Archives for November 2018

November 29, 2018

How I Use Minimalism

Spending less than two minutes every morning choosing what to wear.

For the last four to five years, I have spent less than two minutes every morning choosing what to wear when I wake up. I don’t lay out my clothes the day before, I just get up and choose random items from boxes. That's it. For me, this was an important achievement.

Before making the change, I would waste time getting ready in the morning. The main issue was less about the minutes lost debating with myself about what to wear, and more about starting my days with a sense of doubt. I never really felt fully satisfied with the way I dressed.

So I started simplifying my clothes and gradually created what is commonly known as a 'capsule' wardrobe. To start with, I limited the number of different colors. Black, gray, and white. That’s it. I only kept styles that complimented each other and removed one-off pieces that never got worn. This is now a foolproof system for me that works without a hitch.

But, the real timesaver for me was how I organized my clothes. I have three boxes.

Every morning when I wake up, I take an item from box-set one (trousers), an item from box-set two (sweaters/long sleeves), an item from box three (hoodies/vests) if it is really cold.

I just pick one out and I know that it will look good. I don’t worry about wearing the same outfit ‘too often’ since I would rotate and simply pick the next item in the box. My boxes look small but in total, I have 11 trousers, 21 sweaters/long sleeves and 9 hoodies/vests.

This was my first Minimalism Project and my first experience with Minimalism in general. It has not only made me more efficient and dress better, but this project has also made me appreciate what I have—both in terms of physical possessions and time.

November 22, 2018

A Better Black Friday

How you can combat the consumeristic culture by placing contentment before capriciousness.

It’s that time of year again. Black Friday is upon us, beginning the last season of deals before Christmas.

A season in which we are smothered with advertisements for everything from electronic gadgets to fast-fashion. A time to stay up all night in order to receive the deals that will allow us to get cheap items for our friends and family for Christmas. A day in which we disregard what we have been grateful for, simply to purchase the ‘next big thing’ at a low price.

Now more than ever, consumerism is normalized and idealized in our culture. We see Black Friday Hauls on YouTube, advertisements are crowding our social media platforms, and the expectations of society justify the purchases. We throw our values and grateful minds behind us so we can jump ahead a little further in the line.

Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with shopping on Black Friday. The issue is when we become too wrapped up in the idea of immediate gratification while purchasing things that are harmful to our wallets, environment, and values.

It’s time we look past the advertisements and grab hold of the things that matter most.

This Black Friday, consider combatting the consumeristic culture around us by setting your heart in a peaceful and prosperous position to carry you through the rest of the year. For example, if you were planning on waking up early to shop (online or offline), consider waking up and sitting with your thoughts for a few minutes before beginning your day. Perhaps instead of shopping, beginning a passion project could be a more productive use of your time.

Furthermore, while others are sitting in traffic and spiking their stress levels by rushing to the store, it might better to go for a walk or a hike and get your heart rate elevated in a way that calms your mind and spirit (and doesn’t include you going into debt).

As cheesy as this may sound, setting your heart in the right place could mean spending your time on other people. Volunteering your time to those who may need it is a surefire way to set your intentions on a good path and set the tone for the rest of the year.

Finally, if you do decide to venture out into the stores this Black Friday, ensure that what you are going to purchase aligns with your values. Have a plan before you go into the store so that you don’t fill your cart up with meaningless items. If possible, consider supporting local, independent businesses instead of sweat shops.

This holiday season, we can combat the consumerist culture and put ourselves into a situation in which we are loving, present, and genuine humans. Your time and energy are two of the most precious resources you have. Don’t allow the advertisements to grab ahold of your values and run away with them.

November 14, 2018

Don’t Throw Away Your Kindness

Declutter your stuff, but don’t get rid of your compassion and understanding.

Something I have noticed in the minimalist community of late is judgement. I have seen comments online from people moving towards a minimalist lifestyle that have made me feel sad and disappointed. Perhaps the message of minimalism isn’t clear enough.

Minimalism is about what matters.

Living a life with less has always been, for me, about getting closer to the things that matter. I want to be able to devote more time to relationships and experiences, rather than just living day-to-day on a treadmill of earn-buy-consume.

I also want the freedom and energy to pursue my goals in my spare time, rather than being so depleted by daily life that the only thing I can manage is another evening sat in front of the TV.

Getting rid of all the excess in our lives is a great way to get closer to ourselves and to what we hold true in the world. It’s also fantastic for freeing up time and energy that would otherwise be consumed in a myriad of ways by the seemingly limitless things that we can own.

What if you’re not a minimalist?

When I first discovered minimalism, it was a bit of a weird thing that hid in dark corners of the internet. Today, the popularity of minimalism is more mainstream, but it has also gathered devotees who think that other people are somehow stupid, or less worthy, because they are not minimalists.

I have seen horrible comments online, made about other people’s spending and lifestyle choices. Ordinary folk have been called “idiots”, “dumb” or even “sickening” for buying what was judged to be an excess of things. I read a story written by a woman who decided her co-worker was stupid for buying a charm to attach to the zip on her purse. These are things that most of us would never say to someone’s face, but online it seems that we can be much ruder in an attempt to get our point across.

Minimalism is a great solution to the excesses of life, and the conservation of our planet’s diminishing resources. However, it is not okay to stand on a self-erected virtuous podium, looking down at the “consumerist masses”. How will that change the world for the better?

Minimalism is not enlightenment.

Minimalism may feel like a revelation when you finally get the hang of it, but traditionally the enlightened lead those that are yet to learn—they do not judge them.

