Almost a year later from when I started my minimalist journey and I find myself gravitating to a more zen like discipline in my daily life. I want everything to be simple and useful. Rather one thing that fills the function of many or nothing at all. Or finding contentment in just being. In my phasing out of stuff I am now at a cross roads where the stuff I have left is stuff I couldn’t get rid of the first few times around.
Books I have been absolutely convinced that I would read, or cook books that I knew that I just had to have. Camera gear and a bicycle that I find I am having a hard time parting ways with. The camera gear fits within my goals, hobbies and interests, the bike on the other hand? It’s fun to take out every once in a while. But at the moment and within the foreseeable future I don’t see myself partaking in any competition or meaningful activity that would suggest or motivate me keeping my bike. (This particular bike).
My goals right now consist of running an ultra marathon in May, the Stockholm marathon in June, backpacking and photography in northern Sweden, finish two books I’m working on plus a video course and moving to Zambia within the next year for at least 6 months to a year. None of these activities requires my particular bike or if anything the bike I have creates a stress of having to use it… And considering my daily quota of hours that I can allocate to riding a bike are minimal for the foreseeable future (I mainly need to run), I am having a hard time making a case to keep the bike and other such items.
It’s these kinds of choices that I now find myself having to make. Getting rid of books that made it through the first phase, since becoming vegan almost all my recipes are on apps (So I am giving away all my cook books to friends and family). I find that the choices though are getting easier, not just for myself but as a family unit things are getting easier. It’s the Zambia trip that is making us really give everything an extra thought. Because in all honesty when we leave Sweden, the only stuff I want left is the stuff I bring with me. I don’t want to own anything that is left behind. The exception being the house which we will rent out and a few personal items that belong in the house (TV, Couch..)
With that said, I find some of the stupidest things I have an attachment to.. A memory attachment, or something that’s serves no other purpose than the idea that at sometime in the future I may or may not use this item (Welding machine). I have old suits that I never use, excellent quality suits, and a throw back to a past life.. Still an attachment with no purpose.
I feel as if through this phase, the phase of getting rid of stuff that made it through all the other phases is really a demanding feat. It truly requires that I think deeply, ponder the usefulness, the meaning and the value that each item brings me. There is not a lot that brings this kind of value to my life.
Here is my strategy so far:
Place all the stuff I believe I don’t need or want in boxes and store the boxes in a closet. Whatever is left in these boxes after 6 months goes.
Write up a list of my goals for the next year. What purchases or items that I already own do I need to accomplish my goals? Are the things left outside the focus of my goals a distraction from my goals? If so, they go.
By practicing my Leave no trace at home, I am finding that I give all my items and stuff a second look. Just the process of picking up after myself is creating an awareness of my stuff.
Making conscious choices about what I bring into my life. This is done by constantly referring back to my goals and ambitions. With this purchase help me in my pursuit? I recently listened to a podcast on the Rich Rolls podcast channel where Rich had a discussion with Leo Babauta from Zenhabits.com. An amazing episode that really is required listening. Leo talks about, among other things, this very concept.
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
This one is difficult for me. To be honest, I have had many, many hobbies and I don’t mind buying stuff for my different hobbies. One major change I have made since becoming minimalist is limiting the amount of hobbies that I have. In fact, I am now working towards one hobby at a time with perhaps a longer life than my previous adventures. So instead of me having 5 different completely separate hobbies that I go at about 150% for 2 months at a time, I now try to limit myself to just one hobby that might have a few offshoots but still part of the whole.
An example of this would be do I choose photography or working on cars? While photography can certainly be a lone hobby, it tends to work well with my other hobby of backpacking. So cars will have to go. What more can be incorporated into my backpacking hobby? Photography, recipes (making food for the trail), traveling in general, writing and even MYOG (make own gear). However, if I were to pursue all of these separately with 100% focus they would be too large and expensive to accommodate for any other hobbies. Read More
It’s that time of year when we are not only expected to continue our mass gluttony of consumption, but also add to that gluttony by consuming for others. I have literally met people who take out massive loans in order to buy a bunch of garbage for their friends and families, and in the end feel just as empty after Christmas as before. In my earlier posts I talk a lot about the emptiness mindless consumption leaves in our souls. As if we are corporate owned robots with no personal willpower, the only willpower we (usually) have is dictating what we buy and what interests we find more enjoyable than others. But even the last vestiges of self control are thrown out the window around Christmas time.
Christmas is the time of year when 80 year old men and women need iPads and 80” flat screen TVs. When kids need new cars (hot wheels depending on age) and video games, (though they already have hundreds of each lying around. It’s the time of year when we pay thousands of dollars and take out new mortgages on our homes in order to buy the latest hush puppy or Nintendo. In other words it’s an absolutely soul crushing and ridiculous tradition the corporations have created for us.
Less is more. More time, more money, more freedom. The less stuff we own, the less stuff to take care of, the less stuff to be stressed about and the less stuff to distract us from our calling in life. This is what we need to think about before every purchase: How will this make me achieve my goals? Will it help me achieve my goals? Do I need it now?
There are a few different minimalist online that even suggest waiting 30 days before any major purchases. I think this is a fairly good strategy as it really teaches discipline – which is undoubtedly missing in the first place. At least it is for me. I am a man of little discipline, granted more than probably most people from my generation, but not where I want to be. I find that when I have the urge to purchase something, I simply open my iphone calender, set a date for 30 days in the future, and put in the item there. Currently the items I have in this calender are: Read More