“Elegance is achieved when all that is superfluous has been discarded and the human being discovers simplicity and concentration: the simpler and more sober the posture, the more beautiful it will be.” ~Paulo Coelho
No, I don’t mean strip down to a loin cloth and go out there and hunt down your food. Actually, that would be totally legit! So if you can do that, go for it. When I talk about living primitively of course spending time outside is big part of it. Walking in the woods, swimming in creeks, and actual contact with the earth’s soil have a long list of benefits and I highly recommend you do all of these but let face it, doing this on a daily basis isn’t realistic for many people. This is why my tag line is “Advancing in this modern world as PRIMITIVELY as possible.” We can only do the best we can do.
How does the average person, with the average job, the average family, and lives in the average city get primitive? Simplicity, also know as minimalism. No, I am not trying to get you to get rid of all your stuff but I do want you to see what your stuff is doing to you.
Stuff is costing you money. Just buying stuff cost money itself but keeping it and maintaining it cost even more.
I once had a cd collection of about 400 cds. I sold almost all of them days before I left to go work in Iraq. I got nowhere near what I paid for them. I sold most of them at a loss for $1 a piece. All those years that I owned them I had to have a place to put them, whether it was actual space in my home or a shelf. Both cost money. Every time I moved I had to spent time, energy, and fuel to get them to my new location. Every since I got rid of them I never had to worry about them ever again. This is the smallest example I could think of. Let’s look at a large scale example.
I once went to dinner at a woman’s gorgeous home in the “good” part of town and, admittedly, I was impressed but that was only temporary. Eventually I began to look at her home as a ridiculous and complete waste of money. There were at least three bedrooms, a foyer, a sitting room, a living room, a dinning room, a family room, a breakfast nook, and each room, every nook and cranny, was filled with furniture and top of the line stuff. This woman lived in this home alone with her teenager.
Let’s take a look at the cost involved in this home:
- The mortgage itself. God know what this was. Probably more than most American’s monthly income.
- All of that furniture and top of the line appliances (which, new or not, still break and need to be repaired)
- The utility bills. Every extra square foot in this home had to be conditioned, whether they were in it or not, due to the fact that most of the rooms could not be isolated.
- Normal maintenance like cleaning rain gutters or landscaping. Bigger the house and the bigger the yard the more cost incurred.
Is there anything wrong with owning nice things, no. But, in this case I want to point out the the woman I am talking about hated her corporate job and had a passion for interior design. Because of this home full of stuff, she could neither quit her job of pursue her passion.
Stuff stifles your appreciation for life. When you don’t have much, you REALY appreciate the things you do have.
Have you ever turned out the light, curled up under the covers and thought, oh wow I love my bed? If you have, where for you? What kind of bed was it? Was it a sleep number bed? What did you have it set at? I actually feel this was every night and I sleep on the floor. Every night, when I feel this gratitude, I remember the other times in my life I have felt this way. Like when my bed was a cot in a 6’X8′ section of a tent on Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Or my twin bed in my 20’X40′ storage container I lived in for a year on Camp Striker, Iraq. In both cases, everything I needed to live, all of my possessions, could be packed up in a couple footlockers and sent home. The simplicity of the life I was living actually lead to an improved in my quality of life and an appreciation for the things I did have.
When I first moved in, I went about six month without internet in my St. Louis apartment. This left me watching one of the 10 DVDs I still owned over and over again. I never got tired of them. When you have the mindset that you don’t want to own very many things, the things that you do keep tend to be things you really love. So, when I put in a DVD that I last watched with a woman I loved on a cold and rainy night in a hotel room in Naples, Italy, it’s a lot more than just something to watch. It is a wonderful experience. I have yet to replicate this from watching something on Netflix.
How to become a minimalist. Now that you see some of the benefits, you may want to start simplifying but how do you do it? Well, there is no right way to do it. There are some people that say to be a true minimalist you have to have less that 50 things. Whatever! Mohandas Gandhi, died owning more or less one set of clothes, his glasses, cooking utensils, a watch and his Bhagavad Gita. A lot less than 50.
A good way to start is the one year rule. If you haven’t used something in a year or more, get rid of it. Those pair of jeans you hope to get back into? Get rid of them. If in the event, you do happen to get back down to that size, you can go out and buy you another pair. The pair of shoes you bought but haven’t worn yet? Get rid of them. The juicer you are going to use when you get back on your health kick? Get rid of it. Chances are all the things you might need, you’re not going to need at all. If you do, replacing it will give you a new appreciation for it.
There are exceptions to the one year rule. For example, I didn’t bow hunt last year. That’s puts my bow unused for a year but I am not selling it or giving away. I am a hunter and intend on hunting for many years to come. Although, now that I think about it, I do borrow a rifle every year.
What are you waiting for? Put some stuff on ebay and start living primitively!