Category Archives: Relationships

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.

Related Posts

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.

How to create a good minimalist social life

It’s quite a common misconception that minimalists live unsocial lives. Sure, there are some that prefer to be on their own every now and again, but that doesn’t mean that they want to be alone. The aim of most minimalists is to cut out distractions from their lives so that they can achieve the things they’ve always wanted to do.

Being ‘social’ can mean a lot of different things to different people, but because I’ve been asked a few times about it, I will talk about the ‘going out to clubs/bars/parties at night’ kind of social. I know that for some people, ‘being social’ doesn’t involve alcohol!

Anyway, it requires a huge amount of self-awareness that a lot of people need to develop in order to see what they are doing – whether it is going out too much or too little, is the right amount for them. Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the past few years constantly trying to balance this area of my life with others.

1. ‘Minimalist’ doesn’t mean none or less, it means just enough. Rarely does minimalism ever mean having nothing of something. Nor does it mean having less of something than you need. If you get carried away with reducing everything down, you’ll have nothing left. The key is to reduce excess amounts of parties, late nights and drinking binges to an amount which you will have time to get the most important things in your life done first. Most people achieve this by refusing to go out until they’ve done all of their assignments, that way, whatever time they have left is free for them to do whatever they want with it.

2. It’s different for everyone. Everyone has their own social wants and preferences about how much they want to go out and how much they want to spend time with their friends or family. It depends on a ton of things whether or not you go out twice a month or twice a week – including your personality, schedule, circle of friends, town, financial situation etc etc. If a minimalist feels that going out too much, then they would just reduce it to the right amount for them. There’s no official standard of sociability that fits everyone.

3. Don’t give into pressure. Don’t let people force you into something you don’t want to do. Of course, inevitably, you may be a little influenced by the closest people around you, but if you hear a voice inside telling you that something isn’t right, or you really don’t want to do something, that’s your internal compass trying to guide you. It gets weaker every time you ignore it so listen to it every once in a while. For some people, they’ve squished it down enough times that they’ll just do whatever and ‘go with the flow’. What they don’t realize is that they have no control where ‘the flow’ is going.

4. Pressure yourself sometimes. However, sometimes, we don’t feel like going out, but when we get there, we think “Actually, this isn’t so bad, I’m glad I came now“. A lot of the time, I used to dread getting ready for a night out but once I was out there, I realized I was having way more fun than I would if I had taken the lazy option of staying at home. Sometimes, you should try to get out there even if you don’t feel like it, you never know who you’ll meet or what might happen. Adventure and surprise is the spice of life.

5. Remember to have fun. On that note, as much as you should aim to get all of the important stuff done in you life, if you have an awesome time with your friends, by all means spend lot’s of time with them. If it’s not your thing, then do something else that’s fun – whether that’s relaxing with a good book or going for a run on your own. You don’t have to follow other people’s prescriptions and ideas about what is ‘fun’. Find your own version, and do that. A good principle to follow is to just go wherever you will laugh, smile and create great memories.

Related Posts

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Attachment, defined.

In many of my posts, I talk about not getting attached to things, because it makes it harder to let go. In my last post, I talked about trying to not get too attached to people and places, because it makes it harder when you inevitably have to say goodbye (or do you?).

But you can’t go through life not making friends or going places just because you don’t want to get hurt.

In response to my last post Debbie V said

Reading your post made me wonder if minimalism can be sometimes related to a person’s avoidance of emotional attachments to people. Just a thought. Holding on some things from the past – memories, friendships, even those mementos of very important events – is important to my sanity. These things sustain me in the rough times of the present. There’s a balance.

Thank you Debbie for your comment, I really appreciate it! I’ve wanted to clarify this point for a long time.

attachment, defined.

Attachment to something means:

  • you depend on having it to be happy
  • you never want to let it go because you think it will make you less happy

The problem with attachment is that you are depending of something outside of yourself to be happy. But we all know that nothing lasts forever. Things can break, get stolen, be misplaced, lost in a house fire, become redundant and a hundred other things. People can move on, drift away, change, fall out of love, get in an accident, move house and more. So your happiness is only temporary if you rely on them for it.

