More is Less

Minimalism, as a workplace and lifestyle concept, is something I have been trying to adopt for the past few years. I had heard the term before, but associated it more with an austere artistic device than simple living; like a black, 12-inch cube almost imperceptibly off center in a 10-by-10-foot white square. Art!

Even before I was drawn into the minimalist blogosphere (an attraction that was probably fated by the alignment of my evolving professional path with the stories and tips offered up by bloggers like Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) and Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist)), my wife was ‘minimalizing’ our lives to great effect.

A garage sale here, a clothing donation there, the occasional ‘junk’ purge. No physical item was safe, and I’ll admit, as a recovering pack rat, I harbored some initial anxiety (after all, “one man’s trash …”).

But just as I felt my materialist tendencies under siege, I also experienced a certain exhilaration as each item left my finger tips, bound for the bottom of a Hefty bag. And I couldn’t help but notice that our collective sanity was being fortified.

There is nothing quite so liberating as unloading things that hold us back. But until we find the courage to start launching everything from the dusty, ill-fitting corduroys to the “but-what-if-we-want-fondue?” kitchen appliances, the task of distinguishing the beautiful and the useful from the balls and their chains is an arduous one.

It’s difficult to avoid platitudes about our materialistic world and the inherent technological, physical and emotional junk that looms over, clings to and sucks at our souls. But platitudes become so because they resonate.

The more ‘stuff’ we have in our lives, the less we appreciate. Devoting ourselves fully to every moment (and to the valued family, friends, colleagues and clients who inhabit them) is impossible when we’re surrounded and consumed by gadgets, appliances, cosmetics, accessories, endless wardrobes, holiday shopping lists, Twitter feeds, and imagined needs. There’s always one more email to check, 12 more toys to put away, and 15 minutes until you can have my undivided attention (as long as my phone doesn’t ring).

Given our tendencies toward a nearly complete lack of mindfulness amidst this modern maelstrom, it is sometimes a wonder we have managed to maintain the real relationships that sustain us.

So this Spring, challenge yourself to commit to less. Less clutter. Fewer possessions. Smaller budgets. Less grasping for tiny consolations. Less mindless web surfing. Less debt. Fewer obligations for obligations’ sake. Resolve, come what may, to make more room for personal and/or professional growth. To replace diversion with conversation. Speculation with actualization. Aimless worry with mindful purpose.

A version of this post originally appeared in Brian’s blog, Against the Grain.

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