Category Archives: Relationships

What minimalism taught me about love

by Jessica Dang
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love

What does it mean to love?

To love is to care. To care about something, to care for someone, to appreciate its importance in your life and to be grateful for it.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that we say we love and care about, but we don’t act upon it.

Life gets in the way. We get distracted by work, money, commitments and a thousand other things which take our time and attention away from the things we care about.

In this way, minimalism can save us.

Giving time to the ones you love
When working long hours to pay the bills takes our time away from our friends, partners, and families, minimalism gives it back.

A minimalist lifestyle asks, ‘Do you need to be working so hard? What for?‘.
To pay the bills,‘ you might say, or ‘because I have to,‘ or even, ‘what else would I do instead?
Well, what if your bills weren’t so high? What if you didn’t have to? What if you had better things to do?

When I was growing up, my parents owned a hotel and restaurant and worked long hours from noon until past midnight. They would drop dinner off and go back to work. We didn’t see them for most of the day, and they were too tired to come to any of our shows or football games. They missed us growing up, but what for? We didn’t want or need much, but they couldn’t resist the feeling of security they got from earning more and more money. In the end, everything turned out okay, but there’ll always memories we never made because they were away working.

Doing the things you love
Unless you love your work, you probably spend most of your time doing something you dislike to fund a few weeks off a year to do something you do like. For a lot of people, it’s hard to find more than a few snatched hours during the week to do the things they enjoy.

A minimalist lifestyle asks, ‘Are you working to live, or are you living to work?‘.

Your time is limited, so making time for you means you are prioritising yourself. Do you have something that you’ve always wanted to do? Then for goodness’ sake, get started and do it. You’ll be making the most of being alive, which is the same as saying that you love life.

Loving yourself
It sounds like I’m telling people to quit their jobs, but work isn’t the enemy. It’s the things that people get obsessed with—possessions, status, wealth—that trap them into lifestyles that they’re not actually happy with. It turns them into people who they never imagined they’d be.

Distraction is the enemy. If we eliminate the distractions in life, take away the need for designer clothes and the status car, we’ll find that we’ll uncover the person who we are underneath.

Being true to who you are, who you’re supposed to be, surrounded by who and what you love is a form of loving yourself. Which is the most important love of all.

Book I’m reading now: The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own

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There’s no such thing as karma

by Jessica Dang
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 karma

…at least, not in the way that most people think of it.

There isn’t some cosmic accountant who keeps track of all the good and bad things that you do, then deals out rewards and punishment in accordance.

You can’t ‘build up good karma’ for doing something nice, and you can’t call karma a bitch because something bad happened to you.

Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. It’s sad, but it’s the truth. No one is keeping score for you.

There is some good news. The principle of karma actually refers to the causes and effects of your actions—although you can’t control everything that happens to you, you can influence it.

If you choose to be selfish, rude, or mean (yes, it is a choice) you may get away with it at first, but when it comes to people, what goes around comes around. Don’t be surprised if people are selfish, rude, or mean towards you.

If you choose to be generous, kind, and forgiving, people will remember that. And when the time comes when you need their help, you won’t be alone. Be giving because you want to create a better environment to live in, not because you want to build up your ‘karma points’ and bank on some future reward.

Whether or not you believe in heaven and hell in the afterlife, cause and effect is something that’s happening to you right now. Your decisions today affect your life tomorrow.

The saying is true, you reap what you sow.

 

What I learned from 7 years of minimalism

by Jessica Dang
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When I started this blog back in 2009, I was on my way to college and living away for the first time. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I only had a vague idea that I wanted to enjoy it, whatever that might mean.

Eventually I came to understand that the key to making the most of life is to be sure that there isn’t anything holding me back—to make sure that I am free.

When I look back at my earlier posts, I see that in some ways I’m still the same person, and in others I have grown a lot. Minimalism for me started out as just decluttering a few things so that it was easier for me to travel. Over the years, it has taken on a deeper meaning beyond getting rid of stuff. It’s a tool I used to get the most of what I want from life.

