New Year, less stuff

With New Year’s day comes resolutions and goals. Sometimes these goals are lofty and unachievable. Such as “I will stop compulsively eating homemade cookies when they are brought to the office”.  Whereas others,  if constructed using a SMART goal format and seem enjoyable to the individual, are doable and beneficial.  An example of an achievable goal is, “I plan on reading at least 15 minutes a night.” I can do that! I can achieve that goal because it is both realistic and I will enjoy doing it.

Another thing to think about moving into the new year is our impact on the environment and our stuff’s impact on us. The Minimalist put out a post suggesting that we start off the new year with a challenge.  They called it the “30-day Minimalist Game”. This game asks you to get rid of 1 thing on day 1, 2 things on day 2, and so on. If you make it the full 30 days you would have gotten rid of 500 items! That is a lot of stuff!

But why would we do this? What is the point?

There are many books and articles written about minimalism and its benefits. However, at this time I would like to highlight two of my favorite arguments for adopting a minimalist mindset.

  1.  Minimalism is the act of living with only the things that you need.  It is a way of living more simply.  Tabata Yukio states that minimalism is, “the antidote to the dangerous culture of materialism, consumerism, stress, depression, anxiety, obesity, clutter, lack of direction, and chaos” that is currently impacting our lives.  Our obsession with stuff is actually creating more discomfort than the joy it is supposed to bring.  When we work on minimizing our stuff, we begin to “discover who [we] really are and the things that truly matter in [our lives].” (Yukio)
  2. Approaching the world with a minimalist attitude will encourage you to think about the impact your stuff has on the world.  Patrick Rhone has a chapter in Enough called, “For Everything We Take, Someone Else Must Give”. In this chapter, he explores the number of lives and resources it takes for him to get a cup of coffee.  This reflection can help us appreciate the people who are directly and indirectly part of the process of getting us a cup of coffee. Those who might directly part of the process are the baristas and cashier.  Those people who indirectly part of the process are: the coffee farmer, the truck driver, the carpenter who built the furniture in the coffee shop, etc. It isn’t so much about labeling things “good” and “bad”.  It is more about recognizing the impact.  Rhone explains that it is about having “a greater consciousness about the effect of everything we consume and create. . . . Being mindful of this causes me to appreciate it even more.”  Being mindful also helps us make ethical decisions.

Minimalism is just one approach to thinking about our interactions with the world.  For me, it is an approach that makes sense. How do the choices I make everyday effect myself and others?  Do the things I do, the things I keep, and the items I consume bring me joy and do contribute to the overall wellbeing of the planet?  How do I want to be in the world?  With these thoughts in mind, a minimalist approach seems to fit my life goals.

What are your thoughts?

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