Two years ago, I lived in a penthouse, beachfront Sydney apartment. I had a 4WD in the garage and an overflowing closet. At age 29 I was well and truly in the “accumulation” stage of my life. I was mindlessly doing what I was “supposed to” be doing, working hard to pay for “things” I thought I needed. Today, I live in a one bedroom apartment with no car and significantly less things. Instead, I have more time and more disposable income to spend on experiences that I really enjoy. Over time, I have chosen less over more.
We live in a culture of over-consumption. I feel this most acutely in the lead up to Christmas, with people frantically running around the shops trying to think of *something* to buy for auntie Gertrude who has everything under the sun. Inevitably, come Christmas morning, we all seem to end up with a few things we don’t need, or worse, don’t want at all. And all our wallets are lighter for it in January.
It’s not just that we buy too much for others. We shop for ourselves for something to do on the weekend, browsing the latest fashion collections and the newest gadgets. We wouldn’t want to be caught out wearing the same dress to two different occasions, so we add another one to our already overflowing closets.
Two years ago I got sick. It was my trigger. All of a sudden I didn’t have enough energy to do all the things I had done before. I started to look for ways to nourish my body, to produce more energy. It has been a slow road back to full health, and it’s one I am still on. I also started to look for ways to simplify my life, to use less energy. For the first time in my life I was feeling the literal weight of all the boxes of random stuff in the spare room, and of choosing an outfit from hundreds of items of clothing. My stuff was stealing my precious energy, and I wasn’t even enjoying using most of it.
In my effort to simplify I started questioning things I had mindlessly done before, and all the things that I owned. Did I really need this? I started to go through my things, one small area at a time, donating to charity and throwing things away. Now, let me be clear, I am still doing this, two years later. I did not at one point “finish”, and live perfect minimalist life. Simplifying and decluttering is a journey, and I am still on it.
Eventually, a new normal emerged. One where I questioned what I did, what I bought and how I spent my time in a much more intentional way than ever before. Things that had previously seemed unthinkable became… thinkable. Not only that, it was – in my experience – better. Owning less material things and slowing down (having less to do and less to worry about) has turned out to be much more enjoyable than keeping up with the Joneses. Choosing less over more has meant that what remains truly adds value (and energy) to my life.
Try it: What material possessions or aspects of your schedule or day-to-day life weigh you down? Try changing it up, choosing to own or do less rather than more.