Having recently moved in the last 12 months, I started to evaluate the importance of the stuff that I had accumulated over the previous 15 years while living at my now former home. At the time I didn’t understand the overwhelming urge I had to part with some of my stuff. Stuff that at one point held enough significance that I decided to find a place for it rather than let it migrate out to the street or into someone elses life. My first awareness of my urge to get rid of some of this stuff came when I started to pack everything into boxes in preparation to move down the street (another story in of itself) to a new location. I started to ask myself what importance items had or if they added value to my life in the present. The surprising answer I found myself continuously coming back to was that most of it didn’t hold any value to me.
This trend of asking myself if something held value to me continued through the entire packing cycle much to the dismay of my wife and daughter. Neither of them understood why I suddenly started recommending that a lot of the stuff they had accumulated be tossed or donated rather than moved. My wife in particular had a strong negative reaction to my “just throw it away” answer when we were pulling out boxes and containers that in some cases hadn’t been moved since we put them there 15 years ago. Rather quickly, I became disenchanted with the amount of things we had packed into every place through the house and my perception of our former home changed. I saw her home as cluttered, filled with things that held no value. The burden we created for ourselves keeping all of this stuff clean became something that I started to resent and at that moment I decided that our new home would not be anywhere near as cluttered.
The research and reading I did to help me understand all of this change led me to a documentary that chronicled the lives of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus as they discovered minimalism. They started a website, called The Minimalists, to describe what they did, how they came to their new-found beliefs in minimalism and the importance that embracing minimalism had on them. I spent a lot of time on their website and continue to listen to thier podcasts as they’re posted. The one theme they place a heavy importance on is that you don’t need to live a life of “nearly nothing” with white walls, essential furniture and next to nothing in possessions. Advice they gave and I quickly learned and implemented is that items of value, true value to your life, should remain as minimalist lives should have color, meaning and depth.
I’ve taken this to heart and a picture of my basement office that I work from home in weekly is a representation of their advice. You can see two racks of CDs against the wall, that I listen to on a regular basis in rotation when working on a mini-stereo system that isn’t in the picture. Music reproduced from a CD, I feel, is superior to a copy of the music in MP3 format (which I have on my laptop). The value that music adds to my life isn’t easy to put into words, but is the reason that I’ve continued to hold onto the collection of CDs I have in my office. There is a portrait of my daughter to the left, and several items on the right (not in the picture) that reminds me of specific times in my past that make me happy; first car I drove, first car I purchased, quarters map from a passed family member and original work of art by my wife. My desk also has a work laptop and a personal laptop as I keep them separate, always. 20 years in information technology taught me the importance and value of “separate” lives to promote work/life balance.
What does this all mean for you? Well, I can’t answer that question, all I can do is give advice based on my experience up to this point as I’m still heading down after choosing that fork in the road. I found a different perspective for my life that has enabled me to reduce my reliance on technology and invest in my physical ties to family and friends. My life doesn’t have the clutter it once used to have distracting me from the truly important things that I had been missing. A really good example of this is how my daughter and I now listen to, and sing, songs while in the car with each other. Until I embraced minimalism, I would often be preoccupied with other things and we would hardly, if ever, talk to each other. She has since discovered Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Guns N’ Roses and Van Halen all because of me and my love for most music. I like to believe that seeing my reaction and enjoyment of the music I listen to, that I share with her, is indirectly teaching her to value what matters in life and thus instills an embrace of minimalism without her even realizing. Over the past several months, she has been emptying her bedroom of items that she claims she doesn’t like anymore, but items left behind (received at the same time) have stories and memories attached that make her happy. It’s a lifestyle that I think will help you reconnect with people in the real-world and rekindle our natural craving for human social contact with others.
I ask myself these questions on a regular basis:
- Does this item/ideal/action add value to my life?
- Will I miss this item if no longer in my life?
- What will I gain by letting go?
Meaning has returned to my life and everything around me now holds significant importance. I can now see everything that I value and cherish without the distractions of “stuff”. What have you kept in your life that no longer holds any meaning? What will do you with it?