What minimalism taught me about dying

by Jessica Dang
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The fear of death used to keep me up at night. I wondered what it would be like to live forever.

Imagine, the first thirty years of your life, you’re young and naïve. You make friends, go to college, and learn about the world.

In the next fifty years you get a job, you travel, you have a family. There are ups and downs, but you’re in love and people love you. You’re content.

Then things start to change. As you live on, your family passes away and you miss them. You try to start another, and they’re beautiful too, but they too shall pass and so on. You eventually give up starting a family, because what’s the point if the people you love keep dying?

You find some time to travel, but with daily distractions and so much time to do it, you think, ‘I’ll get around to it one day’. But there’s nothing pushing you. You learn and experience more, but eventually you get tired of people’s drama, wars on the news, you’ve seen it all before. You try many hobbies, but with all the time in the world, what was exciting at first eventually becomes boring.

If everybody is immortal, things are arguably worse. You’re okay for the first fifty, maybe one hundred, or even one thousand years, but eventually you start to get bored and you wonder if there is more to life than being stuck with the same people for eternity. Even if you do love them, they’ll be around forever, so you don’t see a point in spending all of your time with them. You don’t even bother recording birthdays or special moments because you’ve had, and will have, so many.

Think about this for a moment, and you’ll realise, there’s a danger with living forever—having unlimited time makes life tedious.

  • What would have bought you joy instead bores you after a while.
  • What you would have made time for gets put off indefinitely.
  • What would have been special to you, becomes so normal that you don’t notice.

Time, money, and effort are in almost limitless supply, so you don’t do much that matters to you, and not much matters anyway since it’ll either be around forever, or you’ll own/see/do the same things thousands of times.

Living forever is not all it’s cracked up to be.

the good news is that we don’t live forever

…which is our best chance to enjoy life. We can cherish it, for all it’s beauty and horrors because the time we get is all we’ll have.

Everything has to fit into 20-100 years (we have no idea how much) because there are no second chances and there’s nowhere to put anything off in the future.

So what has minimalism got to do with this? When time, money and effort are limited, living a minimalist lifestyle directs those resources to accomplish what you want in life, without wasting it on things that don’t matter.

Spending half your life working to pay off your bills? Wish you could travel but can’t find the time? Feeling too tired to do the things you’ve always wanted? Wish you could spend more time with your family?

Well then, how about downsizing your house, or not having a flashy car, or forgoing some new clothes this year? Spending less means having to work less. It means wasting less time.

These sacrifices may seem trivial for what you get in return—a happier life. But just look around you and you’ll see how many people spend their entire lifetimes collecting trivialities.

They spend their one precious life trying to obtain things that don’t really make them happy, and don’t matter in the end.

These people are living life like they’re immortal, like they have all the time in the world. The sad thing is, they don’t. Death can come at any time. You could be crossing the street when a drunk drivers turns a corner, or you could ‘get a funny feeling in your chest’ literally any day. We are already dying. There is no time to waste.

Depressing? Death doesn’t mean that life is futile. Rather, it gives life meaning. Having a deadline (in the literal sense of the word) is the kick up the backside we need to focus on the things that matter. That, essentially, is what living a minimalist lifestyle means—to focus our precious resources (time, money, and effort) on the things that are worthwhile.

Minimalism has taught me—no, trained me—to make my life count. The reality is that we don’t live forever, but that’s okay. Life is much better for it.

Like this post? I am working on a book that will feature similar topics, please comment with feedback or anything you’d like to see in the book. Current status: first draft. 

Book I’m reading right now: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

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  • Dean

    best article i’ve read!!! rss your blog thanks so much keep writing more amazing like this please!