Like every practice, the beginning was easy—how to pare down, how to fit everything I owned into a suitcase, etc. The harder stuff came slowly over the years—like how to be grateful for what I have, and how to let go.

Here are some of the easier lessons I learned quickly, and the more advanced versions that took a few more years for me to put into practice.

Lesson 1: Essentials
Easy: Having only what I need—identifying the useful from the useless. Easy.
Advanced: Learning that what I need changes, and adapting to it—growing an awareness to what I wanted from life at different times was harder. When I travelled a lot, being able to move with just one bag was essential, now I’ve settled down and running a business, things are different. Without material distractions, I am constantly reviewing my goals and making sure I make steps towards achieving them. I can’t hang onto ideals like having  less than 100 things like I used to (there is such a thing as being too attached to minimalism) but I also have to be aware that the things I own don’t end up owning me.

Lesson 2: Life
Easy: Decluttering my home—throwing things in charity bags was easy, and so was not buying new things that I didn’t want just because it was fashionable or because other people had it.
Advanced: Decluttering my life—my distracted mind, unnecessary commitments, toxic relationships, are all things that were harder to get rid of. I took up meditation to focus my mind, I refused to do more work than I had to, and I phased out people who were emotionally taxing on me. It might sound a little selfish, but because of it I was able to concentrate living a better life, and helping other people who needed it more.

Lesson 3: Time
Easy: Minimalism helped me make time for what matters—not caring what other people thought, and learning to say no lead to fewer commitments, which gave me more time to do what I wanted, and what I felt was important to me.
Advanced: Once I had time, I needed to actually make the most of it—I had goals and dreams, and after minimalising distractions I had no excuses. It was time for the harder stuff. I studied hard and graduated. I worked and travelled. I trained and ran (a lot). I quit my job and started my own business. People who misunderstand minimalism are missing the harder lesson—it’s not about getting rid of stuff, it’s about making room for what’s important. And then actually doing it.

Lesson 4: Relationships
Easy: People can’t be ‘converted’ to minimalism—I learned very quickly that talking about minimalism in daily life to people who haven’t heard of it before made me sound like a new-age hippie.
Advanced: I can show them the benefits, or just not care—instead of just talking about it, I learned that a better approach would be to live my life how I want, and if people take notice or ask questions, then they are ready to listen. Otherwise, I’ve learned to not really care too much about what people do and how they live their lives.

Lesson 5: Charity
Easy: Practicing minimalism to make a better life for myself—I’ve lived abroad, moved several times, and now I live in a beautiful apartment. I don’t work 9-5, I wake up at whatever time I want, and take holidays whenever I want. Save a small student loan, I have no debt, and I don’t live paycheck to paycheck.
Advanced: Practicing minimalism to make a better life for others—instead of wasting my money on car payments or branded perfumes, I can donate to people in need. Instead of wasting my time on pretending to be busy at work, I run my own business which gives me more time to give to people I can help. There is still so much more I can give, and instead of just talking about it, minimalism has helped me find the path to do it. You wouldn’t believe how much time/money/effort/anguish you save when you don’t care about impressing anyone.

Lesson 6: Sentimentality
Easy: Digitizing—books, CDs etc. I buy digitally if I can help it. I scan important papers and take photos of things to make it easier to throw them away.
Advanced: Learning to let go altogetherI’ve come a long way but still have a lot to learn. I just can’t bring myself to throw away some things from my childhood, or keepsakes that mean a lot to me. So I keep them. There are no minimalist ‘rules’ to dictate me, or anyone. I’m not as strong as some people who really aren’t attached to anything. Maybe I’ll never be like that, but for now I don’t care. For me, learning to let go is an ongoing practice.

Lesson 7: Gratefulness
Easy: Learning about mindfulness and gratefulness—I’ve read dozens of books about the subject, including almost anything published my the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh (I even went to his retreat in Plum Village, France).
Advanced: Actually practicing it—remembering to be mindful, or grateful is hard. Whenever I realise, ‘I should be really grateful right now’, I find myself staring into blank space trying to do it, whatever that means. It’s hard. But I’m slowly getting better at appreciating small things, seeing the beauty in the ordinary, and recognising moments of happiness. I expect to be practicing this lesson for the rest of my life too.

