My Minimalist Journey

I am a minimalist at heart.

The first time I recall becoming consciously aware of my minimalist nature was about fifteen years old. I walked into my mother’s room when her dress cupboard was open and I was stunned by how many dresses she owned. So I counted them. Seventy five dresses!

I couldn’t see the point of someone owning so many clothes, especially dresses given that my mother mostly wore pants and jeans; and there were probably just as many pants and jeans in another cupboard!

Why I like minimalism.

I like tidiness and order but I can also be quite messy; so the fewer “things” (both literal and figurative) I have in my life, the easier it is to keep them tidy and in order, Simple.

I also take care of ‘things’ so they last much longer. For example, I own three pairs of shoes, one of which is a smart pair of Carvellas that I have owned since 1981. I wear them often but try to reserve them for indoor use only.

I haven’t always been a minimalist.

Before I got married I could fit everything I owned on the back of my Honda 750cc motorcycle; two panniers and a rucksack. However, it didn’t take long for my wife and I to start accumulating a lot of “baggage”; enough physical baggage to fill a pantechnicon every time we moved house!

The minimalist reborn.

When my wife and I ended our thirty-year marriage in 2012, I found myself with a blank canvas on which to plan the second half of my life. The minimalist in me was reborn and I set a new goal;

Everything I own must fit in the boot of a two-seater sports car.”

I had always dreamed of owning a sports car but never gotten around to it. Maybe now was an opportunity to reach for my dream car.

But things didn’t work out as planned. My property development business had crashed during the 2008 global economic meltdown; I lost my source of income and gained a mountain of debt. Eventually, the dream of a two-seater sport car was put on hold.

But all was not lost! I learned that real wealth is “what we have left after we lose all our money” and that failure, as Henry Ford tells us, is “an opportunity to begin again more intelligently”.

And so it was for me. I was still abundantly wealthy in many aspects and I had a wonderful opportunity to reinvent myself and create a new vision for my life. And that’s what I did, in some respects setting some unrealistically ambitious goals.

The blank canvass seemed to be much bigger than I had expected; but let’s leave that story for another time.

My journey into extreme minimalism.

In 2009 a ten-year journey began that I hope I will one day be able to refer to as my “Wilderness Years”!

I won’t belabour the many benefits of hardship except to say that during much of this period I never had enough money to “get around”; every cent had to be spent as wisely as possible if I was to achieve my new vision.

For ten years the most abundant resource I had was time, and what a wonderful resource it proved to be. Scarcity forced me to make some hard choices while Time afforded me the opportunity to think deeply about what really mattered.

I soon discovered that hard choices become easier the more we make them and, the more I let go of things, the happier I became.

Everything I presently own fits into three cases; (1) a medium-size suitcase, (2) a travel case that makes it onto an aircraft as hand luggage and (3) a briefcase for my laptop. And I am happy.

The secret of happiness.

I may not have become an extreme minimalist by choice but I am nonetheless extremely grateful that I have learned the secret of being content with very little.

I have discovered that happiness can’t be bought, that it must be earned through the hard work of self-understanding and by being who I respect no matter what others may say, think or do.

I have also learned that we don’t have to fill the whole canvass to create a work of art that makes us happy; a few masterful strokes will do just fine.

New minimalist goals.

As 2019 dawns, I plan to expand my minimalist aspirations, there are more areas of my life that could benefit from a minimalist approach.

My diet is one! For most of my life I have struggled to keep my weight at a healthy level. I know being overweight is unhealthy and that fat is simply surplus energy stored in the wrong place. So I have started to ask a few challenging questions such as;

  • Creating my shopping list: “What foods do I enjoy eating that are essential for health and vitality?” I am now making a minimalist list of about twenty foods that I enjoy eating and that support health and vitality; my goal is to eat these 80% of the time.
  • Before a meal: “Is the food on my plate helping me to achieve greater health and vitality?”
  • After the meal: “Am I happy with the choices I made? And “What could I have done better?”

I am also applying some of the principles from one of my favourite books, Eduard de Bono’s “Positive Revolution”.

My business goals are another area in need of minimalist principles. I have stripped down my 2019 goals to a few SMART goals that I believe will lead to greater personal happiness. Sharing the minimalist journey with others is one of them.

I also need to take better care of my relationships, an important personal and business goal for 2019.

The journey continues. Why not come along for the ride? It should be fun.