“Love people and use things because the opposite never works.”
Joshua Fields Milburn, The Minimalists
I write this post on the heels of Black Friday and the upcoming holiday season.
Although the season is supposed to conjure up warm, fuzzy feelings, spending time with family and partaking in all things Christmas, it’s a time of stress for more people than you’d think.
We all want that picture-perfect Christmas. The holiday parties, the presents under the tree, the homemade food at Christmas dinner. But those holiday parties, those presents, that Christmas dinner? They kind of stress you out. They stress me out too.
You’re suckered into buying a cheap Dirty Santa gift that the recipient likely won’t even use. You’re spending hours in the kitchen baking holiday treats rather than spending time with family and friends. Or you’re stressing out at the store, attempting to find the perfect gift for someone on your list even though the purchase will add to your pile of credit card debt.
I heard a lady on the radio today say, “If you can take the easy way out this holiday season, take it.” If your schedule is jam-packed with activities you don’t enjoy or don’t have the money to pay for, cancel it. If you can get away with a store bought dessert rather than spending hours of frustration in the kitchen, buy those Little Debbie’s with confidence!
This idea sounds amazing to me. Last year, it was Daniel’s and my first Christmas together as a married couple. In addition to buying gifts for all our family members, we decided to buy gifts for each other. This turned out to be really stressful because we spent a lot of time in stores, looking for something the other might like. I would have traded that time we spent shopping for time at home, hanging out together and simply being with each other. This year, we decided to gift each other an experience gift. We’re going on a trip in February and we’ve promised that the trip will be our only gift to each other this year. I would rather make a memory with a loved one than buy them a big, fancy something or other that will go unused or be donated in a few years … which brings me to The Minimalists.
I watched the documentary, Minimalism, on Netflix earlier this year and it was incredibly eye-opening. Everyone should watch this film!
The film follows Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, two best friends who chased the American Dream and climbed the corporate ladder for a decade, only to find that it made them very, very unhappy. You can read more about their stories on their website, theminimalists.com.
One of the quotes from their book, Everything That Remains, reads, “If I’m not content with what I have now, no amount of money will ever make me happier.”
A simple, yet profound truth. And kinda hard to swallow at the same time.
Many of us, myself included, chase money and material possessions to fill a void inside us. We believe “things” and “stuff” and more money will make us happier. By acquiring more, it’ll make us more happy, right?
Unfortunately, it’s a vicious, endless cycle. We all want that new car, but after owning it for a couple years, we want to trade it in for another one. This applies to every aspect of our lives. We’re always on the hunt for more, better, newer.
“If I’m not content with what I have now, no amount of money will ever make me happier.” – The Minimalists
When was the last time you looked at an item in your home and asked yourself, “Does this thing add value to my life?’ If the answer is no, then why do we have these things in our homes to begin with?
After watching the documentary, reading Everything That Remains, and taking note of the items around the house, I found that I wasn’t being intentional with the things that I’ve allowed in our home. There was, and is, a lot of excess. We’re still in the process of simplifying, but we’ve definitely made a dent in the things we’ve acquired over the years.
I’m an “all or nothing” type of person. I didn’t just get rid of a couple of things, I got rid of a lot. I’m talking four full trash bags full of clothes I didn’t wear, stacks of books I haven’t read in years, kitchenware that was overcrowding our cabinets and drawers. I donated a lot, sold some things, and gave some of it away. Regardless of how I disposed of each item, I felt relieved once they were out of my home. I haven’t regretting getting rid of a single thing.
Many of the items I gave away were “someday” items. As in, “Someday, I know I’ll use this!” But “someday” never came, and I wound up with all this stuff that I had to lug from one location to the next, like a hermit crab.
Here’s a perfect example of this: Three years ago, I bought a Christmas themed dog treat jar that said “Treats from Santa Paws” for “that day” when we finally get a dog. Three years later, we are still dogless. Out the door the dog treat jar goes!
There’s much work to be done, but I’m happy with the progress we’ve made so far. Since we live in an apartment, I think it’s good to get a handle on our stuff while we live in a limited space. If we had our own house, I fear the damage would be much worse.
My invitation to you is to think — really think — about the next thing you purchase for your home, for you, for whoever or whatever. Do you really need it? If it’s not food, water, clothing or shelter, chances are you don’t need it. Forgive me for sounding like a middle school history teacher (“Can anyone tell me the four basic human needs?”)
Living with less, I’m beginning to discover, is a wonderful way to live. Less to clean, less time fixing, less money spent. More time to do the things you enjoy. More money in your bank account. More control over your life.
I’m excited to see where this simple living journey takes us.