None of us know what strangers and colleagues are dealing with, and no one is perfect. Few of us grew up as minimalists and many of us are reformed hoarders ourselves. How can we judge those that are walking the same path that we once walked?

Minimalism is so compelling to me for many reasons, but one thing that stands out is that it allows us the space to be more compassionate. Having less means we are not so wrapped up in ourselves.

There is a difference between being passionate about a way of life because it works for you, and feeling superior about your way of life because you think it's better than everyone else’s. As you continue your minimalist journey, don’t fall prey to the mistake of throwing your compassion and kindness out, along with everything else.

What the world needs is minimalists with kindness in their hearts to lead the way.

Minimalism can create communities and networks of acceptance and giving that will benefit everybody, even the people who still want to keep a charm on their purse key.

As the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

November 7, 2018

From a Suitcase Lifestyle to Simple Living

How temporarily living with one suitcase can impact the rest of your life.

During my freshman year of high school, my family traveled around the world for eight months. We had decided to take off after we watched an episode of House Hunters International. It was a spontaneous decision, but we were committed. I prepared for the trip by enrolling in online school, starting a blog, learning about the first country we were going to, and finally… packing. I asked my mom what we were packing in, and she told me that we each had only a carry-on and backpack. All my clothes, personal possessions, school books, and supplies had to fit into those two bags for eight months. At first, I had a hard time believing that all my stuff would fit. But I soon started the process of deciding what was essential to bring and realized that it would not be so difficult after all.

After packing a minimal number of belongings, we departed. As I looked down through an airplane window at my hometown, I knew that I would not see any of my other possessions for a long time. Soon, I discovered that having less was not so hard. In the morning, instead of searching for half an hour through a closet stuffed with clothing, I wore whatever was clean. I may not have been the most trendy or stylish 14-year old in the world, but my clothes got the job done. As for schoolwork, I managed just fine without eight hundred different pens.

As our trip progressed, I fell more in love with living out of a carry-on. It was one of the most freeing things I had ever experienced. Whatever I did not need or could not carry, I had to get rid of. If I needed something new, I had to make sure I had space for it. If I did not, I let go of something else to make room for my new possession. I considered every addition to my small storage space deeply. To have to be so mindful of everything I owned was enlightening and revealing. It made me question what was truly important in my life.

Eight months later, I walked back into my room at home. Although I was happy to be home, I was overwhelmed. There was just too much stuff everywhere, and I wondered how I could ever use all of it. I simply trudged on, accepting that this was just what American life was destined to look like. I would graduate high school with all my stuff, go to college, spend the rest of my life paying off college debt, get a desk job so I could support myself and buy more stuff, get married, have kids, retire, and eventually pass away.

One day, when I was scrolling through films on Netflix, I settled on one called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. The images on the screen flicked before my eyes and excitement welled inside me as I learned about the concept of minimalism. I finished the documentary, ran upstairs to my room, and got rid of half of my clothes. Since that day, I have been a proponent of minimalism and all the benefits it offers.

To me, the word ‘minimalism’ essentially means living with only what is useful or brings you true joy. The lifestyle is not meant to make you suffer, in fact, it allows just the opposite—allowing you to fully appreciate what you have. It emphasizes on people over things, and this helps to improve relationships in all areas of your life. Most importantly, it has taught me that material things should not be the motivation for my life choices. 

Minimalism is a form of self-care. By not overwhelming yourself with useless clutter or striving to make more money so you can buy that clutter, you are giving yourself a break. 

You are not defined by the amount of stuff that you own.

November 1, 2018

The Art and Obligation of Minimalist Travel

How packing only what you need can change the way you see the world.

As I sit here meticulously packing the bare minimum for my week-long business/leisure trip to Vietnam, I remember the times that I would have my suitcase packed in the comical fashion that we are used to seeing in cartoons. You know, the ones where you need someone to sit on it while you frantically attempt to zip it up.

Back then, I slowly began to realize that those “what if” scenarios that I was packing for would never occur, so I began to bring only what I felt were the essentials and eliminate the things that were simply not needed.

For the past five years, I have had the privilege of a job that brings me to every corner of the world and allows me to interact with people from many different backgrounds. I have seen some of the best that humanity, cultures, and the natural world has to offer. Unfortunately, I have also seen some of the worst as well.

The beauty far outweighs the ugly—by a landslide—and hopefully, that’s how it is for everyone. But I asked myself, why are some travel experiences so valuable while others are forgotten shortly after I arrive back home?

The answer? It’s me.

What I have found is that the beautiful aspects of a country are amplified when you are prepared to accept and experience them as they truly are and with an open mind. Naturally, we have our own pre-conceived notions about the world which are defined by our backgrounds and culture. When we travel we are willingly (hopefully) opening ourselves up to experience a new culture, cuisine, lifestyle, etc.

I have had my perspective completely turned upside down by what I have experienced. At first, it can be scary but once you get over the initial shock, it is liberating. These are the moments that I live for and truly believe that the world would be a better place if more people were unremittingly exposing themselves to cultures other than their own.

To do this, bring what you need and leave the rest.

What does this mean? It’s simple:

  • Bring your knack for adventure and leave your anxieties about “what if” behind
  • Bring your thirst for knowledge and leave your presumptuous mentality at home
  • Leave your “I don’t eat that” statement in your kitchen (unless you’re allergic of course)

The easiest and the most important way to travel like a minimalist is to listen more than you speak. You’d be surprised by the things you can learn when listening to people that are completely different than you in terms of values, language, and interests.

So, with these tips in mind, pack light, get out there, book a trip, and touch the world.