I’m going to write about something different here. Something that I hope will help you on your journey to become not only a minimalist, but even a better you. We all have ambitions, goals and a journey we wish for ourselves. But somewhere along the line that vision we had for ourselves gets replaced by a reality we find ourselves in. Within that reality we try to make peace, find contentment and in the end we try to forget what our dreams and ambitions of a silly youth were.
When searching for that contentment we fill the empty space that once was our dreams with stuff. Many of us consume in-order to convince ourselves, often unconsciously, that the life we live or chose is better. Perhaps the life we dreamt about was simply that, a dream. Maybe some of us have tried and failed in pursuing our dreams.
I have done a lot of things in my life, at times I’ve made a lot of money, and other times I have been scraping by. The worst time of my life emotionally was when I was done with my studies, I was tired of playing music for a living, and I wanted to create a good life for myself and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife). I didn’t want to be a DJ anymore as I had been doing it since I was 12. I was tired, and I simply didn’t want that life any longer. However I wasn’t exactly a model student, in fact I barely got my Bachelors and I didn’t want to put in the work for a masters. I knew more or less what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a portfolio manager. I had been trading in stock, bonds, futures and options since I was 16 and had a good track record over the years. I figured a bachelors and my track record would be enough to land any job. I was wrong.
My studies ended in 2007. My bachelors term paper was written on the ”real or perceived threat of the housing market crisis”. A crisis that hadn’t hit full swing yet and was still brewing. When my studies were finished nobody was hiring, and even if they could they wouldn’t. I must have sent out a hundred or more applications, I called, had several contacts in high places, but in the end nobody was hiring. I was desperate to get my foot in the door, but I hadn’t done my homework or put the effort into getting my masters degree or make myself attractive enough for potential employers. So I eventually started my own fund called ”shaw logic, LLC”. I had a few investors and we had a decent amount of seed money, the first year or so we even had decent results. But it’s not what I wanted, I didn’t want to own a fund, manage it and do the investing. I just wanted to be a manager and build strategies to beat the market.
In the end the pressure of having a fund was too much to do it by myself so I closed down and gave the money back to the investors and moved on. Accepting the fact that I would never work as a portfolio manager in the traditional sense of doing it, also realizing that there was a large possibility that I didn’t want to either. I eventually took a job as an accountant to make ends meet and was still going to interviews and so on for fund management positions. But the truth is that if there are 10 applicants applying for the same job, I was the one that was automatically filtered out as I didn’t have the necessary experience or education.
Ten years removed from when I was done with my studies, and seven years after my time as a fund manager and five years removed as an accountant, I am happy with the life I have. I have done a lot in that time since I finished my studies. Together with some investors I started one of Stockholms largest sports bars, I got hired on as a financial advisor, I’ve worked and became part owner in a management consultant firm and now I work as a manager in the nation wide employment agency. But after doing all this I realize that none of it is really the life I wanted or craved.
I crave a simpler life, I crave a life where I wake up everyday on pursue my passion with vigor, where everyday is filled with the joy of living a life with purpose. Perhaps the problem with me is that I have had moments of pursuing my passion blindly, and they have been the greatest moments of my life. If I had never experienced this, then maybe I would be content with what I have?
I have often thought about what mans purpose is and I believe that our purpose in life is to find our purpose, than pursue that purpose with childlike abandon. (Yes a very Budhist like statement). I love the life that I have created with my wife and child, but I know we can do so much more than the traditional ”middle class life”. The house, Volvo, 2.5 kids and running endlessly in the hamster wheel.
In my bones I feel that I have to do something else, something that is my passion. Maybe my purpose is to write, to explore the world, to train, to teach, to help others. So if my passion is to write, explore and teach, how do I know? How would you know what your passion is when you find it? Or to that end is your passion you purpose? Just because you love doing something doesn’t mean it’s what you want to do as a career, or if it’s even possible. Some people say collecting stamps is their passion in life, but is it really? or is it a compulsion, a need to collect, a void that is being filled by finding, buying and collecting different stamps? I can’t answer that for other people, I can only relate to my own life experiences, and in my life I usually start to collect things when I am unhappy with something else. A kind of compulsion to fill my emptiness.
Think about it like this, if money didn’t exist, was no object and you got to do whatever you wanted to do with your time, what would you do? If I strip away everything In my life and break it down like this I always come back to the samethings:
I want to backpack more, I want to write more, I want to take the time necessary to be a photographer, I want to help others in their own journeys in life. I want to be with my family more and I want the time we are together to be spent with joy. How is this different from what I’m doing now? It’s not. I just want more of it and only it and I don’t want the middle class burden that I now find myself and family in. I don’t want the house, cars and stuff. I don’t want the bills and debt or the idea of somebody else owning my time. I don’t want my few precious hours where my family is home together in the evenings to be filled in front of a TV, iPad or computer. I want our time to be just that: Our time.
Yet the life we find ourselves in drains us to the core. My wife works 40-50 hours a week and Alexander goes to pre-school and I work. When we get home in the evening we are spent, and as an excuse we turn on the TV and Alex plays with his iPad. We are stuck in a hamster wheel of our own making.
Our backyard at the moment.. Filled with stuff that we at one time thought we had to have now getting ready for the dump
Everything is a distraction trap, every little buzz on the phone, every little beep on a watch, every little sound the iPad or TV makes. It’s all a distraction from a purposeful life. How do you find your passion if you can’t even stop to meditate for 10 minutes?