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5 Ways to Strengthen Your Spirit – A Minimalist’s Guide

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In life, there are a lot of things that matter. For example, your work, your relationships, and your health. But there is something at the root of all these areas in our lives that connects them, which we can easily neglect like tending to flowers in the garden but not looking after the roots.

Even if things are going well for now, without looking after the roots, everything will eventually weaken over time.

The roots that connect all the areas in our lives is the strength of our spirit.

What do I mean by this? Your spirit is you, and all the things that make up what you are your mind, your body, your relationships, memories, character, actions, beliefs and values. These are the things that make us unique. Put together, in the end, your spirit will be your legacy.

It can be a story of weakness, discontentment, and regrets, or one of adventure, kindness and virtue. What you leave behind is up to you.

how to strengthen your spirit a minimalist’s guide

“Good timber does not grow with ease: The stronger wind, the stronger trees; The further sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength.” –Douglas Malloch

1. Cultivate courage. If you always stick to what you’re already comfortable with, you’ll never push past your current limits. Your spirit will never grow from being trapped in the confines of fear. Don’t fall into what is easiest, put yourself out there. Challenge yourself. It’s the hardship that builds strength. Try something new every day sometimes you’ll fail, but those are opportunities to learn and grow. You will have lived your life without regrets, because you tried everything that you wanted to. Through cultivating your courage, you can, and will, achieve great things.

Read: 5 Lessons Learned from Repeated Failure

2. Open your heart. Humans are naturally empathetic creatures. You can end up expending huge amounts of energy blocking out others and ignoring their suffering. In terms of spiritual growth, being selfish certainly doesn’t pay. Instead, be generous and give what you can not just money, but your time can also be as valuable. When you open up your heart, in a way you become vulnerable, but that’s not a bad thing. You’ll be more open to new ideas, listening to others, and learning new things. Challenge what you know, so that with reason you are able to support your views, or better yet, amend them. Put yourself on the line, and when you make it to the other side, you’ll be stronger.

Read: Be Vulnerable, Be Alive

3. Maintain balance. Demands in our every day lives pull us all over the place. Work, relationships, staying fit, all can take up our time until we feel like we have none left. It’s difficult to juggle it all – we can’t spend equal amounts in all areas, and we can’t all be perfect all the time. But with a bit of awareness we can identify areas we’ve been neglecting, and with practice, we can adjust until we feel we’ve reached an equilibrium between work and play. Along the way, we have to ditch the things that are wasting time, like too much TV, or more drastically, even our jobs if it’s sucking away too many hours and too much energy from what we really care about. Just like your body needs a certain amount of activity versus sleep to be fit and to get stronger (and too much of one will lead to breakdown) your spirit builds in the same way.

Read: Balancing Work Life With A Minimalist Life

4. Eliminate the weeds. Weeds are like parasites that creep up on us and suck away our energy. If you don’t pay attention to them, they’ll spread and take over our lives. If we are to cultivate a strong spirit, we need to eliminate these sources of toxic energy. This includes people and relationships that take up our time and emotional energy, but don’t give anything back, and things like partaking in gossip, complaining too much, and talking about people behind their backs. Other timewasters, like too much TV, social events that we feel obliged to go to but don’t enjoy, also need to be cut down if we are to spend more time on growing ourselves, or the relationships we care about. A more simplified lifestyle where we spend less money also has the benefit of saving us from working as much to sustain our lifestyle.

Read: Let go of your most toxic habit

5. Build integrity. Integrity is like food for our spirit. It energises it, and gives us life. Things like being honest and admitting to your mistakes so you can learn from them, and build your strength. Keep promises, to yourself and others, and follow through with what you say you’re going to do. People will come to rely on your word. When you are faced with a decision, try to do the right thing that’s best for the most people, instead of what’s right for just yourself. Be kind to others, and approach others with sincerity. You’ll attract more friendships this way, with other open and honest people. The relationships in your life will be much more fulfilling when they’re with people who love you back, and who give you back as much as you give them.

