There is a movement bubbling beneath the surface of society. In response to the nation’s obsession with the pursuit of consumer goods, people everywhere are turning toward a much simpler lifestyle. I am one of these people. I call myself a minimalist.
Minimalism is gaining traction largely through the efforts of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, a duo that calls themselves, simply, The Minimalists. On their blog, the pair defines minimalism as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment and freedom.” It’s the same idea that drove Henry David Thoreau to retreat into the secluded Walden Pond in order to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” the same notion that is causing people all over to forego long-term mortgages in favor of cash-built tiny homes. This philosophy allows for the time, money and freedom to live what The Minimalists call “ a meaningful life.”
Many people interpret material possessions as a way to reach freedom. I know I used to, but now I believe in the opposite. I thought having a new car would make me free, that it would allow me to drive anywhere, whenever I wanted. I found that most of my travels were to work, to make money, to pay for the car that got me there.
It’s a sick cycle that seemingly never ends. The problem was not the car itself, but the value I placed on it. I thought the shiny coat of paint and the bluetooth stereo would bring me happiness, that it would be worth the monthly financial obligation. It wasn’t. What many fail to realize is that the cost of freedom is often captivity. By realizing that time is more valuable than money, it’s easy to avoid this pitfall.
Contrary to popular belief, minimalism is not an extreme lifestyle. Not too long ago, living with few possessions was just that—living. At the turn of the 20th century, most people only owned a few outfits each. I still have my car and other debts that I’m paying off, but I’m constantly working toward a simpler life. My cluttered desk has become a clean, distraction-free zone with a single purpose: writing. Stacks of photos and documents have been scanned and organized onto a hard drive. I spend less time picking out my clothes because every piece of clothing I own looks good and fits correctly. I didn’t get rid of everything and move into a shack in the woods like Thoreau, but I’m beginning to find the elusive “marrow of life.” I now value experiences over possessions, access over ownership and self-growth over the constant pursuit of more.
My life is not easy, but it is simple; and that’s a beautiful thing.
Author’s note: If you’re interested in simplifying your life, Gorman highly encourages watching Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix.