I just want no things.
This is a somewhat new feeling to me. I always have wanted something. Whether it be an extra candy bar when waiting in line at the store as a child, or a new toy as a way too old adult – I have always had pangs and cravings of desire. I never was one to spend all that much but I certainly could always find some dumb thing that I wanted at the time.
As I age I have come to despise possessions. The less things I can own the better. The problem lies in the fact that I slowly came to realize that I thought I could buy my way to happiness.
If only I had the gaming system my friend has, I will be happy.
If only I could buy this item from my favorite cultural group, I will be happy.
I was kidding myself. Nothing external will ever bring internal happiness for any lasting time. I think, like many do, that consumerism has become a massive danger to not only personal happiness but likely the planet as well. Three or four moments really leap out at me as I view my progression along this path. I am sure more will come along but these are the main signposts I can currently point at that lead me here.
The first time I realized that material possessions may not be the best route was when I tried to order my first ever apartment cleaning. Utilizing the new hip app Handy, I scheduled a cleaning for a Saturday afternoon while I was at work so I would be out of the way. Got the $80 introductory rate, showed her I wanted her to focus on communal areas, and off I went to work. Not twenty minutes after arriving at my desk, I get a phone call; ” we have a problem.” While bringing her supplies out to the street, she managed to lock not only herself, but my cat, outside of the apartment. At the time I lived on a legit highway, and she was telling me that she had to go to her next appointment.
I freaked out, telling her in no uncertain terms to not leave my cat and jumped back on the train. In my scattered rush to get back home, I proceeded to leave my gym bag on the train, stocked with $700- $1000 in electronics. Gone in one dumb moment. A Kindle, a Nintendo 3DS, random electronics, some of my favorite games, clothing, shoes. So many gadgets lost and yet I truly felt an ambivalence, if I couldn’t have them I certainly didn’t want to compound the situation by crying about them. My cat was completely fine, and that was all I remotely cared about. My attachment to a few dumb lost items, expensive as they may be, couldn’t come close to the feeling of relief that my best friend of years was safe and sound. This can also be a anecdote as to why one should do your own housework!
Last year around this time I was flying high. I was succeeding at work, being top dog every month for multiple quarters. The money was flowing well. It was around this time that I started to listen to my friends the Jones’s. “You deserve to enjoy that money,” they whispered. “Buy something for yourself, enjoy your youth.” To be clear, I always enjoy myself. I have a very good handle on my happiness levels, splurging is not going to get me there. However I certainly had some spare cash just sitting there, and the Oculus Rift had just been released. As a childhood nerd, virtual reality is my Mecca, I have been waiting to worship for my entire life. Now as an adult I can finally indulge!
I spent $2,100 on the electronics and a further $500 for a solid desk setup to organize everything. I played hours of virtual reality for the first few weeks, trying any and everything it had to offer. This was the early days so there were few costly games, and I was able to get free trials to many now paid apps due to being an early adopter. It is now almost one year later and I have had the goggles on maybe once in the last two months. It turns out, that the real world makes me happy enough. I do not need to close myself off in a mainly solo experience with huge goggles on my face. I do enjoy showing any friends that visit what the future will entail, but I rarely have the time or inclination to put them on myself. I had waited my entire life to play in Virtual Reality, spent an excessive amount of money, and am not measurably happier for it.
I recently read the highly recommended, Guide to the Good Life. This is a book that goes in depth about the ancient life philosophy of Stoicism and is a great primer for living a life in accordance with its principles.
Stoicism is a mental model for viewing the world, and the tenets allow you to live a life that is most in accordance with a peaceful one. I never was one to take random life rules as wrote, but when I found how much similarity there was with this mindset and my own, I was hooked. By nature, stoicism and minimalism go hand in hand, and many of the principles of the FIRE movement (self sufficiency, DIY skills, planning for the negative)are paramount as well.
While I grew up Roman Catholic, it never really stuck. I went to church for years with family, but my personal studies and exploration led me to too many logical inconsistencies to live my life like. After hearing about this book and reading much of the source material, I can see that this is a much better fit mentally. This is a philosophy that I can foresee a huge number of people will slowly embrace. They may not label themselves as a stoic rather than whatever religion they might be, but the principles will convert many due to their simple and effective message.
This is my latest and favoritest. While this may be super simple to some people, I didn’t track anything until this past year. About 5 months ago I started to get everything together and finally have a strong semblance of my financials and where they stand. While I used to religiously check Mint and Personal Capital, the spending was not being understood as much as it should. I could see the money going, but abstract categories that were auto tracked just was not doing it. I needed to personally sit down and do all the numbers by hand. The final stage of manually inputting really throws things into a stark perspective – do I really place enough value in this purchase for me to commit a whole line item to it? This is a silly question, but I find that this check alone causes me to accumulate so much less garbage – not for being cheap, but on a new strange value/effort scale that prides itself on less things and transactions.
So while I have an Amazon wish list still, it’s mostly junk. I could splurge and add more peripherals to my computer or buy more frivolous hangout clothing, but I don’t. I really just do not need any more things. Having food, clothes, and shelter – I want to learn to be happier with less. Not only is that the state of things for a majority of the world, but I also just believe that is a path to true happiness. I wish all of you the best luck in your own personal development journey, and if you are having a rough go of it, maybe try instituting some minimalism. It may change your life like it did mine !