" The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less." - Socrates
I'm an accidental minimalist. Yep, you heard correctly. I didn't set out to become a minimalist. But, I have been living a minimalist lifestyle (intentionally) for over six years. It all began in 2008, during the recession, when my husband and I were liquidating our belongings to pay off debt. Our family of five downsized our four-bedroom home to a 1200 square foot condo, to lower our overhead. That got the minimal lifestyle rolling. In 2013, we ramped up our minimalism life by selling almost everything and traveling the USA in an RV with our 8-year-old daughter (the older two kids had moved out). RV living was the first step toward intentionally embracing the minimalist life. 2015 was the year we jumped fully into living minimalism. We choose to travel the world with only ONE carry-on sized luggage and ONE personal backpack each. Yes, my 10-year-old daughter went with my husband and me, and yes, she was responsible for carrying her bags. Traveling this way was the smallest we had lived. We came back to the USA in 2017 and built a tiny house as a home base. Surprisingly, the tiny house felt like a vast space compared to the suitcase.
Living with less is definitely a lifestyle choice that is not for everyone. As you have read, it has taken us many years with many levels to reach the degree of minimalism we live today. Through the process, my family and I have learned many life lessons that we wouldn't have otherwise. Some of the experiences were a bit tougher to swallow than others. I can say that many of the experiences we lived shaped who we have become.
*Your self worth is NOT made up of your possessions.
This was my first and hardest lesson I learned in 2008 when the recession hit home. Up till this point in my life, I had put my value in the things I owned. I had attached my self-worth to inanimate objects. I sobbed when we had to short-sale our house. I was angry and resentful that I needed to sell my leather couch and handmade end tables. Even though rationally I knew that by selling these items it would help us through the dark times, I was upset. After the house sold, and all extra furniture, toys, clothing, household decor, tools, and yard items sold off at the yard sales, I was still standing. I learned that I am worth more than my STUFF. It turns out the stuff is just stuff. It doesn't make me more intelligent or more likable or a better human.
*The less you own, the less that owns you!
Have you ever put thought into what it takes to own something? I mean, really think about all of the money, time, and energy it takes to own an item. Let's take a car, for example. First, you have to spend your time at work (away from your family) to make money to buy the car. Then, time and energy to choose the car. Next, you spend time, more money, and energy to maintain the vehicle. In the end, you will sell the car and buy a new, starting all over again on a never ending cycle. This process is the same no matter what the item you are buying is, big or small, expensive or cheap. I learned that my stuff owned me. It took my time, my money, my attention, and my energy.
*Things don't equal happiness!
The recession, losing our house, and most of our things almost cost us our marriage. Why? We loved each other. We were both doing our best to work through a tough time. Why was our marriage on the brink of ruin? Because we believed our things made us happy, therefore without our things, we didn't think we could be satisfied. Our marriage turned around when I chose to be in love and happy regardless of how much money we had. I realized that he meant more to me than any house. I wrapped my arms around him and said, "I would be happy and love you in a van down by the river." That moment our marriage and love for each other grew and became stronger than ever. Our happiest times together have been when everything we owned was in our suitcases, and we were experiencing the world together. Happiness comes from within not from external things, no matter how expensive they are.
*You don't NEED much!
I learned that there is a difference between a NEED vs. a WANT. It turns out we don't need much to live a fulfilling, healthy, and happy life. We don't need a gym membership, just a yoga mat, and running shoes. We don't need a dryer, just a clothesline. We don't need cable, just Netflix. We don't need a junk drawer, only to not have any junk. We don't need piles of shoes, only the ones that we wear. So much of what people spend their money on are convince, duplicate, or unnecessary items. Living a minimalist lifestyle makes me ask before I spend, "Do I need this?"
*Shopping is habitual!
Have you noticed that at Christmas time you feel the need to shop? It is like Christmas shopping is embedded into our cellular makeup. When I stopped buying more stuff, I broke my shopping habit. I never realized how addictive shopping is. Now, I can walk into any store (except for REI, I'm only human) and not even be tempted into buying items. It is scientifically proven that buying things give us a sudden burst of dopamine, giving us a little high. Because we equate shopping with "feeling good" temporarily, we keep buying more things to keep "feeling good."
These are a few of the lessons I have learned from living with less.