Archives for January 2019

January 17, 2019

Make Room

A nomadic lesson in appreciating space with fewer things.

College was so much easier. Living in a dorm room with limited space molded me into a minimalist… as if I really had a choice. I had two drawers and a small closet that could barely fit my guitar. Even if I wanted to own a lot of stuff, I didn’t have the space. I could complain about the lack of space, but the room was effective. I didn’t need much to live on—a few sets of clothes, my laptop, and my guitar. It’s all I owned. It was simple.

Five years later, moving from a dorm room to a three bedroom home began to change my mindset about owning items. Of course, during those years, the space gradually grew and the things I accumulated went unnoticeable until I moved again. It’s interesting to see that we collect things to fit the space we own. This realization couldn’t have been more clear than when I received a notification that I was going to be stationed in Colorado for my second assignment. You see, I was now in the Air Force. I had a family, more money, and more space. I did what most people do when they have more disposable income. I bought more stuff.

A big TV, power tools, sporting equipment, tech gadgets, kitchen stuff, and yard furniture. It was exhausting having to handle all that stuff when it came time to move. A funny thing is that after 4 years in that house my wife and I decided to unbox the last few boxes in our closet that we never got around to and apparently never really needed. Once the final box was unpacked, I made a Facebook post that said, “Now that our last box is unpacked, watch us get orders to another place.” Sure enough, later that afternoon I received an assignment to Colorado. Quite comical, yet at the same time frustrating.

The following week we began throwing things away and packing up only what we needed, as we weren’t sure what size our new home would be. If you’re aware of the housing market in Colorado, specifically Boulder, it’s quite expensive. We had to downsize to a two bedroom apartment which meant most of our stuff was going in storage. We kept the essential items for use and put everything else in storage. For almost two years, the items stayed in storage until we moved again. A year in our new home added up even more stuff. Fast forward another year and we still had boxes unopened in the closet and here came another assignment. Another move. Another purge. We downsized drastically. I think we finally learned our lesson.

All our memories from each move didn’t involve stuff. It involved experiencing new things. Eating new foods. Family trips. Getting ice cream. None of that involved items at our house. The true value came from each other.

On my next assignment, I only moved with one duffle bag, a carry on suitcase, and a backpack with my laptop and camera. I’ve been here for two months with quite literally the minimum. 

After learning my lesson from the previous three moves, I’ve come to appreciate the time I had in my dorm years ago. It was so much simpler with fewer things and even with less space. I now have a four bedroom house with more space than I’ll ever need, but there is no desire to fill it. Space feels good when it’s not filled.

Take it from a nomad that has learned what it’s like to live with less and what it’s like to live with a lot stuff. This is the fourth move in under nine years. Life is so much easier when you don’t have to manage things you’ll never need or don’t use. I’ve learned that stuff is not as valuable or important as we make it out to be. The things I might need are not worth keeping just in case I may need them. Don’t waste the room, get rid of the stuff. Make room for experiences. Make room for memories. Make room for what’s more valuable—people.

January 10, 2019

A Reluctant Minimalist

Why I’m slowly becoming minimalist, one step at a time.

I’ve always been a waster. I would waste money on stuff I didn’t need, waste time on things that didn’t matter. My life was cluttered, crammed full of possessions and side projects because I thought that’s what life was about. I thought that my growing accumulation was proof that I was alive.

Then something happened.

Earlier this year, I took stock of all this stuff that I’d been collecting and I began to realize that a great deal of it didn’t matter to me. It held no value. I’d spent all of my life hoarding every single thing I possibly could, and I ended up losing focus on what truly mattered to me. I used to crave each and every iPhone that came out. I’d spend my money on gadgets that I didn’t even use. I’d create numerous personal projects and lose interest within weeks.

I started to think about why I was doing all of this and I couldn’t provide an answer that made sense. I realized that I’d been conditioned all my life to constantly want more. As a young child, I was an avid consumer of TV, movies, and books and that consumption had spread like wildfire to other areas of my life, nudged along by the incessant babble of advertising.

We grow up believing that success is synonymous with owning as much as possible. You need more money. You need flashy cars and gargantuan mansions. You need to eat out all the time, have the latest gadgets, and go on holidays. This approach tells you that life is one big party and you should do it all. To excess!

But of course, you’re never told about the things that truly matter. Having a loving family around you, enjoying the company of your best friends and finding a partner you want to spend the rest of your life with. Working a job you enjoy and doing hobbies you’re passionate about. All of these are the real essentials.

I’ve come to realize that a lot of the things we’re led to believe is important is just filler content, distracting us from what we should be paying attention to; ourselves and others first and foremost. But change is hard, and despite having the intention to live more minimally, it means reprogramming a lot of bad habits and changing the way I think—it’s not easy.

So when I call myself ‘A Reluctant Minimalist’, I think I’m essentially embodying what a lot of rookie minimalists are thinking. This is going to be hard, it might hurt a bit, and I’m not sure if I should even be doing it. I think the best way to overcome those barriers is to take baby steps. It doesn’t have to be a mammoth overnight change. I am not going to wake up tomorrow morning and throw away 90% of my possessions. Instead, I’ll steadily work at it, like a sculptor chipping away bits of marble.

And then, maybe one day, I’ll stop being a reluctant minimalist, and become a willing one.

January 3, 2019

A Lifelong Minimalist

How Bruce Lee’s practice of fundamentals allowed him to live a fulfilled life.

Anyone who has ever tried to practice a martial art knows that it is no joke.

Within the walls of the training hall, common advantages in everyday situations are flipped and become disadvantages. Traits and attitudes such as aggressiveness, size, strength, and intensity become burdens. You are literally a loose cannon—unequipped and underprepared.

Instead of muscling on blindly, practitioners must learn control, cultivate awareness, and build capability to progress. You must start from zero and be humbled. 

Bruce Lee, the renowned martial artist, actor, and philosopher, lived and embodied this attitude. He understood movement, fighting, and the fundamentals of learning. 

Consider the following:

“The poorer we are inwardly, the more we try to enrich ourselves externally.”

This quote applies to everything. 

If we have that internal control, we can be decisive, calibrated, and effective in life. We can help those who need it and more towards meaningful goals.

If we are internally powerless, however, we will forever be off-kilter, seeking that which cannot possibly make us happy or fulfilled. Science has shown us that additional income beyond simple arrangements does not correlate with more enjoyable lives and better states of mind. Luxury goods and an addiction to surplus cannot possibly sustain us successfully if we are deficient in our private worlds and thinking.

Bruce Lee understood the fundamentals. That is, to stand on the shoulders of giants, we must first understand. We must incorporate our origins. Only then can we build up from a position of integrity and enrich all around us.