Graham Hill’s New York Times Op-Ed piece Living with Less had a dramatic response as most stories of minimalism do. The response varies from “I could never live like that.” and “Easy for you to say.” to “Living more simply changed my life, made me happier, more loving and giving, and opened up the time and space to figure out what really makes me happy.”
A quick recap, if you haven’t read Hill’s piece; he tells his story from his 420 sq foot apartment of selling a company in the late nineties for more money than he thought he’d earn in a lifetime, buying a huge home and filling it with the latest and greatest and then, realizing that more stuff didn’t make him happier, he changed his life. He says, “For me, it took 15 years, a great love and a lot of travel to get rid of all the inessential things I had collected and live a bigger, better, richer life with less.”
While there will always be differing opinions and positive and negative feedback, I was disheartened by the backlash about Graham Hill’s journey to less. Instead of inspiration, critics found hypocrisy. “Aha! All it takes is a leisurely decade or so of world travel with “Olga, an Andorran beauty” to come to the conclusion that less is more. Make a note, average Americans.”
Some suggested that it was easy for Hill to reject mass consumerism when he could afford to curate the perfect minimalist life and suggested that he was using his story to promote his business ventures. Sarah Goodyear from The Atlantic Cities suggested that it would be helpful to have someone besides a millionaire explain how great it is to live with less.
Hamilton Nolan an Editor from Gawker said in this article that “The problem here is not the message. The problem is the messenger. More specifically, it is the messenger using his own life as supporting evidence for the message.”
Our lives ARE supporting evidence for the message.
- I write and speak about living with less from the perspective of being a wife, mom and writer living with Multiple Sclerosis. The diagnosis was my wake up call. Working longer hours to make more money to pay more debt wasn’t working. Chronic busyness wasn’t an honor. Stress wasn’t cool and I was sick as a result. Searching for happiness in more is not the answer and I use my own life as supporting evidence for the message.
- Joshua Becker is a husband, Pastor, and father of two who turned to minimalism when he was cleaning his garage while watching his son play alone in the backyard. He wanted to spend more time with his son and family than with the stuff in his garage. Better relationships come from living more simply and Becker’s own life is supporting evidence for the message.
- Dave Bruno, a husband and father from San Diego created The 100 Thing Challenge to see what would happen by setting boundaries and living with less. He learned that he could create better relationships of all kinds through the formative power of simplicity and inspired thousands of people around the world to do the same. Bruno’s own life is supporting evidence for the message.
- Joshua Millburn turned to minimalism after his mother died and his marriage ended within the same month. He had the luxury cars and the big house, but his health and relationships were a mess. By rejecting stuff, he found happiness and passion. Millburn’s own life is supporting evidence for the message.
- Tammy and Logan Strobel built a 128 square tiny house and only own what they can fit in their house. They have the freedom to do work they love and spend more time with each other and their families. Their own lives and relationship is supporting evidence for the message.
- Leo Babauta is a husband and father of 6 who was unhappy with his job, debt, and extra weight so he traded it (all of it) for a simpler life. Babauta’s life is supporting evidence for the message.
- Colin Wright, a single 20 something stopped trying to work his way out of work and used minimalism to be more creative, travel the world and now his blog readers vote on where he will live every 4 months. His life is supporting evidence for the message.
There are more messengers from all ages and backgrounds and their lives are supporting evidence for the message that there is something better on the other side of more and that in most cases, we have a choice. These stories are no more or less powerful than Graham Hill’s message though. We need them all. We are all in this together, but we need unique stories to inspire us and connect us to the message that there is so much more in less.
This comment on the original op-ed piece reminds me that every story of living with less is moving and important.
“I’m 82 and live on and with the barest of necessities, for the less I have, the better I feel. I regularly go through my small house wondering what else I can get rid of. Minimalism is soothing, aesthetically appealing. I sometimes fantasize about living in a cell like a monk – a cot, a table, and a window.
Knowing what I know now, if I had my life to live over, at the age of 18, instead of sitting around devising plans for a cluttered life, I would put a knapsack on my back and with my dog I would leave the house and just start walking.” – Sonya
Minimalism is not just for millionaires, but perhaps a millionaire could be more inspired by Graham Hill’s story than a mother trying to figure out how why there is more month left at the end of the money. And perhaps that mother will connect with my story. Colin Wright’s story might resonate more with a single someone who wants to travel the world and a couple thinking about a smaller living solution might connect with Tammy and Logan.
Graham Hill story is changing the way people think about their stuff and their lives. Regardless of Hill’s financial status, his life is supporting evidence for the message.
If we could stop making assumptions about people’s motives, and assume, that in most cases, people are good, we could celebrate their accomplishments and learn from them to recreate ideas to work in our own lives instead of crafting conspiracy theories and assuming that we could never do it or it’s easier for them.
Minimalism is for the masses, for the millionaires and for anyone who is interested. There is a place for minimalism in everyone’s life. It might be in their closet, in their work, the size of their living space, or it might be in how they spend their time and money. Those choices are not for us to judge, but to instead encourage, motivate and support.
If we can turn our focus away from spending more, and owning more, together we can use our minimalism to help those that have less than they deserve. We can lift people up that don’t have the luxury of choosing less.
Share your story and keep looking for stories of people who are like you, that inspire you, and that want the best for you. When I read Living with Less, I saw a love story. In fact, it was the most powerful part of the article for me. Perhaps what you take away from someone’s story is exactly what is most important to you.