Read: Minimalism & The Noble Eightfold Path II – Ethical Conduct

The effect of doing all this is that you’re bound to leave the earth having a left a better impression than when you entered it. Your courage will inspire others, your open heart will make you closer to those you know and love, your balanced life without the weeds that sap your energy will allow you to do what you love, and your generosity and integrity will encourage others to do the same.

It won’t be easy. We don’t do all of these things by default. Rather, they are small actions that we build into habits, and through doing something small everyday, we build up a strong foundation for living a good and fulfilling life. The best thing is, none of these habits cost a penny.

In the end, it’s not how many things we own, or how many hours we’ve worked, or what title we have that matters. It’ll be the strength of your spirit that counts.

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Positive mindfulness – how to be grateful for the good things in life

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Kochi Castle Candle Festival - Jessica Dang

2013 was undeniably my best year so far. In the last twelve months, I have lived in three different cities, ran a marathon, graduated, moved to Japan, and got my dream job. 13 really is my lucky number.

If only I had more to remember it by…

Well, I’m not going to make the same mistake next year. My new year’s resolution will be short and sweet – to be grateful for the good things in life.

It’s easy to let one bad thing ruin a good day. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the good things we have to realise how lucky we are. I like to call it ‘positive mindfulness’.

There are so many things that can brighten up our day. A smile from a stranger, trying something new, seeing old friends, a challenging task, giving to others, a fulfilling job, a partner’s affection, overcoming an obstacle, finishing something, family gatherings, learning a new skill, a good workout, a genuine hug… the list goes on.

Almost everything that makes us truly happy in life doesn’t cost a thing. We just have to be mindful of them. Here are some ideas…

Three practical ways to stay positively mindful next year

1. Keep a ‘Gratitude Box’

Find a shoebox or something similar and place a notepad beside it. Every time something good happens to you, or if you feel particularly grateful for something, write a note about it, along with the date, and pop it in the box. Try to write one thing a day, or at least a couple a week.

At the end of next year, hopefully you’ll have a box stuffed full of notes… and hopefully reading back on them will make you smile/cry/laugh.

2. Make an ‘Amazing Day Collage’

Make a colourful collage or simply write a few post-it notes of all of the the things you can think of that would make your day. Stick them somewhere that you’ll see every morning. The notes will remind you of what to keep an eye out for throughout your day.

You’re more likely to notice the good things if you’ve been reminded to look out for them. Add more as you notice new things that make you smile.

3. One second of every day of 2014

This is such a simple idea. It’s a video showing just one second of everyday in a man’s life. Just as he saw it, just as it happened.

It inspires me to do the same. Some might think that recording their lives is an invasion of privacy, but personally, I have such a weak memory that I would be more grateful, rather than paranoid, if I could recall all of the lovely memories I made this year. Also, I don’t have to share it publicly, and I don’t get up to that much mischief anyway!

At the same time, some moments are made to be enjoyed, not photographed. In any case, whether or not I decide to record the moment, the most important thing is that I’m having fun.

Do you have any suggestions to stay positively mindful next year? Let me know in the comments.

Happy New Year folks!

Be Vulnerable, Be Alive

 

There will always be a reason why you can’t or shouldn’t. 

But there’s rarely a justification for won’t.

It can take a lifetime to build up walls to protect yourself from getting hurt. Brick by brick, we build our defences and prepare ourselves for battle with all the people that come in and out of our daily lives – family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, bosses, enemies and lovers. All of them are puzzle pieces, big and small, that fit together and make us the person we are. We talk, hug, avoid, compete, compare, shake hands, tell secrets, share interests, reveal feelings or even spend long silences with all sorts of circles of people that constantly change as we grow and move on.

The world is a scary place, there are those out there who can hurt us, hate us for what they think we are, but in turn there are those who can love us for being exactly who I am.

We could spend our lives hiding away, protecting ourselves from even the possibility of being hurt. We could keep our feelings hidden, never say what we want to say, avoid risk and never tell somebody that we love them.

But what kind of world would we be living in if we all did that?

Or we could take a chance. Open our hearts. Tell somebody how special they are and how much they mean to us. We could let go of our insecurities, fear and pride, and in return, get back something much more valuable.

