I live my life as a minimalist, even though I don't like to label myself as such. I don't own a lot of material possessions and I try to live my life as simply as possible. In America, we live in a consumerist society. Every single day various forms of media blare at us to buy stuff we don’t need and to spend our money to feel satisfied (Here is the simple fun video that explains this phenomena). So, in a rebellion against this crass consumerism, I prefer to live simply. But I did not always think this way. When I was a college student I remember having a closet full of clothes and countless shoes. I just had too many possessions! I was horrible at packing light whenever I went traveling. Also, I did not see the point of minimizing my belongings.
When I moved to South Africa in 2011, I remember packing as much of my stuff as I could. I filled two giant boxes with stuff and things and junk to take to my new life in Africa. Even then, I still had to throw away or donate quite a lot. I sold my car, my furniture, my bed; in fact, I got rid of everything I owned except for what could fit into those two boxes.
I left South Africa after completing my Masters in Developmental Sociology. Again I had to minimize my stuff. I gave away and/or donated everything that could not fit into one duffle bag because I knew I was going to be traveling across South and Central America during next chapter of my life. I shipped a box full of valuables to my mother’s house in Denver. I realized that the things I shipped from South Africa to the USA would take months to arrive, but I knew that I would not need those valuables during my travels.
I started my backpacking trip in Peru and spent the next nine months traveling all the way back to California. I packed everything I owned into my single backpack. It was a HUGE backpack. The backpack was filled with clothes, cooking essentials, and even some books. I remember my backpack being so heavy that I couldn't walk with it for more than twenty minutes. Sometimes, when roaming around the back streets at night looking for hostels or searching for the bus station I became exhausted. Getting on and off buses was especially hard because my backpack was so huge and cumbersome.
Then we got robbed at gunpoint! Eight months into our travels, and we lost EVERYTHING!
My friend and I could easily have given up and said “F*ck it! We’re done!” Then jumped on the next flight back to California.
But we didn't. We went to local thrift store, we each bought a small backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush and kept traveling.
First I was sad that I had lost everything that was in my backpack; my travel mementos and sentimental belongings, but I felt lighter. I literally felt lighter because I didn't have to carry around a heavy backpack anymore. But I also felt lighter mentally and emotionally because I didn’t have all this stuff to worry about anymore. Now I had more space and freedom! I could walk forever with this small backpack; I could pack and leave really quickly; I could move effortlessly from one place to the next. I couldn't snap photos for my album anymore, but you know what? I appreciated REAL TIME events so much more intensely. Instead of trying to take the most beautiful sunset pictures, now I just ‘watched’ sunsets, I actually enjoyed being in the moment, being present in the ‘now’. Because of losing everything, I felt liberated in a way that I had never felt before.
During my travel, one of the book I read was “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk, he had some amazing quotes that resonated with me:
“The things you used to own, now they own you.”
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything”
Ever since that experience I have been striving to live minimally and simply for numerous reasons, such as helping the environment, minimizing finances, and simple liberation. Here are the ways I live now:
1. I don't own a lot of stuff
I simply do not own a lot of stuff. I lived out of my backpack or a suitcase for almost four years, so I don't own too much. Now I live in a small room and that also helps me keep my stuff to a minimum. Which brings me to my next point:
2. I live in a small space
My room is TINY. When I say TINY, I mean MICROSCOPIC. I have one couch that I can pull out to make into a bed. I have one small chest of drawers and a single shelf in my room. When my bed is in couch form, I have barely enough space to practice yoga. And that’s all the space I need J. I love my tiny room and it also keeps me from having too many possessions.
3. I don't own a car
I sold my car back in 2010 when I moved to South Africa, and ever since I’ve been living without one. In certain cities living without a car is normal and even common, but not so much in LA. In the future, I plan to write a whole blog post about my life without a car. I ride my bicycle everywhere. I can bike to all the yoga studios I work at. I can get around almost anywhere with my bike and public transportation and I am much happier this way. Though I am very thankful for the close people in my life, friends and family who can give me rides and take me to fun places that are only accessible by car.
4. Buy one give one
These days I live by a simple a rule. When I buy clothes or other stuff, first I always look for second-hand versions, and then, only as my second option will I buy something new. This world has an excess of stuff!! Yet we create so much waste in this country. It doesn't feel right to buy brand new things to use for only a few months then throw them away. In many developing countries people are in need of the basic necessities (See this great documentary about clothing industry). So my first choice is to buy second-hand. When I bring something new into my home, I try to donate something that I don't use anymore. For example, if I buy two shirts from a second-hand store, then I will choose two shirts that I already have that I don't use much anymore to donate.
Here is a tip if you are having a hard time letting go of your possessions. If you are unsure if you need something or not, just put it where you can’t see it, like in a bag and tuck it away in a garage or in the back of your closet. If you don’t miss using those items for few months then you don't really need them. Then you can feel free to give that stuff away.
5. Creating space/time/money for something more meaningful
Last tip is more like end-results. By living my life minimally and simply I have opened up more time, space and financial freedom to do what I like. As a full-time yoga/spin instructor I don't make a lot of money. But I can live my life more mindfully and passionately. I can do what I love, I don’t have to sacrifice my happiness, and my life can be environmentally friendly.
I don't live my life counting down for weekends and dreading Monday. I love what I do, I love that I can be creative in my job, I love that I move my body for my job, I love that I can be source of healing for myself and others. I am not working crazy hours and sacrifice my health or my happiness. I don't sit in LA traffic 2-4 hours a day to get to and from work. I don't make a lot, but I also don't spend a lot due to simplicity of my life. I have the financial freedom to do things because I don't have too many expenses. I have time and freedom to enjoy life outside of work. Going on a hike, camping trip, occasional weekend getaways, maybe few trips abroad.
Maybe living minimally and simply is not for you, or maybe harder to make it into reality. This lifestyle works for me now and I love it. Maybe in the future things will change. But for now it works for me. I just wanted to share how and why I live the way I do in the hope of inspiring others or allowing other minds to open up and peak into different lifestyles other than your own.