If you want to achieve stable happiness, you need to find it in yourself, not in things or other people.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have deep and lasting relationships, it just means you don’t depend on them to be happy.

For example, imagine a couple A. You have probably witnessed something like this before. They meet, they get together and ‘fall in love’. They spend all their time together. They think they’re really happy and they can’t stand to be apart.

But, after a while, they start to notice things about the other person that irks them. Eventually, they get into fights and break up. They’re used to spending all their time together, so they’re really unhappy because they’re alone. They can’t stand it, so they get back together. But all of the issues that caused them to break up in the first place come back, and they break up again. The cycle continues because they can’t stand the unhappiness that comes with being together, but they can’t stand the unhappiness that comes from being alone. They depend too much on having the other. It’s a downward spiral.

This is a typical example of an emotional dependency (attachment) to one’s partner. I know this doesn’t happen to everyone, but I know that in my experience, it does happen.

Now imagine couple B:

A couple ‘fall in love’. They spend a lot of time together, but they also spend some time apart. They miss the other person when they’re away, but they find their own life that is separate from their partner’s. They share things, and depend on the other person, but not all the time. They are independent, strong people together and on their own. They support each other and don’t hold the other back for selfish reasons. They’re not needy, suspicious or joined at the hip. Instead they’re honest, trusting, and strong. Because of this, their relationship is deep and fulfilling.

Should something bad happen to the other person, of course they would be devastated, just like anyone else. But they know that the other person would want them to find a way to move on, instead of losing their ‘life’ too.

They don’t agree on everything, and it’s not always easy for them either. But they keep an open mind, they’re willing to compromise and contribute equally to the relationship. They’ll probably live a long and happy life.

Couples A and B illustrate the difference between a relationship made of attachment and a truly loving relationship.

Yes, a part of minimalism is about avoiding attachments. But it’s not about avoiding emotions. You don’t have to be scared of meeting new people, making friends, or finding partners. If another person makes you happy, let them.

If keeping mementos from a holiday makes you happy, then keep them. Minimalists aren’t trying to avoid things because we don’t want to get emotionally attached, we try to avoid the things that can lower our happiness.

Where we can help it, I believe we can greatly contribute to our own happiness by finding it within ourselves and taking it wherever we go, instead of having to drag around another person or piles of junk with us, because let’s face it, they’re pretty heavy.

I’m really interested to know what you guys think about this topic. Let me know in the comments!

PS. If you liked this post, please help Minimal Student spread the word by sharing the love!

Do you have to say goodbye to everything?

I never travelled much as a kid. I moved house only once before I came to university. For various reasons, the only time I had been on holiday was when I was five.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to travel. In fact, it makes me want to travel even more. I chose to do a language degree and a ‘Teach English as a Foreign Language’ (TEFL) course specifically so that I can travel. The desire for adventure has always been in me, which, I think, accounts for my minimalism. I believe it gives me freedom.

A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to the place where I had been staying for a year. I said goodbye to all of the stuff I had given away. I said goodbye to the people that I would never see again, and the people that had become my friends.

It’s always difficult to say goodbye, and it makes sentimental people like me feel a tiny bit heartbroken everytime.

  • It’s easier to not buy something, than to let go of something old.
  • It’s easier to meet new people, than to say goodbye to friends.
  • It’s easier to visit a new place, than to leave a familiar place.

But it would be impossible (and very boring) to live a life where you never bought anything, met anyone or went anywhere. Slowly I realised, if it hurts so much, why even say goodbye? ‘Goodbye’ is sad, it’s another way of saying ‘I’ll never see you again’.

One of the most essential ‘skills’ a minimalist can have is the ability to let go. If you attach enormous amounts of emotional baggage to everything and everyone, you’ll have little left for yourself.

So instead, why not think a little differently? The people you will never see again will continue with their own lives, so wouldn’t it be better to wish them ‘Good luck‘? Or if it’s a place where you spent a lot of time, how about ‘thanks for the memories‘. Sometimes, it’s difficult to say goodbye to our things, like old clothes for example, but even if it sounds silly it really helps to think ‘thanks, and now you can go to someone who will find a better use for you‘.