If only we let ourselves be vulnerable.

There’s always a chance you’ll get hurt. That’s true of almost anything, but what if for once you ignored the voice of reason and took that step that will change your life?

You’ll never know the outcome of anything unless you give it a try. And ‘to try’ is to be willing to put everything on the line to see it through.

When it’s raining, most people head for cover. What if you danced in it instead?

Be vulnerable, be alive.

 

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Time to prioritize

In the field of Economics, one of the first things that you learn is that resources are scarce. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is little of it. There many things that there are almost unlimited quantities of. Almost.

But the one thing there is never an unlimited quantity of is your time.

Even with all the money in the world, you can never buy enough time to do everything you want.

Opportunity cost is what you sacrifice in order to be able to do something with your limited time. You can’t go out and study at the same time. You can’t join all the clubs. You can’t have the convenience of fast food and be healthy. You can’t please everyone. You have to choose. There are rarely times you can have your cake and eat it too.

On top of that, there isn’t an unlimited amount of you. Whenever you are stretched too thin, you’ll find yourself with a large quantity of things, but without enough time or money to develop quality.

You can know a little about a lot of things, or a lot about a few things. You can have lot’s of friends that are really just acquaintances or you could  invest time in cultivating good, longer lasting friendships. You can help make a tiny impact on many people, or a change the life of a few people.

Neither is really wrong. By prioritizing what is important to you can discover for yourself which is better for you. Whichever you decide, quantity or quality, can be adapted in different situations; course, friends, clothes, food, skills, activities, to suit you. Sometimes it’s quantity that’s better, sometimes it’s quality.

When it comes to buying things, having stuff, minimalism is about definitely about quality over quantity. More wholesome and nutritious food over vast quantities of junk. More high quality, versatile and longer-lasting clothes/furniture/equipment over cheap and disposable stuff.

If you really want to get things done properly, you have to prioritize – choose what you want the most, because you can’t do them all, and it would be a shame if it was because of that you ended up not doing anything at all.

On that note, I’m prioritizing writing for Minimal Student as part of my Five Focus of 2011. This year, I’m aiming to publish more frequent, shorter posts like this one, tell me what you think! You can also follow my Twitter which I now update daily with what I’m up to, minimalist tips and awesome links.

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Half the battle

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little”.  ~ Edmund Burke

Welcome Becoming Minimalist readers! This is the second half of the guest post I wrote over at Joshua’s blog, please check it out if you haven’t already!

As minimalists, we’ve given up a lot of stuff.

We’ve stopped buying, eating, driving, watching TV and generally consuming as much as we used to.

We’ve changed our lives for the better and for many of us, there’s no going back.

But as Christmas appraoches, I’m beginning to wonder, is it enough?

Is it enough to just stop taking?

half the battle

We’ve gotten very far to be where we are now. But still, I can’t help but feel we’re only halfway there.

Yes, as minimalists, we’ve given up a lot of stuff, but as human beings we need to start giving too.

For many of us, we are lucky enough to have the choice to stick with having less. But there are many people who didn’t get to make that decision.

Minimalists choose to have enough, but there are some people who don’t even have that.

what can we do?

Spread the word. Show people there is another way instead of spending hours in a shopping mall fretting over which perfume to get their loved one this year. People have forgotten that Christmas is a season of giving (and I don’t mean pointless presents) – we’re supposed to be generous, kind and caring. Instead, it’s become a time for wanting, taking and demanding for things we think we need to be happy.

Before I get any emails about it, I’m not saying let’s abandon Christmas. I have some very fond memories of Christmas with my family and friends. Actually, it’s especially because I love Christmas that I hate to see it transformed into something ugly.

If you think about it, it’s spending time with other people and making other people happy that makes you happy. The present giving tradition probably stemmed from people wanting to make their kids or their friends happy by giving them something from the heart. But TV and magazine advertisements, card companies and shopping malls have made Christmas into a season of over spending, competitiveness, material desire and stuffing ourselves.

If only we spent a little less money on brand clothing, toys, cards, decorations and the like, we could help people who don’t even have clothes to wear or even a home at all.

