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How to gain control over things and life? Everything we purchase requires attention and care. It takes time and energy. Freeing the house from excess things, we shift the focus of attention from what we have to what we do. Minimalism is open space, simplicity and lightness! Francine Jay discusses the happiness of less in her book “The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify”.
1. You are not what you own
Contrary to what marketers would have you believe, you are not what you own. You are you and things are things. Think about how much you bought just for the sake of creating an image: bags, home furnishings, shoes, a guitar, or a fashionable fishing rod. All this in order to impress others or to indulge our “fantasy selves” – the one who’s about to lose 10 pounds, travels around the world, attends social parties, and plays in a rock band.
In addition, we identify ourselves with things from the past and carefully preserve school letters, medals of sports competitions, or lecture notes. In justification, we say that all this is evidence of our achievements. Perhaps it’s time to part with these relics forever.
Remember, the things with which we choose to surround ourselves tell our story. Let’s hope it’s not “I choose to live in the past”, or “I can’t finish the projects I start”. Instead, let’s aim for something like, “I live lightly and gracefully, with only the objects I find functional or beautiful”.
Looking at things with a critical eye, one can marvel at how many of them honor the memory of the past or embody the hope of the future.
Unfortunately, when these things are given too much space, time, and effort, they become an obstacle to life in the present. We are not what we have, we are our affairs, thoughts, and loved ones. Getting rid of the remnants of past times, unfinished business and unfulfilled fantasies, we are making room for new opportunities.
We are not what we own; we are what we do, what we think and who we love.
2. Less staff = less stress
First of all, we worry if we do not have a specific thing. Perhaps something caught your eye in the store or in advertising, and suddenly the question arose: how could I live without this all my life? The neighbor has it, friends gifted it to your sister, a colleague bought it last week. It begins to seem that we were deprived …
Then we worry about how to get it. As soon as we get what we want, we get a new headache, because you must learn how to use it, find the right place to put it, buying extra parts of it, fix it, etc.
How many precious hours do we spend visiting dry cleaners, how many Saturdays are we ruining because of the need to change the oil or repair the car? How often do we get nervous because of a broken vase, cracked plate, or stains on the carpet?
Let’s take a break and remember how carefree and happy you felt when you were a student. And it is no coincidence that it was when we had the fewest things. Studying, living and having fun were much more important than things. And it is this state of joy that we will regain with the help of a minimalist worldview.
3. Less stuff = more freedom
Imagine that you were offered a dream job, but in order to get it, you need to move across the country within three days.
Would you be filled with excitement and start making plans? Or would you look around your house and worry about how to get everything packed up in time? Won’t you be horrified by the thought that you have to transport all things for thousands of miles (or, even worse, this idea will seem to you simply ridiculous)?
What is the likelihood that in the end you decide not to bother, because you are firmly settled at home, and over time, something else may turn up?
Would your stuff have the power to hold you in place?
It seems crazy to consider – but would your stuff have the power to hold you in place? For many, the answer is likely to be yes. Things can be an obstacle to doing something new or developing new abilities. They build a prison wall around us. Having embarked on the path of minimalism, we take apart these walls and regain our freedom.
Zen Buddhism teaches that in order to be happy, we must let go of our worldly attachments. In fact, haiku port Basho famously wrote that when his house burned down, he had a better view of the moon. Now that’s someone who’s detached from his stuff!
4. Get rid of useless and ugly things
The British poet and artist William Morris proposed the following idea: “Do not keep anything in the house that you do not consider useful or beautiful”. Great idea, but how to put it into practice?
Take an inventory. All items in the house can be divided into three categories: useful, beautiful, and emotionally rich. Useful means functional, they help in business and make life more comfortable. But in order to be useful, the item must be used. This is the trick: most of us have a lot of potentially useful things that are idle. These are duplicates or devices difficult to use. The same with things that we keep “as a last resort” or those that “may be needed”. These are the first candidates for dismissal.
Do not keep anything in the house that you do not consider useful or beautiful.
