*As featured in Morzine Source Magazine
Imagine a life with less
Recently I had been feeling this ‘urge’. Actually it was more like an itch, a nagging unabaiting desire, to throw away all my stuff.
It had started with my clothes. Every day I would stare at ‘that’ wardrobe, the wooden structure full of chaos and disorder, a veritable fabric swamp of ill-thought-out choices that I‘d wade through everyday, searching for the three items I actually wore. But the longing to de-clutter kept on spreading; just like the mass of stuff I had accumulated. I started to loath the excess of winter jackets hanging throughout our chalet. I hated the appliances in our kitchen that we needed but actually never used. We had drawers and cupboards of ‘maybes’, shelves of ‘’possiblys’, bucket fulls of ‘one days.’ I felt suffocated by the very things that were supposed to bring me joy. The happiness of acquisition now long gone. How had I accumulated so much stuff? Even from the safety of the mountains, modern life had made me its consumer slave.
At a time when people in the west are experiencing the best standard of living in history, why is it that, at the same time there is such a longing for more? – Rick Hanson. Neurophyschologist
I am not alone in my problem of accumulation. Or the emptiness and dissatisfaction it breeds. It is a very modern condition. But what I didn’t realise until very recently, is that our need to acquire is in fact an evolutionary one. Because as humans, we have been hard-wired to shop.
Shopping: It’s not your fault.
Evolution wanted us to survive so it made us permanently hungry for more. This inbuilt auto-craving worked wonderfully when we were living in caves, chewing on a few berries and nuts and the occasional piece of hard-chased meat. Our longing kept us alive, never resting on our laurels when more food needed to be found. But nature’s gift was an indiscriminate one to just keep wanting more in general. We are, it seems, the Olivers of the universe, genetically made to crave. Please sir, can we have some more.
“Auto-craving is a good strategy to keep animals alive in harsh conditions. But today it’s caused a disconnect – biologically-based delusional craving. Mother nature and evolution is pulling your strings. We feel restless, always craving for more.” – Rick Hanson. Neurophyschologist
This biological need in our modern consumer culture, filled with cheap disposable products, has created the perfect storm. We keep chasing the next thing we ‘need’, and we never ever feel truly satisfied. How else could Apple sell you endless upgrades? Why would we have more than one pair of shoes? How would obesity have come about, or our endless consumption of information and social media feeds?
For those of us that don’t have a daily yoga or medication practice, it’s highly likely that we are actively consuming almost every waking minute of our day. What’s for dinner? I need a new [beanie]. That’s a nice dress. The car probably needs replacing. Let’s have another quick look on Facebook. Check emails. Sign up for the gym. I need a sandwich. I want a flatter tummy . We are bottomless empty pits.
Minimalism: Imagine a life with less
One Netflix film later (and one bag of Butterkist Caramel-covered popcorn), I found a solution to my problem. What I needed was to become a minimalist – a person who goes through life with an absence of stuff.
The film in question follows Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, who documented their personal journeys from consumers to minimalists. Both walked away from their ‘perfect lives’ of consumption and dissatisfaction to live lives of happiness and joy with minimal belongings. The film asks – How might your life be better with less? It takes a look at the lives of minimalists from all walks of life – families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker – all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less.
“When I started letting go [of my stuff] I started to feel felt freer, happier and lighter. Now as a minimalist, every possession serves a purpose or brings me joy. I don’t have any excess stuff. Everything I have I have to be able to justify to myself. If it doesn’t add value to my life, I have to be able to let go.” – Josh Fileds Millburn, Writer & Creator / The Minimalist Film
Clearing my wardrobe and my life suddenly became a lot easier when I followed the films criteria. I just had to ask myself ‘is this adding value?’ when evaluating my stuff. Is this light bulb that is useable but doesn’t fit in any light in my house adding value? Are these jean,s that I wore once when two stone lighter, adding value? You can apply this to all areas of your life – from relationships, to friendships, work, purchases, social events, even social media feeds. Is this adding value to my life and to the world at large? Not only will it help you break free of the trap of the consumer cycle, but you will be able to make more ethical choices too. Is this Primark top, which I will wear once and was created to the detriment to our planet and to the human who made it, adding value? Letting go started to feel a lot easier.
Consumer culture has tapped into the very heart of our genetic make up. We devour products, information, messages and experiences in utter unconscious consumption and we always end up wanting more. Most of us are unaware that we are in a cycle of permanent dissatisfaction as we joyfully open the box of yet another new purchase. But consumerism is distraction. Wanting more takes us away from living in the moment. Whether its products or social media feeds, the cycle is endless.
So try to imagine a life with less, a life of passion, unencumbered by the trappings of the chaotic world around you. Minimalism is a way of stopping the madness. This is your one life, so make the most of it. Love people, use things, because the opposite never works. Go out and do more, with less.
Want to try a bit of minimalism?
The 3:33 challenge
The 3:33 is a challenge is to reduce your wardrobe to just 33 items that will last you for 3 months. 3 months. 33 items. The 33 doesn’t include pants, but the rest of your clothes, including shoes, bags, accessories and jackets cannot total more than 33. This is capsule wardrobe living at its most extreme. It’s also a step towards living purposefully and intentionally with only items that truly add value and joy to your life.