If only we ate a little less just because of the date of the year, we could help people who don’t have much to eat the whole year around.

If only we spent less time shopping or working so much, we’ll have more time to give to our family, our friends, our community and those that need us.

We can’t do everything, but we can do something. You don’t need more money, you just have to spend less. And you don’t need a lot of time, you just have to simplify more.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one”.  ~ Mother Teresa

From our cosy houses sometimes we forget that winter is a cold season. There are people in the streets. There are people who are hungry. We may not be able to change the world, but even if we help one person, we can make a world of a difference to them.

Change somebody’s world this Christmas.

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PS. Speaking of giving, thank you Lip from The Lazy Pixel for helping me fix a few broken links in previous posts.

PPS. The Minimalist Christmas Challenge is still running, subscribe to the Twitter feed for daily de-cluttering prompts!

kids, me and minimalism in the future

Minimalism and kids sound like polar opposites. A lot of people believe that having kids makes living a minimalist lifestyle impossible.

But does that necessarily mean that if you don’t have kids, then minimalism is easy for you? I don’t think so.

kids

At the moment, I only know what living a student/traveller lifestyle feels like. If you are either of those, then I would guess that many of my posts apply to you. Of course everyone is welcome, but if you do have kids, perhaps my version of minimalism doesn’t fit you. Of course it won’t, it’s different for everyone of all ages and circumstances.

I absolutely love kids. I teach them, I live with them, I take care of them. But as for myself, I want to travel, move around and see things before I settle down. Things are different if you have a house, a job and family commitments – your aims probably aren’t the same as mine.

But that doesn’t mean it is impossible. For the ‘other side’ of my kind of minimalism, I recommend Zen habits writer Leo who has six kids and minimalist father Joshua Becker who has written some perfect posts about this subject:

If you have a family,  I recommend you read their blogs too. They have shown me that it is perfectly possible to minimalize in some way, and that it’s not as simple as black and white – as in young people can do it but parents can’t – anyone can be a minimalist. It’s a tough truth to learn because too many people think that having kids gives them the excuse to give up or not even try.

me

It’s true that I don’t have to worry about my own kids, but that doesn’t make me a naive teenager. In fact, I have a brother who is eleven years younger than me, so I spent the better part of the last decade changing diapers, making school runs and dealing with toys, messiness and all the things they bring home from school (including the colds) in between my homework assignments, exams, clubs and social commitments. On top of that, even though I’ve been very lucky to be where I am now, it hasn’t always been easy and I’ve had to learn some harsh lessons on the way.

Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean it was an easy ride for me either. There are things I have to worry about too. In any case, if a minimalism makes sense to you, then things like my age and where I’m from shouldn’t matter. I actually live the life that I talk about, and I have seen proof with my own eyes that my life has improved for the better. Good things have happened to me one after another because I have adopted a minimalist lifestyle – there’s no way I’m turning back now.

minimalism in the future

Will I still be a minimalist in 10 years time? Obviously I can’t predict the future, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to discard this lifestyle like a fad for a life of excessiveness, hoarding and debt. The reason I am minimalist is because it really makes my life better, and by consuming less, I have more time and money to help others in need too. These are my principles, like it is for people to be honest and compassionate – I don’t see myself ditching my morals any time soon.

Of course my version of minimalism right now will be different from what it will be in the future. It will change as I change. But that’s okay, because you’re supposed to be making minimalism fit you and not the other way around.

I have a good feeling minimalism will be with me for a long long time.

Reader notice: I will be starting a new ‘Minimalist Quick Tip’ section on my Twitter feed – subscribe to get short and helpful prompts on how to declutter your life!


minimalism 101

I’m very happy to announce that this week, I was featured in the UK The Times newspaper magazine.

It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my short lifetime, and it’s incredibly humbling to realize that there are people who will listen to someone like me has to say.

So, with honor, I would like to say, welcome The Times readers!

This post is for you, but also for my current readers as well as my friends and family who I have kept this blog a secret from for so long. It’s a complete definition of what in the world ‘minimalism’ is, I predict that only a small percentage of people will actually read this post from beginning to end, but I can guarantee that you will be a different person by the end of it if you do.

