For some reason in my marvelous memory I have kept a five second video clip that I watched multiple years ago; I was 12 or 13 at the time. The clip was on MuchMusic, which was popular to watch then (before YouTube); the only way to watch music videos and shows about your favourite artists. The clip was of a man who was working on the set of a BSB video. They showed him in the planning stage, standing in a room of his house; he described himself as a minimalist. This was the first time I ever heard this term. He stood in a white, sterile room, featuring a simple chair, desk, and computer in the center. There was nothing on the walls. There were no bookshelves. There was no stuff. Just this man and his work space. What is wrong with this guy, I thought.
Why this memory stuck with me I don’t know, but it is relevant again now, as my thoughts have gone from “What is wrong with this guy” to “There may be something to this”. Minimalism can mean different things, depending on who you are, what you’re trying to achieve and why. Recently, I had read and listened to a few interpretations and examples of minimalism, and then the Minimalist Challenge popped up on my WordPress.
What I had read and heard of minimalism described our addiction to stuff in North America, and the thought that stuff will make you happy. But we have too much stuff. Some of us have so much stuff that we need to pay for a storage unit just to house all of our stuff. We are a consumer-driven society, but when will we have enough stuff?
Everywhere we go, whether in our virtual or real world, we are surrounded by ads telling us what we need, what to buy, and to compare ourselves to others (insert The Source and their famous quote, “I want that!”); we see it on internet pages, cell phones, billboards, YouTube, TV, and hear it on the radio and from others around us. It’s everywhere.
Enter the Minimalist Challenge into my life. This is a challenge to rid yourself of stuff. I did mine last November, so for every day in November I rid myself of that much stuff; on Nov 1st, I got rid of one item, on Nov 2nd I got rid of two items, and so on. I started assessing my stuff: stuff I used, stuff I didn’t use, stuff I forgot I had, stuff that didn’t fit, multiples of one type of stuff. I did a few big clean outs and put it all in boxes to give away; I gathered over 150 items.
What this challenge made me think of is our relationship with stuff, and the emotions that come with it. We are being fed the belief that stuff will provide us with happiness. But material possessions are not our source of happiness. Our source of happiness comes from our experiences with others and with the environment. It comes from the effort we put into our friendships, our family, our spirituality, our health, our work, and our play. It is beyond physical possessions.
I am not saying material possessions are useless. I am quite thankful for my pots and pans to cook food, my warm jackets, waterproof footwear, and my bicycle, to name a few. With everything in life, though, there needs to be a limit. Are you getting an item because your friend has it? Are you getting an item because you saw it on an ad? Are you getting an item because it will increase your status in society? Or are you getting an item because you NEED it for your life? What will you gain from it? And if you do not purchase it, how would that affect your life? These questions have reshaped my consumer habits.
Who else participated in the minimalist challenge/game? Were you successful? What did you learn in the process? Please share in the comments 🙂