is amazing how simply and easily this works. When I told myself it was perfect and natural to want to some down time and it didn’t matter if I didn’t see every attraction while on vacation, my trip immediately got better. The pressure was off and my time was now mine. I was in complete control of my vacation and no longer felt the urge to cover as much ground as possible while on vacation lest my time and energy be ill spent.
It was so liberating that I wondered why I hadn’t given myself this gift before then. But I guess it all boils down to sometimes not seeing the simplest solutions for our lives.
When we talk about minimalism and removing the clutter from our lives, we can easily forget about the things we can’t see. Giving yourself this permission is also giving yourself love on the most basic level.
And love is like money, you need to give to yourself first. When you love yourself, you have abundant love to give to others.
Okay, let’s face it.
It’s hard to BECOME a minimalist. It is much easier to BE a minimalist. So what’s the difference, you might ask….
Momentum. That’s what.
When you first make the decision to become less stressed, less hurried, less pressured – less everything bad – it is difficult to really get started. Things go through your head like, “What will my friends think?” or “My mother-in-law will really have bad things to say about me now!”
It goes on and on.
You suddenly freak out because everyone will know you are different, and not different in an avant-gard, hip sort of way, but DIFFERENT!
To that, everyone who has ever become a successful minimalist would say, “Who Cares?”
As it turns out, the most difficult part of becoming a minimalist is not doing without things (which can actually enhance your life), it’s worrying about what other people will think.
However, it is much easier to ignore that opinions (and perceived opinions) of others after you have been living the minimalist lifestyle for a while.
Minimalism: The Art of NOT Caring About What People Think
Not caring about what other people think (or say) is an art in its own right. It takes some practice to get really good at it, but with a small amount of effort you can live completely free from the worries of other people’s hang ups.
There are several things you must consider that will help you get over this hurdle.
- People are going to talk no matter what you do. This is true about most people on the planet because people just love to talk about other people. Simply file this knowledge away and decide there is nothing you can (or should) do about it. Then do whatever makes you happy.
- You don’t know most of what they say, so it doesn’t hurt you anyway. As far as I know, no one has ever fallen over dead because someone talked about them behind their backs. Sticks and stones, baby!
- Most people don’t mean most of what they say anyway. It’s true. I truly believe that people rattle on half of the time just trying to make conversation and give little thought to the potential impact of the conversation on those around them.
- Once you get truly engaged in your minimalist lifestyle, you will be so happy that you won’t notice any of the talk (or other negativity) around you. I realize that humans have a built in trait that makes us want everyone to like and approve of us all the time. Let’s all acknowledge right now that it’s not a possibility. Once you make that conscious realization, your happiness meter will start to rise.
- You might be paranoid. People might not be saying as much as you think. After all, everyone has their own life to live and your life is probably not as important to them as you might suspect.
- If people ARE talking, it’s probably because they are jealous. It’s true. Jealousy is the Number 1 reason why people talk about other people. In other words, if you are living a successful, happy minimalist life and others are talking negatively about you, its likely because they want the same life you have and probably don’t know how to attain it for themselves.
So you see, there really is not good reason not to jump headfirst into the minimalist lifestyle if it appeals to you. Just put everything in perspective about those around you and all the fear melts away. You really DON’T have to consider what other people will thing, say, or do when designing your perfect (or close to perfect) life.
That’s not news to most people.
We all know that drinking a certain soda will not give you more friends or driving a certain car will not make you happier. (You can be miserable driving a Bugatti.)
So how is it that we all fall prey to a certain amount of their brainwashing?
It is repetitive exposure. They bombard us with a product or campaign over and over until it finally sinks into our brain. For example, how many times have you started to purchase a product or service and went with a company just because you had “heard of it” before?
We feel comfortable doing business with companies we feel we know. That’s why big companies keep getting bigger. We want to use who or what everyone else is using. On some level we feel there is security in numbers. Even in shopping.
But what does this have to do with advertisers lying?
For one thing, advertisers try to sell us things we don’t need. Period.
Here are a few thoughts for consideration:
- You don’t need a new phone (latest model) when yours works fine.
- Your don’t have to get a new car because your sister/friend/neighbor got one.
- Having more “stuff” doesn’t make you the winner.
- Nobody really cares how much your watch/purse/shoes/golf clubs cost.
The bottom line is: More is not better. It’s just more.
In fact, “more” gets a lot of people in trouble. More debt, more stress, etc.