If you’ve never heard of minimalism before, I should warn you that I’m going to make some pretty bold statements, but if there is anything this blog has shown me, is that there are also many people apart from myself who absolutely believe them to be true.

what is minimalism all about?

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Socrates

Minimalism is all about having enough. It’s about having only what you need, no more, and especially no less.

‘What you need’ can refer especially to your possessions, but can also include your commitments, relationships, work and lifestyle.

All our lives we’re told that we want to have more money so that we can achieve ‘our dreams’ of owning a big house with a pool in the back, a fancy sports car and expensive shoes so we can gain the label of ‘success’. We’re told to know the latest gossip, watch the latest shows, know what everyone is doing on facebook, and jump from relationship to relationship otherwise we’re labelled ‘loners’. We’re told that we should always be ‘busy’, because if we’re not busy we’re being lazy. We’re told all of these criteria and more about how we ‘should’ live our lives and what we should have so that we can be ‘happy’.

But that’s not the whole story. In real life, there are people that have and do all of these things, and yet they’re no happier than the people who don’t. And there are people who have none of these things and are very happy with their lives. Clearly this means that it can’t be the above things that make people happy.

But despite this, there are people who wake up in the morning only to look forward to an hour of sitting in their car in bad traffic, then sitting at their desk doing a job that makes them bored or tired, then going home exhausted and sitting in front of the TV, then spending their weekends spending the money they earned to buy things that ‘make them happy’ when all they’re really doing is perpetuating the cycle.

If you ask these people what they look forward to the most the answer is usually something like their next vacation abroad, or they’re saving up to buy something big and special, or they’re waiting for their retirement… all of which are things that only occur occasionally, whilst the rest of the 90% of their lives are spent… just waiting.

a new way of thinking

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.
-Vernon Howard

What’s the secret to happiness? This topic has been researched extensively, but I know many people have already found the answer.

It’s minimalism.

Do you think I’m making a pretty bold statement here? It’s up to you, but here are my reasons.

Essentially, minimalism is about breaking out of the mould of always wanting more. It’s about finding happiness in what we have already, instead of chasing something that is always out of reach. Once one gains something they’ve wanted for a long time, they only find temporary happiness.

Think about all of the times you’ve gotten what you wanted, do you still want them now? Of course not, because you got it. But my guess is that you want something else right now. So you have moved on from that thing you orignially wanted so badly. Don’t worry, everyone does it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but minimalism helps you break out of exactly this vicious cycle.

Why do people want things, like the latest gadget, car or in-season clothes? Most of the time it’s to boost their ego, or to show off how much money they have, or to fit in or to confirm that they are doing well in life. These people aren’t bad or selfish, in fact, I used to be exactly like that because we hadn’t been taught any other way. But now I have, and I’ve stopped worrying about what others think of me and started making some real friends who love me for who I am, not what I have.

realism or idealism?

Well that’s all well and good, but I have to pay the rent and my credit card bills“. I get this remark a lot, because people are focussing on the the wrong issue. They think minimalism is about being practically homeless – with few possessions, looking ugly and hoarding all of their money, but that’s not it at all. I have always said that minimalism is different for everyone, and it cannot be measured in set rules like that. Sometimes, it’s impractical for people to give up their jobs, especially if there are people who rely on them. If you have kids and you’re wondering what this has all got to do with you, I would suggest checking out Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker (somebody who I’ve looked up to for a long time and had supported my blog in it’s early stages), who manages very well with being a minimalist and a parent.

But there is always something you can do. If you downsize from a huge house, you can probably afford to live in a better location. If you just get rid of the clothes you know you’ll never wear, then maybe it won’t be so hard to open and close your wardrobe. If you spend less time watching trashy TV shows you’ll forget about in a week, or films you’ve seen before, then you can spend more time with friends and family or developing a skill or doing a hobby. If you spend more time cycling than driving, you can spend less time worrying about traffic, your health and the environment.

