In this post, I’m going to say a few controversial things that I’ve believed for a long time but haven’t had the courage to say outright. I think this blog (and me) has finally at a place in where I can confidently say how I feel. Not everyone will agree with what I’m about to say, but I guess you wouldn’t be reading my MS if we didn’t have something in common 🙂
I’m often asked what the hardest thing about minimalism is. In the beginning, I had no idea, various things were hard – getting rid of stuff I had gotten attached to, resisting buying things I wanted to, finding alternatives that were just as good … and so on.
But, after a few years I’ve gotten so used to such things and they’re no longer very hard to do. Over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the biggest obstacle a minimalist has to overcome is to challenge the collective mindset that society has been based on since human history.
You’ve got to overcome always wanting more.
The constant hunger for more than we need is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we have come to think of it as human nature to be greedy and that there’s nothing we can do about it. There was a time when being greedy was good. It meant that you ate more than you needed to so that you can survive the winter. It meant you took more than you needed to so you wouldn’t waste energy walking all the way back. That time was the Stone Age.
But even today, how can one possibly imagine not wanting to live in a huge house? Who wouldn’t take a Ferrari if they got it free? Why would anyone pass on brand-name clothing if they had the money for it?
For us, the house-with-a-white-picket-fence (plus everything in and around it) is a symbol of achievement. It tells the world that we have ‘succeeded’ in the game of life. That we ‘won’.
It may be true for very few people, for the most part, nobody ‘wins’ when they get everything they want. Because there’s really no such thing. Even if you get the ideal house and car, there’ll be something else that you’ll want, like a more understanding spouse, better friends, fame or more leisure time. And when you get those, there will be something else that you’ll wish for like a special talent, clever children or a ‘beautiful’ body. Think about all of the people that look like they have an ‘ideal life’. It seems they have everything, but in your heart you know they don’t.
There are an infinite things you could want, but you could probably count the things you actually need to make you happy with just your hands.
The biggest challenge about minimalism is realizing that almost everything you’ve been told as a child isn’t necessarily true – you don’t have to succeed in school, you don’t have to be popular, you don’t have to find a job that pays well. I’m not saying one should live on the street or never aim high, but if only people could be just be content with what they have, instead of chasing lies like a donkey with a carrot on a stick, they may actually find satisfaction and lifetime happiness.
One you’ve realized this, the next biggest thing is making it your philosophy and living by it. We’ve come a long way from the greedy and uncontrollable animals we were in the Stone Age. We’ve upgraded to humans now, who can overcome this way of thinking and choose our own way.
So that’s the biggest challenge. I’m challenging it, are you?