This summer, I will be leaving home to go abroad to a far away place for a whole year. Just like this past year, I know there will inevitably be many people and places that will come in and out of my life. I can either:

  • get too attached to them, and be upset when I have to leave,
  • or I can enjoy it while it lasts and depart with a smile and a headful of great memories.

Do you have to say goodbye to everything? Or can you say goodbye without having to say it?

PS. If you liked this post, please help Minimal Student spread the word by sharing the love!

5 ways to create a minimalist’s world

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.

~ Anonymous

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!

Related Posts

Say Uncle

If you’re reading this first thing in the morning, I suggest you save it for later, because a massive dollop of mobidity is about to come you way. I hope you forgive me!

Today, I’ll be making my way via a long car journey to visit my extended family because a few days ago, my uncle suddenly passed away.

My family literally came from nothing. I think they practically invented the phrase “with just the clothes on their backs”. All their lives they have worked in order to aquire material possessions because that was the only way they knew how to get a better life. My Dad spent years trading hours for minimum wage at a clothing factory until it got shut down. Without a job left to feed his family, he used his savings to take a risk and it paid off. Now my Dad is an entrepreneur who doesn’t have to swap his time away for cash.

Because of their background, it’s very difficult for my family to understand minimalism. I choose minimalism because I want to be able to afford experiences, like being able to see the world instead of being stationary and building a houseful of junk. Sometimes, I talk about the pursuit of minimalism as if it is the same as the pursuit of happiness. I have believed this to be true for a long time, but is it true for everyone? What difference does it make if you die happy vs if you die alone, aren’t you still dead?

The only answer that I can come up with is that death can’t be helped, but how you get there is up to you. At times, life may seem futile, but if you can’t control how and when you are going to die, you might as well control how you are going to live.

My uncle has reminded me that life is so so fragile, and death can be really unexpected. Being relatively young has little to do with when death will come a-knockin’. It’s like betting on red on roulette when it’s been black five times in a row. The ball doesn’t care which colour it’s been on before, just like it doesn’t make a difference to Death if you’re young, old, healthy, wealthy or wise.

I think what I’m trying to say is that my uncle, my Dad and the rest of my family have worked all their lives for more and more money, and yet of course, they’re not immune to death. But in doing so, I think to some extent they’ve sacrificed a little bit of happiness along the way.

My uncle will be leaving behind a business, a house, a car, his wardrobe, a shed full of tools, as well as his family. Now all of the stuff he left behind will be a massive burden on his family, since they don’t want to get rid of it, but it hurts too much to keep.

But of course, you don’t really know until you get there. My uncle could have felt very proud during his last moments to have left behind a house and enough money for his wife and kids. I don’t think he would have believed minimalism would make him happy, and in this case, I sure hope he didn’t.

7 Difficult Lessons I Learnt from College

In such a short time, I’ve learnt more about life and other people than I have in the past ten years. In fact, I’ve probably learnt more about myself than I have in my whole life. Coming home has given me a chance to reflect on a few of the things I’ve learnt during the last couple of months at university.

1. People don’t magically become mature upon arrival. I was really disappointed to find that people don’t automatically become responsible adults when they go to uni. I naively believed that people would know how to take care of themselves once they left home. But I can’t help feeling a little disheartened when I think about the massive pile of dishes people leave in the sink and bits of food on the counter-tops thinking their mothers are right around the corner to clean up after them.

2. Not everyone is considerate of others. On the same note, I’ve found out that a lot of people don’t realise that some of the things they are doing are making others suffer. Perhaps ‘suffer’ is a bit strong, but I mean it in the sense that they are making other people’s lives a little harder to live. The dishes are one example. Another would be the loud drum and bass that goes on until 4am on weekdays when some other people (*cough) have early morning lectures almost everyday.

3. Some people come to go to uni, but don’t go. I’ve seen a lot people put the education that they are supposed to be getting from university at the bottom of their priorities. For some reason, they’ve have decided to pay thousands of pounds and travel miles and miles away from home just to party or sleep in late. I’ll be honest and say that it’s difficult for me to empathize with these people, I know people can’t be perfect all the time, but it’s still hard for me to understand the thinking that goes behind these decisions.