You don’t have to give up everything, it’s about reducing to what you really need. You can still dress fashionably without wasting money on brands, watch TV that is actually worth watching and drive a car when you need to. Just do what feels right for you. If you know me, or any other minimalists, you’ll just see a regular person. We’re not that different on the outside, just the inside.

Some people think that minimalism is against human nature. They think that if humans stop wanting more, things will stop progressing. If people have no ambition and drive, then ideas and innovations cease. People will stop working hard and just stick to their lowly jobs. This is not true. You can be happy with everything you have, and still improve yourself and society. The difference is this: as long as you are happy right now and not basing your happiness on obtaining the next thing or stage, then you’re practising minimalism, because you’re already happy. From then on, you’re working because you love what you do, not so that you can obtain happiness – because that kind of thinking never works, you will always be hanging on for ‘the next thing/stage’ , and when you get there, there will be another thing and then another thing… We should have more faith in human nature than thinking it is to be greedy.

Every human being is born to be happy. That is our life purpose. From those born poor or rich. Even the bad villains we see in movies are just trying to find happiness in their own way.

We deserve more than to be constantly waiting for happiness.

happiness

Live simply so that others may simply live.
HH Dalai Lama

A post that has been consistently popular since I published it is ‘Why minimalism brings happiness‘. People are looking for an answer.

But what is happiness exactly? How do we know if we are ‘happy’?

What happiness means is different for everyone, and in my opinion there isn’t one complete definition, but for me, happiness means that

I am feeling how I want to feel, I am doing everything I want to do, and I am at peace.

How do I want to feel? I want to feel good about contributing as little as I can to the waste and pollution of the Earth. I want to feel good that I have enough time and money to give away to people who need it more than me. And finally, I want to feel that I’ve made a positive impact, no matter how small, on the people around me and thus a difference in the world. No matter what, I’m determined to leave this world in a better state than how I entered it, that is what happiness means to me.

why I became minimalist

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Confucius

So let’s keep it simple. Apart from being happy, I became a minimalist for three reasons. For my:

1. Health. Minimalism keeps me healthy. Just check out my previous posts on a minimalist diet, my minimalist kitchen, minimalist exercise, cycling, runningand so on.

2. Study. I am a student, who is in love with her major. Through minimalism, I’ve been able to be where I want to be. If you want to find where I am, check out ‘the big reveal – my year abroad‘.

3. Dreams. Finally, I became minimalist so that I can eliminate distractions from my life. Without things that don’t matter cluttering up my life, I can focus my time, efforts and money on my dream of being able to travel the world because I am a firm believer of experiences over possessions.

I am happier now than I have ever been. And I predict in the future that I will be even happier than I am now. Hopefully, my happiness will never stop because I find myself wanting something I can’t have, or because I put my life on hold to get something I want. Of course there will be ups and downs, but what can I say, I’m an optimist.

An optimist is a person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.
Mark Twain

make a difference

When I started this blog, I did it anonymously because I thought it was so that I could chat about minimalism with people who felt the same. But in the Times article, my identity has been revealed to everyone, including my family and friends who had very little idea about what I was up to. Why did I agree to reveal myself in the article? Believe me, it wasn’t for fame or recognition or anything like that, I don’t care about that stuff.

This blog is my way of expressing the message of minimalism. It isn’t a cult, or a religion to follow, and I never preach or push about it in real life. Minimal Student blog is my way of spreading the word and to making the small change in the world that I have always wanted. I just want others to be happy, and if this is the way they’ll find it, that makes me even happier.

where to go from here

I’ve linked to a few of my past posts above but they are by no means all of them. If you want to read more, check out my most popular posts or read a little about me. You can also check out a few series I’m currently working on Simple Philosophies, 5 Life Lessons and Minimalist Meditations.

I have already mentioned some of these blogs above, but just in case you didn’t check them out, I want to thank the following people who have inspired me:

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. Thank you for reading and thank you for your helpful comments and encouraging emails. If you find any of the posts helpful to you in some way, please help me keep Minimal Student going by making even just a tiny teeny donation.

If you can’t see the donate button, please click here!

Have you changed even just a little since the beginning of this post? I look forward to hearing from you.