It's human nature to want to evolve, grow and expand our horizons. Most people want to see their worth based on what they have acquired. I am perfectly aware of that. And that's probably because this world that we're living in right now values the famous "The more, the merrier" mentality. 

But you've probably been hearing the word "minimalist" quite a lot these days. And when you hear that word, you're probably thinking about the minimalist aesthetics wherein everything is white and pristine. However, minimalism is more than just the aesthetics. It's not just about having a limited number of clothes or shoes although these definitely contribute to minimalism. Being a minimalist is more than just being a cheapskate. It's actually a lifestyle. It is about firmly believing that there's such a thing as "enough". It is way to exercise quality over quantity. And yes, it's about breaking free from the societal programming that most of us got from a very young age that we need to have MORE in order to feel validated, respected or loved.  

I've been trying to embrace this kind of lifestyle for a little over five years now, and all I can say is that, this is the most level-headed decision I have ever made throughout my adult life. 

It probably started when I challenged myself and dove head-first into voluntary poverty sometime between 2015 and 2016. It was a transformational year for me and I really learned a lot from it. That time, I agreed to take on a job with a wage that was way too small compared to my paychecks from my other companies but (I thought) was still good enough to give me food, clothing and shelter, at least. It could be a crazy and stupid decision for most, but I honestly don't regret doing that. If I can do it all over again, I would still want to go through that time of my life. Why? Because during that year, I have learned how to completely eliminate all the things and activities that I now consider "luxury" or "non-essential". It was a very humbling experience and I never would have learned that much about humility and minimalism had I not taken that adventure. 

A lot of things happened that time - things that forced me to grow and do a mental inventory of the real "essentials" down to the very core. Since then, I was finally able to free myself from the vicious cycle of comparing myself to others, finding out I don't measure up, hating myself and doing whatever it takes to get validation from people. Looking back, it was really pathetic. I didn't even know what and who I was doing shits for. But, I did a helluva thinking while I was living my life in a town that is way too far from where I was born, earning a bare minimum wage. I was forced to live with just the basics, and it was awesome! I didn't even know I could survive that kind of life. At some point, I thought I was going to stay that way forever. But things happened and I eventually quit and moved out of that small town after a little over a year but I made sure to take all the lessons that I've learned while I was there. When I got back to getting a decent paycheck again, I promised myself that I won't waste my money trying to prove anything to anyone ever again. I continued living within or below my means, even if I had to wait for a very long time to purchase something I think I need. I also learned how to ask myself if I really need something or if I just want it so I can show-off on my social media. 

These days, I don't really buy something that does not have at least two purposes. And as for the things that I already have, I make sure to regularly ask myself if they are still useful for me or if they still make me happy. If not, I toss them out without hesitations. I sell them if I could, and if no one wants to buy my stuff, I just donate them to whoever needs them. I have learned how to let go of material things which was very hard for me when I was younger. Like most people, I was a victim of that social conditioning, too! For a long time, I thought that having a huge collection of earrings and other accessories would make me happy, or that having an insane amount of clothes in my closet for different kinds of occasions would calm the shit out of me. I thought that if I have more shoes, I would look cooler and that it would be easier to dress up and show up at work. I felt "lucky" to be surrounded by flashy things that have been taking up most of my paycheck back then. I was so reliant on material things because they trigger happiness and they make me feel successful - until one day, they all lost their meaning and I don't feel happy anymore. I realized that most of my stuff only gave me temporary happiness. 

I have never really owned a house even until now. I have only been renting rooms or living in dormitories since I was 23 years old. But each time I move, there would be something that I would have to let go of because they are too heavy to carry or they just won't fit in my luggage anymore. Now, I have always been a big fan of organizing stuff, thanks to my OCD! But, I have never really thought about being happy or ecstatic about letting go of the things that I worked so hard to acquire. If you've never really moved out of your home or hometown to live on your own, you probably won't understand what I'm saying here, but, I realized that letting go of some of my stuff is the only way I could travel peacefully or lightly. As cliche as this may sound - I don't need the excess baggage. I realized that it is so much easier to get to wherever I am headed next if I am only carrying the "essentials" or the basics with me. Yes, I still buy stuff at times, but I make sure that I am ready to lose them or give them up should I make a decision to move somewhere else. Things are meant to be used and they could be replaced and there's no point putting too much emotional attachment to them since they just literally come and go. And the less stuff you have, the easier it is to let go. That's mental freedom at its best!

Everything that happened to me ever since I started living on my own, especially moving in and out of dormitories, they all contributed to the current lifestyle that I am practicing right now. But the final nudge was probably the 15-minute Ted Talk video that I watched sometime in 2015 about these two guys who call themselves "The Minimalists". It was the most meaningful, brain-shattering, perfect jab in my face that made me officially turn my back on consumerism. 

Every single word from their speech resonated with me. Though I've never really earned as much as they did prior to their minimalist lifestyle, there was also a time in my life wherein I literally had more money than I need and I can get almost all the material things that I want, yet I was miserable and crying almost every single night. It didn't make sense at all! It was ridiculous, and it was something that I never thought I would ever experience because as a kid, I always thought that when people have more money, they have to be happy. Right? Turns out I was SO wrong! Yes, money is important because it is a means to have the "comfortable" life that we want. And if we have more of it, then, we can share it with others. But what are the trade offs? What are you willing to give up to get more of it? At the same time, what are you NOT willing to give up? For me, it has always been my freedom. My freedom has always taken the top spot in my "non-negotiables" list. I need my solitude, and I need to do the things that make my happy such as reading, writing, getting enough rest, watching anime, sketching and lately - painting. 

Sometime around 2016, I made a firm decision that I would never settle for a lifestyle that would rob me of the things that are essential for my personal growth - regardless of what people would say or think about me. Back then, I made a promise to myself that I am totally fine giving my best for the next job that I will choose, but I will not beat myself to death and deprive myself of a good night's sleep just so I can acquire more material things. I told myself that I will be the boss of my own life and that no one could ever manipulate me. Diving head first into minimalism, for me, has been a great way to get out of the rat race. I have learned how to really value and respect my time and energy so that I can focus only on the things that I truly want. And I have never been peaceful and contented in my adult life! I absolutely don't feel the need to compete with anyone nor compare my life with whoever has it 'better'. I don't force myself to do more so that I can get what other people have. My motivation to move comes from within. I do what I do now, because at this point of my life, I think it's the best way to spend my time - regardless of how much I am making. All I really care about is giving myself the intangible things that my soul has been craving for - the things that money can't buy. I certainly do not feel deprived living this kind of lifestyle. 

Your path or lifestyle must be connected to the level of happiness and contentment that you feel at the end of the day. It's all about how deep you sleep and how loud you laugh whether you're on your own or with someone else. It's all about the peace and serenity that you get without counting your earthly possessions. I know that there are people who would never understand and would never be contented living the kind of life that I have right now. There's a possibility that this lifestyle, that I love so deeply, is a nightmare for some people. I am perfectly aware that minimalism might not be the best choice for everyone, but if you've been miserable your entire life despite having all the things that you think you need in your life or what the social media says you must have, would you ever consider losing at least some of them in exchange of a simple and quiet life? I have to warn you though, it's not gonna be easy, but it's definitely worth a try! 

If you have some time, I highly encourage you to watch the video below so you can understand minimalist living even more from The Minimalists themselves.


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