When I first heard the term “minimalism” some years ago, I had thoughts along the lines of “That’s cool, sounds like something I might like to try sometime.” Then later when I began actively seeking out information about minimalism, I found myself wanting to try out this lifestyle. But for a while that’s all it was: just a want. Over the course of a year of solid focus on my personal implementation of minimalism, I’ve come to realize that simply wanting less is insufficient: I need less wanting less and more action to achieve less. Wanting doesn’t bring results, but action can.
Back in December of last year I had my upper wisdom teeth taken out, a procedure that required a temporary shift in my breakfast of crunchy cereal and crunchy toast to something decidedly softer. I figured this would be a brief detour from the usual and I’d be back to my old breakfast in no time; little did I know that, a year later, I’d still be eating the same exact soft breakfast each morning, and would go on to apply a similar uniformity to all my meals.
The acquisition of stuff is expected to trigger certain emotions, but the amount stuff you need to feel those emotions is entirely up to you, and many times it’s very nearly zero. What I’ve found is that the emotions themselves carry expectations as well: you’re expected to feel excited when you’re independent or accomplished, just like you’re expected to feel dejected when you fail or experience a tragic loss. And just like stuff, the extent to which you need to let those emotions impact your life is entirely up to you… and it too can be very nearly zero.
I used to be a master juggler; not of pins or chainsaws, but hobbies. Despite having all the trappings of a man with many hobbies and paying myself plenty of lip service to said hobbies, there were really only a few I actively pursued on a regular basis. I was juggling twenty balls at once, but I only ever paid any real attention to a fraction of them; the rest just fluttered around in the air, putting on a nice show but not much else beyond causing a persistent, dull mental anguish as I was constantly reminded of how I was largely ignoring them. So I tried something crazy: I let them all fall to the ground.
Rarely does a random internet video so markedly change my daily habits. No wishy-washy philosophizing here: this is straight-up being intentional with how you use paper towels, and it’s so downright simple and effective that it’s strange to consider there was once a time when I’d use more than one paper towel after a trip to a public restroom.
One of the joys of minimalism is the freeing sensation of shedding that which weighs you down. At first, it’s just the physical “stuff” that carries literal weight. After a while, though, it goes deeper and becomes more meaningful: the “stuff” becomes abstract concepts that reside in the psyche, stuff whose weight seems infinite and thus unsheddable… until they’re shed and you look back and say, “Why was I letting that hold me back, again?” And then sometimes it gets meta and what you shed isn’t a single “thing” insomuch as it is the entire infrastructure of false negativity: the “Fear Of.”
Contrary to what the titles of this and a previous post may seem to imply, I don’t actually hold a grudge against pizza. In fact, I’ve very much enjoyed the last I-don’t-know-how-many slices of pizza I’ve consumed, and I look forward to enjoying my next I-don’t-know-how-many slices. But even when presented with as many slices as I’d like for the low price of zero dollars, I’ve consciously opted for less free pizza in my life.
Among the thinning foliage on my journey out of the jungle of misdirected enjoyment I found reminders of collections of another type that were still parts of my life. These collections formed a canopy that did indeed block out the sun, but I put them there because they were beautiful and could provide me with valuable shade. Over the years, though, some of them grew unchecked and just needed a little pruning to stay healthy and beautiful.
It was only after I was deep into the jungle that I paused for a moment, looked around, and asked myself, “Why am I in the jungle in the first place?” This jungle was one of my own making, constructed over years of accumulation of items ostensibly required to be happy and lead an enjoyable life. Entering the jungle must have seemed like a good idea at one point, otherwise I wouldn’t have ventured in… right?
Every now and then when pizza is being served at a party or other social function, I hear some variation of the phrase, “Well, there are vegetables on this slice, so it’s healthy!” Never mind that it’s dripping with cheese and grease and overloaded with pepperoni and sausage: the vegetables cancel all that out! While this utterance is certainly made in jest, it does serve to hint at our odd penchant toward believing that adding something to an unhealthy situation somehow makes it less unhealthy.