George Carlin (RIP) puts it well in this comedic bit. We all have too much stuff and our dwellings are simply places where stuff accumulates. "Their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff!" I hate stuff, but I'm still a victim to it. My journey to the side of minimalism came from various factors of living abroad, my personality, age, an improved self-esteem and travels.
- Living abroad. I moved to Australia knowing my stint would be a year. I was given a container the size of a full size bed to fit my belongings into to live on for a year.. clothes, shoes, accessories. My mentality shifted a bit there because I no longer bought things knowing I would have to stuff (no pun intended) those into my container back home so I made economical purchases and learned to let go and give away those things I couldn't take back when my time was up. I lived in a furnished apartment with everything I needed provided so it was like living out of a big suitcase with only a few things being my own. This attitude stayed with me on my move back and I no longer hoard things.. also because I want to move out of Houston within a year.
- My personality. I'm an economics major so I've learned to put a value on everything so anything I purchase, I intend to maintain and see through till the day it dies because a lot of what we purchase is an illiquid asset. That said, the more STUFF I own, the more there is to maintain and worry about. You could waste a whole day running errands on dry cleaning for clothes you don't need, cleaning/polishing unnecessary furniture, cleaning extra living space, organizing all the extra stuff lying around.. on top of that the clutter becomes an eye sore. Who really needs those 4th grade papers dear George refers to? So after shedding a lot, there's a lot more leisure time to get on my bike, play w/ my dog, have a meal w/ my parents, read and just veg. Less stress all the way around, less resources used and more money to pad the bank account.
- Age. I used to try to impress others by the things I owned and outdo my friends' posessions. But that's an exhausting slog. You own something and your friend may not beat you, but something or someone eventually will so then what, waste more resources to continue the tug of war? This makes you lust for what's new and not appreciate what you have. I've noticed how Americans are much less thankful people as a whole than others.. small gestures and things around us are taken for granted completely. (The cheaper price of gasoline relative to other countries, free restrooms everywhere, free to sit anywhere) We all have our weaknesses, though. I'm tempted all the time to go out and splurge on a $4000 carbon bicycle with all the fixings. But I realized the exercise and training I put in on my current bike will allow me to ride a lot harder than simply upgrading an item, of which the most crucial part is the rider. I don't have to fill a void w/ the pang of temporary joy filled by something new and shiny. Others' compliments used to give me a sense of pride that I had good taste or by convincing myself they envied it. This uplifted my spirit, which is sad if you think about it since it was rooted in some self-esteem issues. I saw those unneccessary items as "needs."
- Travel. I did a lot of traveling in 2009. It first started off in New Zealand, where I took an oversized bag and way too many things I didn't end up using or wearing. As the year wore on I packed lighter and lighter, taking old clothes I now shed during the trip to make room for anything I might bring back as gifts. By the time I traveled to Europe in December, I only took essentials in one small carry-on size bag and wore things multiple times. Worst case scenario if you run out of something, you just buy it where you're traveling. It helped me appreciate how much stuff we have back home is unnecessary to survive.. they're simply fluff conveniences and luxuries we've been accustomed to see as "needs." The more we accumulate, the less we're able to have the option to drop everything and move somewhere because you're financially tied down more on top of having to unload it all or store it somewhere. We overvalue our things and it becomes an unhealthy attachment to identify ourselves with our possessions, belongings and money.