In character, in manner, in style, in all things,
the supreme excellence is simplicity. –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In 2008, my wife Jeannie and I lived in a beautiful 3000 square foot house with a ton of nice furniture, a manicured lawn and three cars in the driveway.
We’d arrived! It was our own version of what used to be called the American dream.
Now, don’t get me wrong there’s nothing inherently wrong with a big house, nice furniture, and multiple cars. (I also had a sports racing car in the garage!)
The only problem was that I was working sixty hours a week at my job and then working another fifteen or twenty on my real estate investment schemes.
Jeannie worked retail and not only did we hardly ever see each other, but the paychecks were getting a little thin just trying to pay for it all.
Then it happened…
In the space of about six months, I got laid off my job and the real estate market took the biggest dive in more than a hundred years.
We were left twisting in the wind financially. Forced by circumstances to downsize and minimize – we scrambled around like a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory.
We sold the house and two of the cars. We sold off most of the furniture and garden equipment. We sold the rental properties. I even sold my prized sports car.
Some of the “stuff” we just gave away.
We moved into an 800 square foot bungalow in West Seattle.
Initially, I was devastated.
Having to decide what to keep and what to sell or give away was gut wrenching.
Then, slowly at first, but getting stronger as time passed, a realization took hold. I began to notice that I felt different and by different I mean good.
I could breathe again! There were a clarity and freedom to the way we were living that felt wonderful. Most of the stress, we’d been under for years (and had gotten used to like the proverbial frog in a pot that slowly comes to a boil) had just evaporated.
Finally, one day I realized that we had become what some people call minimalists without even realizing it.
What is minimalism? I’m not sure I can define it exactly. I mean I don’t go to meetings or pay dues or anything.
As I said it’s not something I set out to become. But I know this.
Our radical lifestyle change forced us to take stock and get very clear on the things that are truly important to us.
I have come to believe that getting laid off and going broke in the real estate business was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me.
Looking back I see a very stressed out unhappy man who was striving to live someone else’s dream. I thought I knew what I wanted but in reality, the life I had chosen was slowly killing me.
Now I only do the things that inspire me and contribute to my and others joy and fulfillment.
Trust me it’s not because I have a ton of money stashed away and It’s not perfect, life will always have its challenges.
It’s just that I’ve found that when I “follow my bliss” as Joseph Campbell would say doors open where I least expect them. Things just seem to work out.
I have become a writer, blogger, and internet marketer.
It’s my passion and when you follow your passion and do the things that bring you joy, the money just seems to follow.
What is it that’s important to you? Do you really know? Or are you just getting up in the morning and dashing off to a job that gives you a good paycheque but also comes with a lot of stress, aggravation and frustration?
I don’t know, perhaps you love your job? I just know that mine was sucking the life out of me…
Jeannie and I have dramatically changed the way we live and also the way we look at consuming things.
As a society, we are constantly bombarded by information overload these days.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not anti-technology. I don’t think the internet is the anti-Christ. But what I’ve noticed is that many of us are not very conscious about the way we consume things.
There is an almost constant fire hose like a stream of information that never goes away. It’s become the background radiation of the 21st century. We’ve become desensitized to it. Many of us just blindly consume because we’re told to by our televisions and laptops and we don’t stop to think about what we’re really doing.
Someone told me I sound like an old geezer railing against technology when I say things like this.
That’s not it at all. Technology has been very good to us over the last 25 or 30 years.
It’s just that It’s a bit of a double edged sword and we should be more conscious and discerning about what we let into our lives.
Do you download apps on your phone just because they’re there or does that app really contribute to your joy, serenity and or productivity?
Do you really need all that “stuff” in your house? Jeannie had three complete sets of dishes. Our kids have moved out so we never used the majority of them.
We got rid of the excess.
I’d like to invite you to take a good hard look at what you’re doing and decide whether you really need all the excess stuff you have accumulated.
Decide what the most important things in your life are, tangible and intangible. Then consider removing the rest of it.
I mean just let it go, you’ll probably be amazed at how freeing and empowering it will make you feel.
Give it a try. Get rid of just one thing this weekend and see how it feels.
Who knows you might just uncover a budding minimalist.