Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
I became a minimalist rather gradually. I am usually not one to change overnight or take decisions lightly, but I am one who does not go back once my mind is set.
I came across minimalism once I started yoga and through its philosophy. Two of yoga’s guiding principles are Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha (non-appropriateness).
Basically, what those two principles mean is that if you do not need something (a real need) and either keep it or buy it, you are stealing from others who may need it, and you are appropriating something for no good reason. For those reasons, yoga suggests a minimalist lifestyle. Now how was I supposed to do that?
This is when I started searching “voluntary simplicity” and actually came across “minimalism” which resonated much better with me. I got to know the work of Dominique Loreau, Dave Bruno, Courtney Carver and Leo Babauta to name a few. They inspired me the most.
I joined the movement slowly in 2007. I started to give away things I no longer needed, used or liked. At first I thought I had to do it to become a “real yogi” but I was not really into it. I would give something away and a few months later buy something else to replace it, especially clothes. I would say that clothes were the last thing I really minimalized.
It took a while before I realized that when I was giving stuff I was actually feeling great, because I was helping other people less fortunate to get what they needed. But what really made a big difference is that in between the giving and re-buying days, I started noticing that I could breathe more easily, like the energy was flowing around me and that I could move around more freely.
Soon after that, I realized that I didn’t miss what I gave away and if I felt compelled to buy it again , it was only because of my mental conditioning. You know, “well you need 6 wooden spoons to be a great cook” and then I realized that I would never use six wooden spoons at the same time anyway! So I started questioning myself and this is when it became interesting! While cleaning out my possessions, I started cleaning out my brain too. I really took the time to question everything I owned or bought to see if it was a real need, an impulse buy, or a “conditioned” buy (like the wooden spoons).
The payoff was that by questioning every possession and every single item I owned, I had to figure out who I was and what kind of life I wanted. Once I did that, I started to feel free. I started to feel like I knew who I was. For a moment I felt stupid at all the money I spent and then gave away, but in a sense it was an investment in me getting to know me.
I never thought, at that time, that my possessions defined who I was, but they were dictating what I did with my money, how I spent my time to earn enough money, and what to do with my free time (I was cleaning and organizing) I was a slave to all that material and it forced me into a lifestyle that I didn’t like. I lost myself in those objects and possessions, and by getting rid of them, I found myself again!
I am now more free, happy and calm then ever before. This has had a positive effect on my life, my health, my relationships, and my job.
If you wish to know more about my story, you can look up my blog here: This Savvy Life or read my book Life Happens: Living a healthy life despite a chronic illness