4. There’s still peer pressure out there. Another hard lesson I learnt is that peer pressure doesn’t disappear after high school. It’s just become less obvious. Instead of directly asking people if they want to try something, there is just a general feeling that you’re not cool or ‘living like a proper student’ if you don’t try everything or suffer from crippling hangovers every other morning.

5. I can’t change who I really am. So enough bashing of other people, lest you think I’m on a high horse. Before going to uni I really believed I could become a hip, cool, laidback person that looked great and had a fantastic time. But uni isn’t like that in real life. In real life, there are deadlines, budgets and limited time. I can’t spend entire evenings going out and I can’t avoid all my lectures and assignments. In the first couple of weeks I really tried being a party-loving student, but after a while it just got too repetitive, too expensive and too tiring. In the end, I realised what was important to me and became myself again, someone who loves to party – but also someone who is driven and loves learning.

6. There’s no substitute for elbow grease. In my course, if you don’t prepare, you don’t know the answer. And if you don’t know the answer, you’re buggered. There’s no getting away with it, and you can’t waffle your way through a question or skim read material you’re supposed to have memorised. I’ve learnt the importance of proper preparation and revision techniques through experiencing the consequences of not doing it. Sometimes, there’s just no getting away from the un-glamorous-ness of pulling on a hoody and hitting the library.

7. You get back what you put in (and more). I’ve learnt that any experience becomes as good as what you put in. If you put in lot’s of passion and effort you’ll be greatly rewarded with good grades and have a fantastic time. If you constantly expect things to be boring, difficult or not up to your standards then it will inevitably turn out that way. But if you give things a chance, who knows, it might turn out better than you expected.

I learnt all of these lessons outside of the classroom. The fact that most of them are negative is actually a massive positive. I really feel I’ve gained some valuable life experience that they don’t teach you in books. I can take all of these difficulties and complain about them, or I can use them to learn about others and about life. Here’s hoping I’ll learn many more difficult lessons in the years to come.

Birthday

Last night, I stayed up until past midnight, meditating. I wanted to be fully aware and mindful when the clock struck twelve because today, is my birthday.

I don’t know what it is about birthdays, but lately I’ve can’t help but feel melancholic whenever I think about them. Not that I’m old, far from it, but every year it is a reminder of the things I haven’t done and how time is ticking on.

There’s so much I want to accomplish, and when I count them, I realise that I probably don’t have enough years of my life to do them all. But I’m reminded by an extract from one of my a work by Lucius Seneca – ‘On the Shortness of Life’:

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested”.

I find writings like this quite lifting, and one of my favorites of all time is an essay written by Edmund N. Carpenter, age 17, in June 1938. He was a graduate of Harvard who would go on to win the Bronze Star for his service in World War II and to a civilian career as an attorney. He died on Dec. 19, 2008 at age 87 and is survived by six children and 15 grandchildren. It’s pretty long, if you don’t have time to read it, I definitely recommend clipping it for later and then skipping to the bottom. But I think he pretty much sums up what I want my entire life to be about.

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It may seem very strange to the reader that one of my tender age should already be thinking about that inevitable end to which even the paths of glory lead. However, this essay is not really concerned with death, but rather with life, my future life. I have set down here the things which I, at this age, believe essential to happiness and complete enjoyment of life. Some of them will doubtless seem very odd to the reader; others will perhaps be completely in accord with his own wishes. At any rate, they compose a synopsis of the things which I sincerely desire to have done before I leave this world and pass on to the life hereafter or to oblivion.

Before I die I want to know that I have done something truly great, that I have accomplished some glorious achievement the credit for which belongs solely to me. I do not aspire to become as famous as a Napoleon and conquer many nations; but I do want, almost above all else, to feel that I have been an addition to this world of ours. I should like the world, or at least my native land, to be proud of me and to sit up and take notice when my name is pronounced and say, “There is a man who has done a great thing.” I do not want to have passed through life as just another speck of humanity, just another cog in a tremendous machine. I want to be something greater, far greater than that. My desire is not so much for immortality as for distinction while I am alive. When I leave this world, I want to know that my life has not been in vain, but that I have, in the course of my existence, done something of which I am rightfully very proud.

