Who wants less stuff—possessions? Stuff is good. It makes life so much more bearable, and enjoyable. It makes life so much more comfortable.
But I disagree.
It’s not stuff we need to live a good life. Which is the goal afterall, to live a good life, to pass our time here on Earth as goodly as possible. But it’s in fact stuff—junk—which most distracts us from living a good life.
That’s not to say, that with a bunch of stuff, you can’t live a good life. You can, certainly. Why not? But having a bunch of stuff is more an hindrance—a distraction—to living a good life. Especially if you already believe you’re not living a good life—searching for change perhaps, how to begin living like a minimalist, for example.
So I suppose first it remains to define just what is a good life. To everyone, it’s certainly different. But you’ve heard it again and again, that a good life is not measured by possessions, but by experiences. It’s regret we don’t want at the end of our lives, not some Chinese crystal plastic egg, or the latest sports car. The measure of a good life is not how much we own, but who we are—with what we own or what we don’t, you see.
A good life is a life of virtue, a life well lived. Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiment” is a decent guide. Seneca’s letters, Aurelius’s journals are sources of inspiration, Johnson’s “Idler” and “Rambler,” the Bible. Tolstoy teaches in fiction, his “Anna” and “War.” Let what’s true in your heart speak,—whatever it is—and live it through. And a good life you’ll live.
Living like a minimalist, we approach this sooner. We have no distractions. No TV we can turn-on to numb the senses for some time. We have no trinkets with which to fidget till sleep. We have mostly only ourselves, and our thoughts.
Make a million dollars—that’s easy. Sit in college for 12 years, get a doctorate, a job, pay your loans, and work for 20 years. Anyone can do it.
But sit quietly with your thoughts—now try that! If you can. And you’ll see, just how difficult it is. Usually we’re too distracted to even sit and do it. And that’s only just the beginning—which most never start. We must then come out that maze, that quiet, transformed and fulfilled.
The single most benefit that comes from living like a minimalist is that we lose all the distractions, all the junk, our cluttered minds. We sit, and are quiet. We wrestle with ourselves. Which is what it takes to come out that other end, to live true like we’re supposed to, a good life.
It also gives a sort of freedom, living like a minimalist. There’s a little story I saw. “Diogenes was eating lentils. Aristippus lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, ‘If you would learn to be subservient to the king, Diogenes, you wouldn’t have to live on lentils.’ Said Diogenes, ‘Learn to live on lentils, Aristippus, and you won’t have to be subservient to the king.'”
Currently, as this very post is wrote, wildfires rage round the hills just outside of Los Angeles. There are videos and pictures posted on social media. You can see in the very near distance up in those hills, the highways are still all full of cars, the morning commute to work. Even as the Earth burns right in front of them, the little fire ants still scurry-off to work. So scared they are of losing their jobs.
What’s more, surviving with little as a minimalist, if you’re making any money at-all, then that money can be accumulated with some celerity. With the limited amount of time we all of us each have here on Earth, to stash-away money with speed is important. Spend as little time as possible doing things you don’t like. Unfortunately, along with making money, we’re obliged to do that which we don’t often much enjoy. Save money so that you don’t have to earn money, able to pursue then whatever else it is our interests.
Not worried about junk, a minimalist—living like a poor man—can jump straight over the entire middle class. Which middle class are stuck right in the mix, both feet in the blender, spending all their money—which they spend all their time to get—on trinkets—plastic junk from China, for the most part, marketed desirably, produced for pennies, and sold handsomely for profit. Minimalists skip this foolishness, consuming at a very basic level, only that which is needed to survive. And more quickly, if they’ll make money their concern, minimalists bring themselves to wealth.
And if that wealth is reached, a minimalist knows best how to embrace it. The working class lives blind, wanting riches and rescued. The rich get richer, living with less. A poor man lives like the rich, with open eyes—a minimalist, voluntarily living poor.
Indeed, minimalists have spent their time living in the silence of few possessions—distractions. It’s their way of life. Opposed a person who maybe reaches wealth from the middle class. And now that person is rich. But their mind is muddied yet, all cluttered, fresh from the halting grind of the masses. Will they fiddle-away their wealth too with knickknacks? When for a minimalist who becomes wealthy, it’s business as usual. They have money now, sure. But they found fulfillment—how to live a good life—long before, along the way, living poor without distractions.