Lately, I’ve been on this minimalism kick. Thinking about it. Making an effort to live it. When we left our house in Essex last year, we rid ourselves of a lot of crap. Before we finally left, we donated, sold or tossed out (nearly) a literal ton of shit that we owned. I had a room down in our basement that was my “office”. The room was a box and the box was filled to the brim with stuff that I thought I liked. Because it was an unheated basement though, it was cold as balls in the winter and I wouldn’t go down there for six months at a time. For six months at a time, I wouldn’t use or even see a lot of the crap I thought I liked. When we were packing up and cleaning, I didn’t even remember half the stuff that meant so much to me that I had down there. So, for a long time, the minimalism thing; The thing I didn’t even realize was a thing, was just my wife and I noticing how much useless shit we had around our house. It was shit we didn’t know existed. Shit that cluttered our house. Shit that cluttered our minds. Shit that we thought made us happier when in reality, it did nothing.
In our early twenties we would buy stuff just to buy it. That was our activity: Buying things. It’s so lame to say that. It’s so lame that we would go through Best Buy or Costco and buy DVDs and then never watch them. Buying the movie was more enjoyable to me than actually watching the movie. When I sold our DVDs to amazon last year I had pages of DVD titles that I purchased and never watched. Some of them I had been holding onto for almost a decade. Asinine. The amount of money that we spent on that shit was ridiculous.
When we found The Minimalists documentary on Netflix, I was thrilled. Not just because of the concept but because I love a good social commentary documentary. The film was a gentle reminder of what we accomplished almost a year ago. It was easy to let go of all that stuff that meant nothing to us. It continues to be a challenge though to not be ruled by the things we own and to find value in the world around us rather than the things that occupy our house. And with two kids its even harder.
Advertisements, people, everything around us tells us we NEED things for our kids. We NEED things to be good parents. We are a self governing body though. Is it a need or a want? If it’s a want and not truly a need, will it actually make us happy or do we just want it because were excited or happy in the moment? Who we are is not the shit we buy, it’s not the clothes we wear. And how many of us have had or still have a giant amount of stuff we just don’t care about? Stuff that clutters our minds and our life?
The four of us (Myself, Alaina, Jude and Margot) live in a small apartment. There are two bedrooms, a galley kitchen, a small dining room a living room and of course, a bathroom. There’s so much character in the twists and turns of how our space was cut up. When the walls start to close in from the mess that the kids (or we, because we are just as messy as they are) make I start to think about the stuff we used to have. That stuff would never fit in the space we have now. It gives me actual anxiety to think about that amount of stuff in this small of a space. If there’s too much around me, I can’t move. If I can’t move, I can’t think clearly, If I can’t think clearly, I start to get anxious. When I get anxious, for some reason, I turn into a dickhead. This is a character flaw that’s coming with aging. I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
Currently, I love the stuff I have. The items or “things” I own bring me so much joy, so much value. Even now though, mine and Alaina’s beliefs are still changing. We’re changing how we see food and nourishment and nutrition. Not just because of the cancer I had (Granted, experiencing cancer was a rude awakening when it came to my personal heath). It’s about feeling good and fueling our bodies with the stuff that helps us live to our individual fullest potential. Our diets are changing and are about removing the clutter we mistook for food. It’s about the heart disease that runs rampant in my family. It’s about taking stock in things and seeing if they still have meaning to me.
NEWS FLASH: BELIEFS CHANGE, OPINIONS CHANGE, VALUES CHANGE.
HEADLINE: LOCAL MAN EMBRACES CHANGE.
A change in good consumption spawns a change in habits. I will elaborate on our dietary changes later. Know now though, that I will never beat anybody over the head with what I think they should be eating. Also I am not a nutritionist, I just pretend to know what I’m talking about, (isn’t that why you’re here?).
I just keep thinking about the stuff we own as a society. I passed a garage the other day and the bay door was open. I saw the contents of these peoples lives. For one second, I was offered a glimpse. There was no room to use the garage as its intended purpose. And on top of this comical pile was one of those gigantic teddy bears. Someone had to have that bear. Someone needed that bear. Obviously. Otherwise they wouldn’t have spent the fifty to a hundred dollars on a teddy bear that doesn’t even fit in their car. They probably had to strap that shit to the roof to get it home. Only for it to end up on top of the pile in the garage.
There’s a series of Hyundai commercials going on right now that say “Clean out your garage, make room for your car.” or “trade a lot of your shit, for this one piece of shit that you probably don’t need.”
To me, cars are the single biggest headache in the whole fucking world. I dream about not having to get in a car to get to work. I dream about laughing at a time when I needed a car. When I go to buy something I hear Tyler Durden in my ear: “You are not your khakis.” And while you may not be what you own, you are what owns you.
Societal status symbols that we agree on are absolutely ridiculous. In the same ad campaign for Hyundai, there’s a commercial where a father unplugs his sons guitar amp as he and his friends jam out in the garage. “Clear out the clutter.” To me. the commercial says so much more in that 5 seconds then they ever intended to : “Clear out what makes someone happy. Hell, that’s your garage. He’s your son. In that way, your son and your garage are yours to push around. We certainly don’t expect you to use reason or even respect when dealing with your kid. After all he’s yours, you own him. Tell him to get his shit out of your garage because *and then the look overcomes the fathers face and he completes the sentence himself* ‘THIS IS MY GARAGE AND I CAN’T STAND IT ANYMORE! GET OUT! I’M PUTTING A FUCKING CAR IN HERE!'”
We are not what we own.
Last weekend, as a family, we went through Jude and Margot’s toys. If you’re a parent, you know the amount of toys that your kids have can be overwhelming. You also know that out of all those toys, your kids only play with about a quarter of them. So Alaina and I sat down with the kids. We dumped out their entire toy box. We went through every single toy and asked the kids: Do you still play with this? Do you want to donate it to another kid who might want to play with it? I feel fortunate enough that we can provide our kids with the toys they want. I know that there a a lot of parents who can’t afford it. While we buy the occasional toy for our kids there are parents who can’t even buy a toy as a birthday or Christmas gift.
If there’s only one thing you get from reading this. If there’s one thing to take away from all of this: Everything you do, everything in some capacity should bring you happiness. If your life is being too weighed down by the teddy bear on top of the pile, then you should do something about it. Think about what makes you happy. Think about the relationships you hold compared to the stuff you hold, think about which one makes you happier. And no, I’m not saying to give up all your shit. Find out what matters to you. Really think about if the clutter you thought made you happy still does. You should find happiness in everything you do. You should find joy in the world around you.
To find out more about who The Minimalists are, please visit them at www.theminimalists.com
I am currently working on a question/answer article. Please use the form below to ask any questions you might have about … anything. I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.