We admire beautiful things. But if a collection of Murano glass is gathering dust on a shelf or, even worse, standing packed in a pantry, then this is nothing more than colorful trash. Evaluate every item that stands in a prominent place: if a thing gives joy and gives a feeling of comfort, harmony, then its place in your house is fully justified.
Finally, a huge part of the living space is occupied by memorabilia that symbolize emotional affection: a grandmother’s service, dad’s collection of pipes, a wedding dress. They remind of significant people, places, and events. There are also gifts, family values, souvenirs.
Chat with everything that you have. Ask it:
- How often do I use you?
- Will I replace you if you get lost, break, or will I feel relief getting rid of you?
- Would I like to get you at all?
If you stumble upon something useless, ugly, or incomprehensible throw it away.
5. Establish control over purchases
Each candidate for purchase should be asked (mentally, of course!):
- Do you deserve a place in my house?
- How can you serve the household?
- Will you make my life easier or more problems than good?
- Do I have a place for you?
- Do I have something similar?
- How difficult will it be to get rid of you?
If the item does not bring anything to your life in terms of benefit or beauty, mentally hang a sign: “Sorry, there are no empty seats.” A simple initial refusal to purchase will eliminate the need to deal with tons of junk in the future!
6. Do not store unnecessary gifts
They definitely should not be taken out of sight to the bottom of the drawers or into the depths of the cabinets – we are fighting with clutter! The solution will be simple: do not let them populate.
Keep a special drawer for things intended for kickback, somewhere away from the living space, and immediately send unwanted items there. When it is full, take it to the nearest charitable organization that you like.
Gift photos are the best solution: if it is a figurine, make a photo of it on the shelf, if it is a sweater or scarf, pose in them for a photo. Send a photo to the person who gifted it to you, and then give the item away, and everyone will be happy.
7. Enjoy without owning
We are incredibly lucky: in the modern world, almost all the masterpieces of mankind are available without the need for their purchase and storage at home. Art, culture, and entertainment are abundant in large cities, and there is no need to try to reproduce them at home.
Coffee machines, media rooms, home fitness centers are wildly popular in the market. It seems that people decided not to leave their houses at all. Perhaps, instead of buying, servicing and repairing all this equipment, you just need to go to a cafe, cinema or gym?
If you cannot resist buying beautiful things, repeat the phrase “enjoyment without possession” as a mantra when you go shopping. Admire the grace of a glass figurine, the elaborate decoration of an antique bracelet, or the bright colors of a ceramic vase, but do not take them home. Think of it as a trip to a museum.
8. Enjoy what you have
The author of the Tao de Ching, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, wrote: “Those who know when they have enough are rich”.
How much is “enough”? What is enough for one is too little for another and too much for a third.
When the basic needs for food, water, clothing, and living space are satisfied, happiness has almost nothing to do with the number of things. From this moment, the marginal utility of additional things is rapidly declining, and when saturation occurs, it acquires a negative value. When we have enough and we are grateful for this, we will not wish for more.
Those who know when they have enough are rich.Lao Tzu
What to do? Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. A little exercise will help.
Take a pen and a piece of paper. Take a walk around the house, making a list of all the things. List every book, plate, shirt, every boot, every trinket. Hard? Try to limit yourself to one room. Still not working? Then try to describe one cabinet drawer. Too many, right? And do you still feel that you are missing something?
9. “Live simply so that others may simply live”
These words of Mahatma Gandhi are the most important motive for a minimalist lifestyle.
We share the world with more than 6 billion people. Space and resources are not unlimited. Any “excess” that we allow ourselves means that someone else (now or in the future) will have to do without something. In any item we bought, from food to books and from televisions to cars, some of the natural wealth is used.
The way out is to reduce consumption as much as possible, giving preference to goods from biodegradable or recyclable materials. To buy furniture, household utensils, electronics, clothes, books, toys, and much more in the secondary market. This will help reduce the negative impact on the environment and the lives of others.
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