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.

  • Sending you a hug.

  • Heather

    I am sorry about your Uncle.

    As for the rest of your post, I rather say a little more now to have a little more in the now instead of stuff in the end and a life really left unlived. It’s finding what works for your particular situation. We live small and simple because we like to travel and explore and that does take money. I also like not having to worry about things when we do go away and that when my time is done here on Earth, I won’t burden others with just things. I think nothing is worse than having to second guess someone else’s items, making you feel guilty if you don’t want them but you end up keeping them just because. I guess I am just not that attached to things and more attached to the people around me that I love. There is nothing wrong with leaving your family in a sound financial position, with a roof over their head, food on the table and the ability to live on. I think when it’s too much (as self defined) that can be a bigger burden rather than not having enough. Interesting pickle huh??? : )

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  • Angela Otimo

    I loved this article, it is really a feed for thought and so touching!My dad passed away a few years ago, and I when it happened I was so frustrated from his death an all the stuff around me that it was a burden…it was hard to keep his stuff and watch them all the time, but it was also hard to give them away…And our house used to be always cluttered, and I thought it was normal, because it was veeery small.And instead of thinking of downsizing at that time, I took the opposite way:I started accumulating more, to have my mind distracted by stuff, in order to forget the situation I was living in, and not let my emotions flow!I couldn’t understand what I was doing was making me less happy and more stressed every day!Until I started reading about minimalism…everything changed since then!!!I’ve got rid of the old chaos, I have very little stuff around me to “care about”, and now I have a lot of time to find myself, to face my emotions, to be more spiritual, to care more about the people I love and spend more quality time with them!Stuff is the biggest barrier to everything spiritual, and I also believe for happiness!Stuff shouldn’t be the measure of happiness, but maybe the opposite: the measure of stress, the measure of anxiety..Your texts have really helped me a lot, I would like to thank you so much for sharing your thougths and experiences with us, they are the most inspiring texts I’ve ever read on minimalism and happy living!