We live in an age of stuff; stuff that we buy, stuff that we like, stuff that we love, stuff that we covet. Stuff is all around us and the more stuff we get, the more stuff there is to get; never-ending stuff. All this “stuff” has made us all into net consumers and quite unhappy and unsatisfied people while at it. Because we are always being told, through marketing messages and advertising, how much we need all this stuff, and how our lives will be better, we will be cooler, etc., if we have this stuff, we go out and work ourselves to the bone in order to afford this stuff.
In addition, there is what we call strings that attach us to so many people albeit with poor quality relationships while we try and spread ourselves as thin as possible to fit in everywhere. Think about your Facebook profile which has 2000 friends. Scientists have said that the most number of people we can have a quality relationship with simultaneously is 150, so the other 1850 “friends” also qualify as “stuff”. When it comes to information, we consume all manner of information all the time. Your reader feed has 200 feeds each producing 10 articles a day. Is it possible to read through 2000 articles a day? Well, yes, if you are a supercomputer. These feeds also qualify as “stuff” because you accumulate them in order to not miss out.
All these illustrations point to one thing, the fact that we think we need “stuff” for whatever reason. Whether it is to feel included, or feel cool, or feel current, or feel informed; the list is quite long but the truth is we can all do without most of the stuff we have. When we don’t use the stuff we accumulate it becomes junk. The RSS feeds, Facebook friends, innumerable pairs of shoes, etc.; they pile up and clutter our lives, slowly choking the very life out of our existence.
Minimalism is a way of life that advocates only having what you need and are actively using. I emphasize need because the term has been skewered to include many wants. For instance, you don’t need an iPhone, you need a cell phone. Again, you do not need a fuel-guzzling off-roader; you need a vehicle to get you from point A to point B. The fact that we think we “need” stuff makes us covet this stuff and this leads to a lot of disappointment, discontentment, lack of joy, lack of general peace, and so on.
Cultivating a minimalist life is like revamping your diet. Your body needs certain nutrients to survive but does not care which sources these nutrients come from. You could either eat healthful food or unhealthful food (which has much more than you need). It’s the same with life, there are the simple things we need to survive; food, shelter, clean air, water, healthcare, etc.
Understanding what these basic needs are and slowly letting go of all the excesses creates space to start seeing all that is happening around you. If you are always working and buying new stuff, when will you ever experience the simple things in life, like taking a hike or reading a book? Having more almost always means you have less time and space for the serendipitous happenstances of life. Cultivate the minimalist life and learn how to make the most of having less stuff, you won’t regret it.