Embracing minimalism

I am madly in love with this post from Joshua Becker via www.becoming minimalist.com.  I’ve included some of my own comments in white and would love to hear your thoughts…

10 Reasons to Escape Excessive Consumerism


I am trying to live a minimalist life. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t own stuff.

My family of four still owns three beds, three dressers, two couches, one table with chairs, one desk, eight plates, eight bowls, eight glasses… My kids own toys and books. My wife sews. I read, play sports, and care for the house. We may be seeking to live a minimalist life, but we are still consumers.

After all, to live is to consume.

But we have worked hard to escape excessive consumerism. Consumerism becomes excessive when it extends beyond what is needed. When we begin consuming more than is needed, boundaries are removed. Personal credit allows us to make purchases beyond our income-level. Advertisements subtly reshape our desires around material possessions. And the consumption culture that surrounds us begins to make excessive consumption appear natural and normal.

Excessive consumption leads to bigger houses, faster cars, trendier clothes, fancier technology, and overfilled drawers. It promises happiness, but never delivers. Instead, it results in a desire for more… a desire which is promoted by the world around us. And it slowly begins robbing us of life. It redirects our God-given passions to things that can never fulfill. It consumes our limited resources.

And it is time that we escape the vicious cycle.

It is time to take a step back and realize that excessive consumption is not delivering on its promise to provide happiness and fulfillment. Consumption is necessary, but excessive consumption is not. And life can be better lived (and more enjoyed) by intentionally rejecting it.

Consider this list of ten practical benefits of escaping excessive consumerism in your life:

1) Less debt. The average American owns 3.5 credit cards and $15,799 in credit card debt… totaling consumer debt of $2.43 trillion in the USA alone. This debt causes stress in our lives and forces us to work jobs that we don’t enjoy. We have sought life in department stores and gambled our future on the empty promises of their advertisements. We have lost.

i admit i’m around the average for americans…why?  i was credit card debt free when i got divorced, but an emotional need for ‘stuff’ caused me to rack it all back up, and now i’m paying the price, literally.  i enjoy my work but you know what?  i, like most people, have other dreams as well that i can’t pursue until these debts are gone…

2) Less life caring for possessions. The never-ending need to care for the things we own is draining our time and energy. Whether we are maintaining property, fixing vehicles, replacing goods, or cleaning things made of plastic, metal, or glass, our life is being emotionally and physically drained by the care of things that we don’t need… and in most cases, don’t enjoy either. getting rid of my car 3 years ago was one of the best decisions i ever made. when others are in traffic, complaining about the rising costs at the gas pump, or that they have to replace this-or-that in their car? i exhale.  i’ve shaped my life around bicycle, mass transit, and – gasp! – walking.  i bought a house near 3 bus stops  and a zipcar,  i learned to bike commute (the right way – i read the rules of the road for cyclists before i started, and actually follow them, unlike at least 50% of my cohorts out there…).  i made a conscious effort.  but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. we all have more we can do.   

3) Less desire to upscale lifestyle norms. The television and the Internet has brought lifestyle envy into our lives at a level never before experienced in human history. Prior to the advent of the digital age, we were left envying the Jones’ family living next to us… but at least we had a few things in common (such as living in the same neighborhood). But today’s media age has caused us to envy (and expect) lifestyle norms well beyond our incomes by promoting the lifestyles of the rich and famous as superior and enviable. Only an intentional rejection of excessive consumerism can quietly silence the desire to constantly upscale lifestyle norms.

yesterday i saw a tour online of will & jada smith’s home.  they bragged that ‘everything is handmade’.  yet they are living in 25,000 square feet.  no one needs that much space, that much stuff.  it was hypocrisy at its finest.  maybe it’s the scientology with their friends the travoltas having a ‘fly up house’ where he lands his plane outside the front door (i swear – you can look it up).  i saw a magazine about ‘bungalows’ and they refer to small houses as ‘under 3,500 sq ft’.  my home is 1,500 sq ft including the basement, which i only go down to do laundry.  i live in 800 s.f. upstairs and feel like a queen.

