“Wanting less is a better blessing than having more.” Mary Ellen Edmunds
It seems as though a new movement is brewing. It is a simple idea really, but one we must hone into in order to realize the power that minimalism has to offer. It is the idea that instead of spending our hard-earned money on the accumulation of stuff, that the less we own, the happier we might just become.
It is realizing that our time is valuable and if we spend most of our time working for someone else, we might as well spend our downtime doing those things that we truly enjoy. I think most of us have heard the story before. The story of a family who spent their lives working hard day – after – day to acquire those things in life that we are “supposed” to have. The list includes: the big house, the car(s), clothes, shoes, the toys, the latest technologies, and the endless need for more things. And while garages and homes are filled with trinkets, our lives feel increasingly empty.
This is where the idea of minimalism comes into focus – the fewer items we own, and the less time we spend consuming, the more time we have to spend on what really matters to us as individuals or as a family. It makes perfect sense, but so many of us have come to believe through endless marketing campaigns that our collection of stuff will make us happy. We all know, from studies to personal experience, that things do not make us happy and while the thrill of a new purchase might bring temporary joy, that joy will eventually fade.
We didn’t realize the power of minimalism until we moved half way around the world. We too, were living the “American Dream.” We had a house, two cars, two incomes, debt, and the constant feeling that we had to chase and be on the chase for more. Dinner party conversations were filled with discussions of home improvements, furniture purchases or new cars to fill the driveway. We played along and we wanted desperately to keep up. But often times after those dinner parties, we would get in the car and wonder if this was all that there was to this life?
And that is when life changed. We accepted an international work assignment, and after selling and donating much of what we owned, we realized that life could and would be different. We made the decision to live simply (and that started by renting a one bedroom flat prior to the arrival of our two children), sold our cars and spent our free time doing exactly what we wanted. Without a house to maintain, a lawn to mow and cars to wash, we were free to explore a part of the world that was relatively new to us. And just like the quote by Alan Keightley states, “Once in awhile it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to,” we realized that while the “American Dream” might be ideal for some, it simply was not the dream we felt inclined to follow.
We changed the way in which we live and now that we have children, embracing a simpler life is all the more important to us. Children can accumulate a lot of stuff, but we want to teach our children to never live outside of their means. We want them to realize that there is more to life than possessions and that hard-earned money should be respected and used for what we truly value. For our family those values include: spending time together whether at a local park, submersed in nature or traveling. We also value education, but believe that education is all around us. Each moment, each new day provides ways in which we can teach our children without spending an absolute fortune on unnecessary educational tools.
They say the best things in life are free and I have to agree. A sun rising or a sun setting, the warmth of a hug from someone you genuinely love, a smile from your child; those are the things that money can and will never buy. The sooner we learn to embrace this way of life, the grander our lives might just become.
The minimalist movement gives us permission to let go of our desire to constantly consume. Instead, letting go allows us to sink our teeth into what it feels like to actually own less and not have to worry about managing our belongings. It is a way of living that allows us to truly live the lives we were intended to live, without being bogged down by all the stuff. Here’s to owning less and living more!