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Since I am a teacher, I am given a full week off as a break in the middle of the spring. I have enjoyed this break in different ways each year. Most of the time I really enjoy my break, but there are those breaks that just stick out in my memory.
These are the breaks that take us back to simpler times. Times with less stuff and less distractions. Times when we went outside and enjoyed the view. Times when we saved more and spent less.
Related: The Benefits of Nature
This year, my break was different than any other break, because this was the first break with my daughter. My wife still had to work and I got to enjoy some great Daddy/Daughter time. It was simply the best to focus on the things that matter.
Of course during this time off, I was able to watch some shows on Netflix. One show in particular that pushed me to revisit the importance of the simple life was Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things.
It got me thinking about how much stuff that we have. We have things upon things and maybe our lives could be simpler with less stuff. The people interviewed in this documentary had some great philosophical advice that makes you wonder if stuff is really the answer.
I took some notes on the documentary and I am going to quote some statements and give my thoughts on each statement:
Statement #1: "Is your stuff adding value to your life?"
Whoa, this question gets you thinking. I'll even add to it..."Is your stuff adding value or are you working away your life for stuff?" I have always been a big proponent of avoiding buying too much stuff, but even we have a lot of stuff and we could probably get rid of some of it.
Think about it, we waste our lives working day after day to fund a lifestyle. We fund our fancy houses, fancy cars and overpriced clothes. We have a lower quality of life, because we are living for stuff.
Statement #2: "What is your idea of success?"
In this documentary, multiple people talk about how they had the 'successful' lives and 'successful' careers, but they weren't happy. They were miserable, because all they did was work. They changed their whole lives by scaling back and owning less stuff. This allowed them to live on a lower income and they enjoyed their lives more.
So, what is your idea of success? Is it that fancy job that keeps you from your family day in and day out? Is it the fancy homes, fancy cars and fancy stuff or could you live with less and have more time for family?
Statement #3: "Love people and use things, because the opposite never works out."
Would you rather "love people and use things" or "use people and love things?" We live in a society that loves things. We run out and buy things instead of spending time with family. We watch TV instead of having a conversation with our kids.
It's okay to watch the occasional television show and it's okay to have a phone that keeps you connected with the world, but sometimes we act like that thing is more important than the people in our lives.
Related: The Thanksgiving Challenge
Statement #4: "I was trying to buy my happiness."
We have so much more stuff and larger houses today than anytime in history. Interestingly, as a society, we are less happy today than back when we had less. It's because we think stuff will bring us happiness.
I know first hand that stuff does not bring you happiness. I remember buying my first car after college and feeling the weight of that $11,000 dollar purchase. I had butterflies in my stomach, because I was worried about the debt that I just took out. I had true buyers remorse the day after the purchase.
Oppositely, I happier today, because my wife and I don't focus on stuff, but instead focus on building up a safety net. I am happy and less stressed, because I have money in my bank account for emergencies. I can worry about the important stuff like time with family and enjoying my life.
Statement #5: "Imagine a Life of Less."
What would it be like with a smaller home? Less clothes? Less nicknacks? Less stuff to worry about? Life would definitely be simpler. There would be less rooms to keep clean and there would be less clothing options. There would be more time for enjoying life.
Where does your imagination take you when you think about owning less stuff?
Don't worry, I'm not going to challenge you to make a drastic change and get rid of everything. I'm not getting rid of everything today. I'm not going to become a minimalist today. Instead, I challenge you to get rid of three things every week for a year. That's three shirts or three markers or three of anything. A simple start towards living a life with less.
To start, find items in your house that you haven't used in over a year. Next ask yourself, "Does this item add value to my life?" If it doesn't add value and it hasn't been used in over a year, GET RID OF IT!
Let's start #gettingridofstuff and start #livingonless. We are doing it as a family and each month I will post an update to show the items that we tossed out. We officially started this week and below you will find the three items we kicked to the curb.