Wrestling with MinimalismThis is the first time that I haven’t had anything prepared on post day.  Generally I have some kind of an idea on what I want to write about but today nothing.  I’m also revealing that I don’t have a backlog of posts waiting to be published.  I like to fly by the seat of my pants.  So I decided to just wing it and see what develops.

The other day I was in the store and started thinking about this minimalist movement that seems so popular these days.  Don’t ask me why this popped into my head but it did.  Maybe it was looking around at all the worthless crap on the shelves.  Maybe I was thinking about the disaster that is my garage.  I don’t know, but it got me thinking.

I’ll admit that I’ve never really understood the allure of minimalism and in fact I’ve been turned off by many of the posts on minimalism, especially the ones that tout their 50 things or less that they own and how liberating it is.  I mean living with only 50 things?  Come on!  You gotta be some kind of a nutcase!  Plus so many of the posts I have seen make me feel like they are talking down to me like I’m some kind of savage for not living as they do.

But as I stood in the middle of that store looking around I started to realize that maybe the reason I was so turned off by minimalism was because I was looking at it all wrong.  I was looking at it as limiting my happiness by taking away things I had placed value on but the more I thought about it the more I realized that instead, hanging onto all these things I own was limiting my freedom.  How is it limiting my freedom you might be wondering?

When I am away from the things of value that I own they tend to consume my thoughts.  Are my things OK?  Are they safe?  Is someone breaking into my house and stealing my stuff?  It’s a way of thinking that takes away from the moment I’m currently in.

It also limits mobility.  We can’t just pick up at a moment’s notice and take advantage of opportunities as they come up.  Instead we have to deal with what to do with all our stuff.  This really applies as we start to plan out our sabbatical and significantly reduce our clutter.  It’s tough because we do have this mentality that these things are important to us.  We’ve placed value and sentiment on items and to think about letting them go is painful.  And this is where I think many of the principles of minimalism will be useful for us to embrace.

Minimalism is a way of living that aims to simplify your life by cutting out the complexities of over-consumption

First, let me give you my definition of minimalism.  Minimalism is a way of living that aims to simplify your life by cutting out the complexities of over-consumption, thus refining your life to just the necessities and deciding that happiness doesn’t come from your purchasing power.  It doesn’t mean that you need to cut your possessions down to 50 items and live in a house devoid of furniture and ride a 25cc scooter to work.  No, it means simply looking at what you have and deciding if it adds value to your life.  If it does then keep it.  If it doesn’t then get rid of it.  It’s not about what another person puts value on, it’s what you put value on.

Making the decision to take a sabbatical and travel the world changes your perspective on what adds value to your life.  I’ve started asking questions like what do I take with me?  Do I sell everything I own?  Do I shell out money every month to store things? What about things that have a strong sentimental value like photo albums, kid’s school projects and family videos?  We own several pieces of fine furniture that were my Grandmas. What do we do when we get back from our sabbatical?  Do we hold things in reserve?  These are all questions we are struggling with and I don’t think we have emotionally come to terms with it.

When in doubt, choose change.

In many respects this decision to take a sabbatical has challenged many of our core beliefs on life and what true happiness really is.  We’ve been forced to look at what happiness means to us, what drives us and what legacy do we want to leave; and to some extent we are still searching for the answers.  I think all of life is a process of self-discovery; learning about yourself, what you like, what you dislike, what your motivations are and what makes you happy.

I’ve really felt that the past several years have been a period of stagnation for me.  I’ve been restless wondering if there was more to life.  Recently I was reading my friend Lily’s blog Explore For a Year about her accomplishments this past year.  One of the lessons she learned was “When in doubt, choose change.”  I’m in a period of doubt so I choose change.

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