4) Less environmental impact. Our earth produces enough resources to meet all of our needs, but it does not produce enough resources to meet all of our wants. And whether you consider yourself an environmentalist or not, it is tough to argue with the fact that consuming more resources than the earth can replenish is not a healthy trend – especially when it is completely unnecessary.

5) Less need to keep up with evolving trends. Henry David Thoreau once said, “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but religiously follows the new.” Recently, I have been struck by the wisdom and practical applicability of that thought whether relating to fashion, decoration, or design. A culture built on consumption must produce an ever-changing target to keep its participants spending money. And our culture has nearly perfected that practice. As a result, nearly every year, a new line of fashion is released as the newest trend. And the only way to keep up is to purchase the latest fashions and trends when they are released… or remove yourself from the pursuit altogether.

this reminds me deeply of the idea of growth and how we are considered failures as a country, as companies, as people, if we’re not always growing.  we can be dynamic without growing – we can evolve. not everything needs to be bigger.  the idea that we have to support a housing construction industry, for example.  dude – there are enough empty spots to go around as it is!  evolve, evolve, evolve. 

6) Less pressure to impress with material possessions. Social scientist Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption to describe the lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In his 1899 book, The Theory of the Leisure Classthis term was used to describe the behavior of a limited social class. And although the behavior has been around since the beginning of time, today’s credit has allowed it to permeate nearly every social class in today’s society. As a result, no human being (in consumption cultures) is exempt from its temptation.

7) More generosity. Rejecting excessive consumerism always frees up energy, time, and finances. Those resources can then be brought back into alignment with our deepest heart values. When we begin rejecting the temptation to spend all of our limited resources on ourselves, our hearts are opened to the joy and fulfillment found in giving our personal resources to others. Generosity finds space in our life (and in our checkbooks) to emerge.

i stopped christmas gifts a few years ago – not only am i not a christian, but the holiday i was raised on meant coming together, not a bunch of stuff that you never really asked for, that breaks your bank account each year, and creates expectations – and with that, disappointments.  i watched bratty kids cry and complain that they didn’t get this or that.  don’t get me wrong, i am not dissing gift giving, rather the expectation that material things are what make a holiday.  maybe that’s why i always liked thanksgiving more.

8) More contentment. Many people believe if they find (or achieve) contentment in their lives, their desire for excessive consumption will wane. But we have found the opposite to be true. We have found that the intentional rejection of excessive consumption opens the door for contentment to take root in our lives. We began pursuing minimalism as a means to realign our life around our greatest passions… not as a means to find contentment. But somehow, minimalism resulted in a far-greater contentment with life than we ever enjoyed prior.

i agree wholeheartedly.  the less i feel like i need to buy ‘stuff’, the less i even think about it, which has cleared my mind for things like…writing 🙂

9) Greater ability to see through empty claims. Fulfillment is not on sale at your local department store… neither is happiness. It never has been. And never will be. We all know this to be true. We all know that more things won’t make us happier. It’s just that we’ve bought into the subtle message of millions upon millions of advertisements that have told us otherwise. Intentionally stepping back for an extended period of time helps us get a broader view of their empty claims.

10) Greater realization that this world is not just material. True life is found in the invisible things of life: love, hope, and faith. Again, we all know there are things in this world that are far more important than what we own. But if one were to research our actions, intentions, and receipts, would they reach the same conclusion? Or have we been too busy seeking happiness in all the wrong places?

Escaping excessive consumption is not an easy battle. If it were, it would be done more often… myself included. But it is a battle worth fighting because it robs us of life far more than we realize.

True life must be found somewhere else.

think about the moments that bliss you out – those great conversations, those sunny days riding bikes, those rainy walks on rocky coastlines with someone you love, those times when you did something for someone else, whether it be drawing a picture or teaching them a new skill or shared an activity.  is that what makes you smile?  

or are you sentimental about all that time spent on the new tv or the $500 shoes or the gas guzzling SUV…


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