Before I die I want to know that during my life I have brought great happiness to others. Friendship, we all agree, is one of the best things in the world, and I want to have many friends. But I could never die fully contented unless I knew that those with whom I had been intimate had gained real happiness from their friendship with me. Moreover, I feel there is a really sincere pleasure to be found in pleasing others, a kind of pleasure that can not be gained from anything else. We all want much happiness in our lives, and giving it to others is one of the surest ways to achieve it for ourselves.

Before I die I want to have visited a large portion of the globe and to have actually lived with several foreign races in their own environment. By traveling in countries other than my own I hope to broaden and improve my outlook on life so that I can get a deeper, and more complete satisfaction from living. By mixing the weighty philosophy of China with the hard practicalism of America, I hope to make my life fuller. By blending the rigid discipline of Germany with the great liberty in our own nation I hope to more completely enjoy my years on this earth. These are but two examples of the many things which I expect to achieve by traveling and thus have a greater appreciation of life.

Before I die there is another great desire I must fulfill, and that is to have felt a truly great love. At my young age I know that love, other than some filial affection, is probably far beyond my ken. Yet, young as I may be, I believe I have had enough inkling of the subject to know that he who has not loved has not really lived. Nor will I feel my life is complete until I have actually experienced that burning flame and know that I am at last in love, truly in love. I want to feel that my whole heart and soul are set on one girl whom I wish to be a perfect angel in my eyes. I want to feel a love that will far surpass any other emotion that I have ever felt. I know that when I am at last really in love then I will start living a different, better life, filled with new pleasures that I never knew existed.

Before I die I want to feel a great sorrow. This, perhaps, of all my wishes will seem the strangest to the reader. Yet, is it unusual that I should wish to have had a complete life? I want to have lived fully, and certainly sorrow is a part of life. It is my belief that, as in the case of love, no man has lived until he has felt sorrow. It molds us and teaches us that there is a far deeper significance to life than might be supposed if one passed through this world forever happy and carefree. Moreover, once the pangs of sorrow have slackened, for I do not believe it to be a permanent emotion, its dregs often leave us a better knowledge of this world of ours and a better understanding of humanity. Yes, strange as it may seem, I really want to feel a great sorrow.

With this last wish I complete the synopsis of the things I want to do before I die. Irrational as they may seem to the reader, nevertheless they comprise a sincere summary of what I truthfully now believe to be the things most essential to a fully satisfactory and happy life. As I stand here on the threshold of my future, these are the things which to me seem the most valuable. Perhaps in fifty years I will think that they are extremely silly. Perhaps I will wonder, for instance, why I did not include a wish for continued happiness. Yet, right now, I do not desire my life to be a bed of roses. I want it to be something much more than that. I want it to be a truly great adventure, never dull, always exciting and engrossing; not sickly sweet, yet not unhappy. And I believe it will be all I wish if I do these things before I die.

As for death itself, I do not believe that it will be such a disagreeable thing providing my life has been successful. I have always considered life and death as two cups of wine. Of the first cup, containing the wine of life, we can learn a little from literature and from those who have drunk it, but only a little. In order to get the full flavor we must drink deeply of it for ourselves. I believe that after I have quaffed the cup containing the wine of life, emptied it to its last dregs, then I will not fear to turn to that other cup, the one whose contents can be designated only by X, an unknown, and a thing about which we can gain no knowledge at all until we drink for ourselves. Will it be sweet, or sour, or tasteless? Who can tell? Surely none of us like to think of death as the end of everything. Yet is it? That is a question that for all of us will one day be answered when we, having witnessed the drama of life, come to the final curtain. Probably we will all regret to leave this world, yet I believe that after I have drained the first cup, and have possibly grown a bit weary of its flavor, I will then turn not unwillingly to the second cup and to the new and thrilling experience of exploring the unknown.

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If I didn’t write down my thoughts, I think my head would explode. I’m so lucky to have readers like you to share my ideas with. Minimal Student has helped me grow into the kind of person I want to be. Not that I’m there yet, wherever there may be, but like at said at the beginning of MS, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the adventure. I would be so happy if you can find even just a few of the future posts to come on MS inspiring, helpful, motivating, useful, poignant or memorable.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Since it’s my birthday, I would be elated if you could share Minimal Student by hitting the share button or emailing a link to a friend. Thank you.