Making a change
Minimalism is the answer to the hamster wheel, the real answer. Not the ”get rich quick” answer, but a true answer to many of life’s real problems. I am stuck in the hamster wheel because we as a family like to buy stuff. We have debt which in turn creates a demand to pay. That demand to pay means we have to work. The bigger the debt the bigger the problem, the bigger the demand to pay. That debt is not just money that needs to be paid, above all else it is time. Time in your life, in my life, that must be spent doing work that isn’t my passion in-order to pay for a life I don’t want. With every purchase I make, I am giving up an equal amount of time from my life. The bigger the house, the more time needed from my life in-order to pay. It’s as simple as that. If I own less, consume less, and have less debt, the more life I have to pursue the passions that I love.
I don’t see debt as simply debt, I see it as my life, dreams and passions slipping away before my very eyes. I see the stuff in my house as an anchor, I see my house as a grave because it is owned by the bank. Don’t get me wrong, I love my house, I love my comforts, and the ability to buy what I want when I want. The problem is, I don’t want to have to slave 40 hours a week for 30 years for something that isn’t my passion in-order to have this life. On top of that if my house is not designed with singular purpose than it is very much a distraction from my passions.
What do I mean by singular purpose? If my passion is to write and teach, then how does a TV, hundreds of glasses, towels, DVD’s, sofas, chairs, tables, games and so on help me pursue my passion? It doesn’t, it simply distracts me from my passion. Anything that doesn’t help my pursue my passion, distracts me from it. The more stuff we have in our house, the more time goes towards, if nothing else, dusting the stuff off every now and then and re-organizing it.
We started to make some changes last year around summer time. I started emptying and selling tons of stuff, my wife caught on and started to sort a lot as well. But in the end, even though we have less stuff, we still have too much. Too much distraction, too much debt, too many bills, too many anchors. Minimalism has to be a singular goal in and of itself. A constant pursuit to own less, and above all else, the reason to own less. We must have a reason to own less. We must see the benefits before the actual goal is achieved. When we started to empty the house last year I felt it in my bones that this was the answer.
My buying habits have changed dramatically, I now make a 30 day wait list for things I want to buy. It’s interesting to see what pops up in my calendar from a month ago.. Stuff I put on a waiting list that I absolutely knew I had to have, and poof.. A month later I forgot what the item was to begin with. I now own less stuff, and I question everything that I do have. I still hunt, and the hunt is a pain in the ass and something I am still trying to break. I still have watch lists of stuff I want to buy. I still place bids on eBay just to see if I can get something really cheap. And all this hunting takes away from the important things in life.
With that said, our house looks like just about any other middle class house, it’s still filled with stuff we don’t use, in places that keep dust, organized in closest we never go into, and a house in a constant form of repair; Repair that requires time, money and above all else energy. At some point, we as a family have to decide that this isn’t working for us. This middle class life is a lie, this lie built on an advertisers playbook. Brainwashing us since birth. I long for the day when I wake up in my bed with my son and wife by my side and we have no idea what the hell we are going to do for the day, but have no worries at all. I long for the day when this is a reality that exist beyond the realm of vacation.
I believe this is possible with less. Less debt, less stuff to take care of, less bills, less house to repair.. Less of stuff and more of the things that matter. Life, love and passion.
Life should be just this.. a spontaneous day out with friends and family
Maybe cash out whatever you have, buy a couple of acres, and start a small farm? Home-school the kids, learn to make your own bread, use only solar, wood, and wind power, and get off (all of) the grid(s) completely… If you can get money out of the equation, you will be free. I believe that the current economic system is the main tool used by the few to enslave everyone else…you seem to be getting some glimpses into that. Current technologies present more and more useful tools for self-sufficiency…so I hope you can find a way out, and please write about your progress along the way, ok? 🙂
You make a great point about time. It is our time that we are all sacrificing in the pursuit of money and things. It’s hard to break the cycle. I am trying to start slowly and take one step at a time.
This has also filled a large portion of my thoughts over the last 2-3 years. I have started on a small scale and have too sold and thrown a lot of “nice to have” out. Another thing that helped me not buying “nice to have” items was that I say no to all the adds that get shoved in my post box. No adds and no desire to buy. I run an add blocker too on my internet browser. I only buy now what I need. Good luck with your “changing process”.
A really inspiring post – thanks. You are doing great. Having less stuff is certainly the way forward, and doing the things that bring you joy 🙂
I also crave a more simple life. Having so much…truly feels suffocating. I, too, have “made it” and I would trade my wealth for a tiny house in the woods with no worries and freedom from the restraints of commercialism. Best of luck to you on your journey
I am nearing retirement and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many years ago my father told me that “we spend sixty years gathering stuff and twenty years trying to get rid of it all…do yourself a favor and don’t accumulate and start getting rid of stuff now”. The older I get the more I realize the wisdom of his words. He also said that “when you become an old man, there is no value to virtually all material possessions”.
There is definitely a spiritual benefit to minimalism and I wish for your and your family the peace and joy that comes from embracing only that which is eternally important!
Just visited your blog, so glad I did, inspiring read.
Truly love these articles focused on minimalism. I’m a Dual Citizen with Sweden and the US and for the past ten years have been living out in the wilderness as a remote Trails ranger in the US. It’s required a lot of flexibility and perpetual change to stick with this career. I constantly move, living out of cars/vans/buses/trucks/tents and constantly am rotating different gear and kit and stuff because well frankly I can’t own much more than what I can fit in my car. When I started this at 20 I had barely anything and focused on living simply, following my Buddhist path, and working hard for very little monetary reward.
Now over ten years later… I’ve been able to build a fairly ironclad system, am monetarily very successful but I still constantly feel the weight of career + stuff + money etc. Minimalism is always a path walked but after such extensive nomadicism and minimalism its hard not to crave the stability of a home with a stable job nearby. I think of moving back to Sweden and leaving the US permanently but I know the stability would last only for so long before craving the freedom of complete unhinged existence would return.
In any case
Love the articles and best from the US