If you have recently discovered minimalism, or you’re naturally quite minimalistic, it can get a little frustrating to watch your family and friends spend large amounts of time and money acquiring material things like more clothes, a new gadget or even a new and bigger car or house. It can get be upsetting to see the people you care about base their happiness on whether or not they will obtain these material things. What happens when they don’t get what they want?
You want them to be happy, despite having, or not having this stuff. You want to shake their shoulders and shout ‘YOU DON’T NEED ALL THIS STUFF, YOU CAN BE HAPPY RIGHT NOW!”. But we all know that people won’t change simply because you tell them to. The only way they will change for the better is if they want to change.
Think about it. If you’re reading this it’s probably happened to you. You’ve seen how people following a minimalist lifestyle have changed their lives for the better. So you began to change too.
…And when people see how much better off you’ve become, they’ll follow suit. As the saying goes, “We must fix ourselves before we can fix others”.
Why not start a movement around you, starting with yourself?
how to change the world
1. Lead by example. Go out and do things with your the time and money you’ve saved through minimalism. Show people all the good things you’ve gained because you gave up falling for marketing ploys. What have you always wanted to do? What do you love? Why not travel, gain experience, write a book or blog, go for a walk, run in the park, get on a rollercoaster, learn to play an instrument, draw something, see a play …be free! When I started doing these kind of things, I got a few comments like “how do you find the time?” to which I smiled and said “I just don’t go to work as much!” (silently thinking “…because my life overhead is so low!”).
2. Show before telling. It might seem irresistible to make a comment here or there about how people live. It’s not necessarily bad, you might just want to let them know that they really don’t need another x but they probably won’t listen. For some reason, people don’t really appreciate you telling them how they would feel if only they would do y. Lecturing too much can create a distance between you and that person, and can make it even more difficult for them to change for the better. From experience, I’ve found my with-held comments more useful as motivation for myself to keep living minimally. For example, instead of simply telling others they shouldn’t don’t really drive in a car so much/at all, I just keep reminding myself not to!
3. Be helpful. Donate the things you don’t need to charities. Give money to causes you care about. You can make a positive impact on other people’s lives at the same time as you are downsizing. There’s bound to be someone who will appreciate Aunt Hester’s Christmas sweater more than you will! You change the world through the people you touch, but it doesn’t have to only be friends and family. You can change the world for the better – even if only just a little – by helping strangers out too.
4. Be content. Whether you own nothing or everything, you won’t be happy until you’re satisfied with what you already have. Not only that, but it’s also important that you are content of where and who you are. In the words of Eckhart Tolle “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it“. Only by being content with where you are can you show others that they should be content with where they are too. It may sound a little idealistic, but I believe that the more people there are that are happy with what they have, the less consumerism, materialism and greed there will be in world. I think it’s really true – it’s already happened to a handful of minimalists and aspiring minimalists… it’s already happened to you!
5. Smile. Finally, just be positive! Smile whenever you can because you’re no longer a slave to stuff. Because you’re not running in the rat race. Because you have time to do the things you enjoy. Even if you’re not all the way there yet, at least you’ve made progress. Even if it’s just one step (like reading Minimal Student) you’ve taken bounds that many haven’t even contemplated yet! Smile and show others that life is for actually living, not for just making a living.
Over the last few years that I’ve become a minimalist, I’ve definitely seen changes in the pack rats around me, especially in my family, who have bagged piles of clothes for charity. It may not be much, but if all of us can just influence one or two other people just a little, we’d be much closer to the minimalist utopia we all love to dream about
To finish off, here is one of my favourite poems:
When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.
As I grew older and wiser I realised the world would not change. And I decided to shorten my sights somewhat and change only my country. But it too seemed immovable.
As I entered my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I sought to change only my family, those closest to me, but alas they would have none of it.
And now here I lie on my death bed and realise (perhaps for the first time) that if only I’d changed myself first, then by example I may have influenced my family and with their encouragement and support I may have bettered my country, and who knows I may have changed the world.
Have you had any experience (or better yet, success) with encouraging your friends and family to live more minimalistically? How did it go? Do you have any more ideas? Please let me know in the comments!