The New & Improved Minimalism: Consume Less and Live More
“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
50 years ago, a 16 oz. bottle of Coke was considered a serving for three people, which would mathematically mean that today’s 64 oz. Double Gulp would be just fine for a family of 12.
Of course, in this fantasy world, a large pizza would serve an entire softball team.
I don’t know about you, but I can polish off an entire pizza by myself, with room left for bread sticks.
So, what’s changed?
Have our stomachs expanded to hold more?Have we developed a new intestine we didn’t know about?
Any way you look at it, we need more to be satisfied. Yes, that means more soda, popcorn, and fries, but it also means more sex, booze, television, information, and noise. More from our spouses, families, friends and employees. More from ourselves, too. More to be happy. Successful. Fulfilled.
It’s no wonder more people than ever are embracing minimalism, the simple idea of needing less and living more. A call to go without.
Personally, I find it long overdue, especially now that I have my iPad and the new iPhone 5, proving that minimalism is much more inviting when we already have what we want.
Of course, the truth is, most of us are more likely to embrace minimalism when times are tough, which is why recessions are such fertile recruiting grounds for new minimalists. As soon as we lose our jobs, or the bank account empties, we all start running for Walden Pond.
And that’s not a horrible thing. It’s how life often works. With struggle comes the opportunity to turn misfortunes into a path toward greater meaning.
However, I will argue that minimalism shouldn’t be a knee-jerk response to tough times. It’s not just Plan B for the next financial crisis.
In fact, minimalism is the new Plan A. The new rallying cry to live life more consciously.
But, make no mistake. I’m not talking about a “get off the grid and make your own cheese” kind of minimalism. This is the all new and improved minimalism. It’s softer, gentler and doesn’t care if you keep your iPad.
Here are three suggestions to get you started today.
Tip #1: Keep The Ferrari. Lose The Attachment.
“The secret of happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” – Socrates
The New Minimalism isn’t about going without, scaling down, or denying our selves. And if that means you want a Ferrari or a hundred dollar pair of underwear, go for it.
The new minimalism is about being able to own stuff without the stuff owning us.
Our possessions aren’t good or bad. It’s only our attachment to the possessions that brings us suffering. And that’s true whether we’re talking about a one-room studio or a mansion on the beach.
Most of us can’t define attachment, but we know the feeling when it hits.
It’s that wince of pain you get as you see a scratch on your new car. The way your eyes swell when you drop your iPhone in the toilet. It’s buying what we can’t afford, chasing what we don’t need, believing we need to own “something” to feel complete.
It’s a nasty maze to be caught in, and there’s only one way to escape.
We need to prove to ourselves that our “things” won’t bring us happiness. We all know it’s true. Intellectually, at least. But, deep down, most of us don’t really buy into it.
It might look good on a bumper sticker, but it’s tough “to live”, especially when we know how awesome those silver studded Prada shoes would look on our feet. How much our golf game would improve with that new set of clubs.
Cars. Vacations. Gigantic TV’s. We like our stuff.
Now, don’t panic. I’m not suggesting we put up the garage sale signs just yet, or join the nearest Amish community. We don’t need to get rid of our possessions. We just need to prove we can live without them.
Grab my hand and we’ll do it together. Cold Turkey. For one month.
We’ll begin with that time honored minimalist pledge to stop buying or using anything new, expensive, or shiny. That means it’s time to put away all the good stuff. The gems. The showpieces.
But, don’t stop there. Once you’ve done that, find cheap alternatives to take their place. I’m talking about using the crappiest, oldest, ugliest, most out of date stuff you can find. The stuff you’re embarrassed to admit you own.
While this will be different for each of us, it’s all essentially the same thing. Use much less than you’d like to use.
Use your grandfather’s cell phone, drive your kid’s car, take rapid transportation. Wear old clothes or beaten up shoes, use broken golf clubs or last year’s equipment. Drag out that old TV that’s sitting in your garage. Lock up the iPad, put away the jewelry, and swap out that expensive bottle of wine for the 4-dollar twist-off they sell at the gas station.
And, remember, this isn’t a punishment. It’s liberation. We’re trying to feel what it’s like to not need anything. It’s a challenge to live life differently—to declare that it’s not what we own that makes us happy, but what we do with what we own.
It’s Kryptonite for the recession, as well as a path to a simpler life.
Tip #2: Consume Less
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers
The new minimalism doesn’t just ask us to lose attachment to our possessions, but to become less needy of all life. We can do this by simply consuming less of the resources around us.
This doesn’t mean we have to dismantle our heaters, or start filtering our urine for drinking water. But, we can certainly lower the thermostat 4 degrees and put on a sweater. We can turn off the water when we brush our teeth. We can use less paper towels, plastic, and electricity.
Shorter showers. Larger laundry loads. We can finish the last drop of shampoo. Scrape the bottom of the peanut butter jar.
We can put less on the plate, less in the head, and less on our schedules. We can cut down on television, newspapers, movies and maybe even stop buying books until we’ve finished the one we’re reading.
There are so many areas in our lives where we can consume less. Find your own ways. But, don’t look at it as flogging yourself with deprivation. The idea is to simply ask yourself what you need to get by, and to feel happy and fulfilled.
Choose the least amount possible and a fraction more, and you’ll officially become a member of the new minimalism movement. Please join us at the all-you-can-eat minimalist buffet, where they’re serving absolutely nothing.
Tip #3: Fill Up Your Space With More
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
This is the big one, my friends.
There are a lot of things we consume in this world, but none is bigger than space. Now, I realize logic would suggest that we all take up roughly the same amount of physical space. But, the truth is, we each take up different amounts, depending on what we do with the space we’re given. How we live our lives.
Sure, we may support our family, pay our taxes, or even volunteer once in a while, but that’s not always enough. Sometimes we need to do more.
And, yes, finally there is a “more” we can embrace. A “more” that will free us from all the other “mores.”
The ultimate challenge for the new minimalist is to stop sucking up priceless oxygen without giving anything in return. It is a challenge to fill the space we’re given with positive energy, and our own unique brand of enthusiasm, compassion and love.
It’s our challenge to start living a life where we will continuously look for new ways to contribute to the world. Is there a neighbor who needs a hand? A cause we could join? A friend who needs a shoulder to lean on?
How can we give more of our time, talent and skills, our hearts, minds and spirits, so that we can make this a better world?
This is the new minimalism. Giving more than we get. Putting in more than we take out.
Live this way and our lives will become more rich and meaningful than we could have ever imagined.
Oh, and guess what…go ahead and keep all your toys as a parting gift from the universe. Enjoy to your hearts content.
Just don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and realize they don’t mean as much as they once did.
Don’t be surprised if the next time you drop your iPhone into the toilet, you just stand there and smile.
That’s the feeling of freedom.
It’s the face of the all new and improved minimalism.