I’ve been thinking a lot about why so many people think minimalism is such a difficult concept, and I think that it all boils down to one thing… being content.
The vast majority of people just aren’t content.
They aren’t content in their financial situations, in jobs, in relationships, in locations, and in possessions.
Discontent fuels our society, and marketers know that. We are bombarded every day by advertising that encourages discontent in an effort to get us to buy more. The problem is, more stuff doesn’t equal contentment.
Content… satisfied… desiring no more than what you already have because you realize that what you have is plenty… happiness?
Every day, whether it is on television or on the internet or even just driving around town, we see advertising that tells us we need more. The advertising shows happy people, doing exciting things, all centered around some sort of thing that they’ve purchased. And when we see those advertisements, we begin to think that we need that particular thing to give us the same level of happiness. Marketers know that. Advertising agencies have built their million dollar businesses based on that fact.
And we keep giving in. No doubt, we think we will miss out on a happy life if we don’t.
But happiness doesn’t come from owning more, newer, or better things.
A good example is the cell phone market. It seems like every time we turn around a new cell phone is popping up. Advertising shows better picture quality, larger screens, new animated emojis, greater speakers, and more. You may have just purchased a new cell phone a year ago, and that phone may work just fine, but the newer model offers you a better experience. And if you don’t have that better experience, you are missing out on a great thing!
The cell phone companies capitalize on our need to have more, do more, be more, and buy more by creating programs that even allow us to upgrade every year. And when we sign on to those programs, we feel all sorts of special for always having the latest and greatest – in fact, we feel so special that most of us don’t realize that we never actually own the phone we have. All we do is lease it.
We lease the item that we think brings us happiness.
Leased happiness – think about it.
But does that phone create contentment in your life? Is it actually enough?
I’ll answer for you… No.
If your contentment rides on what you possess, you will never achieve it.
Minimalism is not a difficult concept. Living a life with just what you need, not creating excess just for the sake of having more, and finding value in what you already possess is a pretty great way to go about things. Finding contentment in life without the need for more can bring a personal a level of happiness beyond anything that this consumer world we live in offers.
I truly believe that the reason so many people find minimalism difficult to grasp is because they have bought into society’s lie that they must own all the things.
In my house, we call this “add to cart” syndrome.
And from time to time, everyone suffers from it.
We have never bought into the cell phone marketing madness – we use our phones until they die – but we have bought into a lot of other marketing that had us thinking we needed certain items. When looking back on purchases and what we’d hoped we would gain from those purchases, it is often apparent that we simply bought into a false hope for some form of happiness based on the item.
Our contentment was often centered around things. Possessions. Stuff.
And even now, as we travel through this new lifestyle of minimalism, we find ourselves having to pause and consider what we’re spending on. Every time we really take a good look at what is going on with our purchases, we realize that there are things we’ve bought that we don’t need, never really wanted, could have lived without, and just bought because someone somewhere said they were cool.
The difference between us and the people who still insist minimalism is too difficult is that we are willing to step back and look at ourselves and say enough is enough.
We don’t want our contentment to ride on our possessions. As a family, we have found that the less junk we have in life the happier we are. The items we own that really matter are enough. The rest just causes a mental chaos that no one enjoys.
Being content is is just as much a part of minimalism as decluttering is. You really have to find what makes you happy. You really have to think about life in a new way. You really have to ask yourself if the things of this world are more important than the actual living of and enjoyment of your life.
And it can be tough to be real, even with yourself. But if you want minimalism to make more sense to you, being real is exactly what you’ll have to do. And often, the first step to being real is to shut off the cell phone and television, step away from marketing distractions, and ask yourself what really matters. Pay close attention to your answer… and then go for it!