But what does it do to advertisers when we decide to stop buying more of their products? It costs them money, of course. So what do they do in return? Advertisers lie. Some more.
They need us to keep buying so they can keep making money. And they will make you feel left out if you don’t purchase their product. They will pressure you into spending money you shouldn’t.
In my opinion, they really showed how low they could go when they started advertising directly to children. What person can market unhealthy foods and brain dampening toys to little kids and still sleep at night?
Don’t fall prey to their pressure. You are the boss of you. And you know what you need…..and what you don’t.
Don’t clutter you home or your life.
Today I want to discuss why too many choices can be a bad thing.
I recently decided it was time to purchase a new computer. So I did what most anyone would do. I went online and started looking for deals on laptops. But it soon became clear that I could not make a decision with so much information coming at me.
Then I decided to go to some good old fashioned brick and mortar stores. But every time I found a laptop that might be “the one” I would start to wonder what offerings were available at the next store down the street. I finally gave up and went home for the day – no closer to getting a new laptop and no longer wanting to deal with it.
I actually told my hubby I wished he would just pick one for me and buy it. He did not like that idea as much as I did, so I am currently sitting here typing this post on my old computer.
I am usually a quite decisive person. This is one of my better qualities (don’t ask about the bad ones), but sometimes the sheer number of choices in our world can overwhelm anyone.
Our super-consumer driven society would have us believe that infinite choices and possibilities equals infinite happiness, but that is truly not so.
For example, years ago when my grandparents wanted to purchase new furniture or appliances they went down to the local store (there was only one) and looked through the handful of choices . They picked what they wanted, paid for it, and took it home. It was that simple. And life went on as usual.
Similar purchases for us have taken weeks or even months.
Because not only are there lots of choices, but many stores carry the exact same thing and we need to make sure another stores doesn’t sell it cheaper, right?
But the endless choices don’t just extend to consumer goods. These days every choice becomes a process in frustration.
Career choices can be daunting with so many new fields emerging. I constantly hear about jobs that I never knew existed. (You can get paid for that?)
And how about that online dating? Now, you don’t just choose a mate from those in the vicinity of where you live. There are thousands or possibly millions of potential companions all around the world. No wonder so many people are single these days.
So how do we cope with all this clutter of possibilities? (And, yes, this IS a type of clutter.)
I think we must limit our pool of choices ourselves. We must be mindful of wanting to simplify the process of making choices.
I sometimes decide to buy something (after debating whether I really need it) and decide I will only shop on Amazon for that item. I usually find exactly what I need. I don’t check any other sites and I don’t second guess my choice. I give myself permission not worry about whether there is a better one out there. Or cheaper one.
Then I proceed to enjoy the new item without any stress attached to it.
It’s small things like this that have made my life more peaceful. After all, it’s the small things that usually impact our lives the most.
Yesterday, my mother in law walked into my house and said, “Your house looks bigger.”
And, although I hadn’t noticed it before that, she was right. It DID look bigger. Why was that?
Well, I had purged tons of items out of our house. I mean, HUGE piles of unused things left our house this summer. And what was left behind was all this open, airy space. You see, I no longer feel the need to fill every wall with a piece of furniture and something hanging on the wall.
Instead, I let my house breath. In return, that allows me to breath.
Yesterday. I also read an article on Becoming Minimalist titled Reconsidering the Merits of Slow Acquisition which I loved, so when my mother in law made that observation I was downright proud. I had pared down our possessions to only those we needed and/or loved. (The hubby helped too.) Joshua Becker, who runs Becoming Minimalist, is a wealth of inspiration, by the way. Check him out here.
So I had this epiphany:
Everyone (ok, maybe just some people) want a larger house.
What if……..people just had less stuff?
Then our houses would feel and look larger and we wouldn’t be striving to spend more money on larger and more expensive real estate. I know this idea will be very strange to some people, but others will think it is charming.
I strive to be a minimalist, There are different levels of minimalism, and I would say I am about medium at this point. This level makes me happy right now.
And I will never live in a tiny house. Why?
You can live a more minimalist (simple, uncluttered) lifestyle without living in a tiny house. While I see the merits of a tiny house for some people, that just doesn’t work for some of us. Instead, a average size house can become an oasis of peace and tranquility when you remove all the unnecessary distractions.
At least, it is working great so far for us.
If you have any thoughts on this I would love to hear them below.