All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go & holding on.- Henry Ellis (1777-1869)
These last 5 life lessons are all about simplicity and minimalism.
11. We pay for things with our lives
Whenever we buy something, we are paying with our life-time. So we ask ourselves before buying anything, “How much of my life time am I willing to trade for this thing?” H.D.Thoreau, in his book Walden, reduced his needs and lived a life of freedom, rather than “quiet desperation”. His book was written in the mid 1800’s, but the dude was right. It’s still true.
Few people stop to consider that when we buy an item, we are trading our life-time for mere objects. Often these are not even things we really want. Sometimes they are precisely in opposition to the goals we want to accomplish. How many people say they want to save up for retirement, but spend money frivolously rather than saving? How many people say they want to lose weight, but then spend money on junk food?
12. Owe Nothing
Do whatever it takes to avoid borrowing money. Don’t accumulate any debt. If you already screwed that up; do whatever it takes to get out of debt as your top priority. Then breathe a humungous freaking sigh of RELIEF! Ahhhhh. Owing money sucks the joy out of everything. The burden of debt is a pervasive stress that can affect all aspects of your life.
I learned about credit cards when I was about 6 years old. It was after x-mas and my mom was crying and cutting up some plastic cards. I was shocked. Mommy crying was not a normal event. That really stuck with me. Thanks for the lesson mom. If I don’t have enough money to buy something, I wait until I do before buying. Debt = zero.
13. Own Nothing
Chief Seattle and Henry David Thoreau were right. We cannot own the Earth. I tried, and failed. Three times! Owning land or a home is an illusion. The Earth is not something that we can possess. It is something that keeps us alive, like our own breath. We cannot even think to hoard it. It is essential that we share it with other humans and animals. Without wildlife we would be lost. Everything on Earth is connected and interdependent.
Our possessions own us in return. So the fewer things we keep, the fewer things will be:
- weighing us down when we want to get going
- causing frustration when we are looking for something
- taking up our precious LIFE-time (to pay for with work hours, to clean, to sort, to house)
The law confirms this. If we truly could own property, why would we need to get a permit (permission) to renovate? Why would we not be “allowed” to plant a tree or park in our own front yard? Why would we need to pay property taxes, or else lose all of our invested money AND the property as well? Do you really own it if those things are true? Making a space to call home is fine, but really “home” is wherever you are.
I admit that the subtitle of this section, ‘own nothing’ is too extreme, but continually weeding out the extraneous to focus on the essential is a worthwhile endeavour. Rather than attempting to ‘own’ everything, how about ‘appreciate’ everything instead?
14. Take the time to be Grateful
Remembering to feel gratitude for what we already have in our lives is crucial in being able to let go of the things we don’t need to keep. In other words, it reminds us what is truly adding value to our lives. Saying thank you to the universe for all of our blessings is a way to remember what’s important, and keep trivial stuff in perspective.
When we take good people and situations for granted, they tend to disappear. Appreciating people inspires them to do more things that make us happy.
Being thankful is a powerful practice. It’s not just “nice” to be thankful, it has a real impact on our lives. Even better than simply feeling grateful, is to show our gratitude through our actions.
15. Hold on tightly, let go lightly
It takes time to learn to hold on to what’s important and let go of what’s not. Even if you still feel you need to own some things, do not become too attached. This is as relevant for relationships with people as well as things. Do your best, but if it is not working out, you gotta let go and move on. Don’t get stuck.
Did you think you’d love to take up hang gliding ten years ago, then bought all the gear, but now it’s sitting in your garage like a huge guilt trip? These are the things that are slowly eating at us. It’s okay to let go of the things we have decided not to do. I finally threw away my dogs collar from when he was a puppy. He has been dead for 9 years now. *Sigh* That took a long time to let go, but releasing it feels freeing. He is not in the collar. It’s just stuff collecting dust.The collar didn’t make me happy. I could never forget his part in the adventures of my life.
So there you have it. These are some of the things that I’ve learned that have changed my life. The many benefits of minimalism have a huge impact on improving every aspect of my existence. If you have some thoughts to share on your life lessons, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.