What is success and how do I define being successful? What does success look like? Do I even want to be successful? In recent months I’ve began to assess many aspects of my lifestyle and the social system within which I exist. I’ve found there’s a constant drive for more. More stuff. The more stuff I have in my life the more successful I am. Wearing the latest and best new gadgets. Buying the latest iPhone. Driving the best car I’m able to afford. And with every new purchase there has to be a social post right? Then I desire more ‘likes’, more ‘loves’ and more ‘retweets’. Where does this lead and where does it end? At what point do I become immune to the dopamine hit? Does any of this make me successful? More importantly… does any of this make me happy?
Recently I came across a blog post titled ‘The art of tidying’. I skimmed the article, consuming mainly imagery but I remember being impressed in how our clothing could be folded and stored neatly. I returned to the article a week or so later, this time giving it my full attention. The article was spreading the KonMari philosophy, developed by Marie Kondo.
The KonMari philosophy
The KonMari philosophy enables you to declutter your home and your lifestyle and while doing so, only keeping those items that truly bring you joy. Typically our approach to tidying is to throw away those things we no longer wish to keep. KonMari focuses on keeping only the things that bring you happiness. This tidying method goes beyond the surface of the contents of our wardrobe. Living a decluttered life-style has psychological and well-being benefits too such as reduced stress, improved focus, a calmer feeling of serenity and relaxation.
This appealed to me. In a world on autopilot I wanted the sense of relaxation and serenity. So I started. That evening I sent the article to my wife (who is a professional hoarder) and that weekend we began to clean our house. For every item we asked ourselves: “do we really need this, does it make me happy?” At first, it was an extremely odd process. Almost all of my stuff felt important, too important to discard. However, at one point I found a favourite shirt of mine and it was this item when I knew that yes, this item does genuinely make me feel happy. The process took the entire weekend but come the end we had four large bags of items that did not “spark joy”. As I reflected, I realised I felt better for the declutter. I sensed a weight was lifted, knowing there were very few items in our home that could niggle away at me in the back of my mind. I felt happier. I felt lighter. At this point I wondered why do I not feel this happy all of the time?
Stuff and happiness
I used to believe that the more stuff I have, the happier I’ll feel. The more money I have to buy more stuff, the more successful I’ll be. The more items I bring into my life; DVDs, games, books, clothing, the greater sense of achievement I’d feel. The KonMari philosophy suggests otherwise.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer” – Jim Carrey
I began to realise my life was filled with excess and the mentality of wanting more was not working for me.
My quest for understanding myself, my possessions and the value these added to my life started to grow. During this time, my wife brought to my attention The Minimalists. The Minimalists, better known as Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, are two guys spreading their message on minimalism. Both Joshua and Ryan had the american lifestyle; six-figure salaries, five bedroom houses, expensive cars and all that goes with it, yet they weren’t happy. They too had a void and spending to fill this void did not bring happiness. Their message is to minimalise. Minimalism is not just less, less and less. Minimalism is making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences and more contentment. The minimalism philosophy is to keep possessions that either; bring you happiness or serve a function. If possessions don’t fall into one of these categories they’re thrown away to make room for something of more value.
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. ” — The Minimalists
Having discovered both KonMari and Minimalism philosophies I realised I couldn’t just pick these up from the shelf and adopt them without thought. I wanted to understand their true message, I needed to know their true value and identify what I want from my life. Doing so means I can have my own recipe for happiness.
What do I want?
I want a life without excess and one with more meaning. Meaningful relationships, meaningful connections. I want to live deliberately. I want controlled consumption. I don’t want compulsive consumption.
How do I get there?
Analyse my possessions
So far, I’ve analysed 50% of everything in my life, from possessions to my profession. For every item, I’ve asked: does this serve a purpose or does it make me happy? If the answer is neither, I have no room for this in my life. Quickly I’ve established that money does not buy me happiness. Money simply allows me to accumulate things I don’t need. Money results in excess stuff.
I’ve removed duplication. We no longer have more than one black pen. We no longer have more than one blue pen. For every item I had more than one, we no longer own. Every duplicate has been removed from our home.
I want to generate space. Space helps me feel lighter. Space removes worry. Everything in our home now has it’s own place. We’re slowly replacing items in our home for a lighter, more streamlined version. The less things we own, the less things we need to tidy. We can’t get time back but we can help make more of our time in the future.
I’m making a deliberate decision to only buy things that bring me enjoyment. Things that I’m passionate about I’ll continue to purchase. Anything otherwise will cease. If I don’t really need it, I won’t buy it. Unless it serves a purpose in my home or adds value to my life I’ll avoid the spend.
Remember the items I do like
I do like my home to feel “homely”. There are decorative items that do make me feel happy, that do bring some enjoyment to my life. These items I’ve held onto.
Take control from my digital devices
I don’t own my phone, my phone owns me. Every notification, every message, every WhatsApp, Snapchat, Tweet all distract my attention away from the present. Whether I’m at work, at home, at a life event or celebration, the device in my pocket controls my behaviour. To be victorious in the battle of control I’ve turned off all notifications other than those important. I’ve removed all work related apps.
Every approach I take on this journey does not give me time back but frees up time in the future to live a more meaningful life. Consuming things does not satisfy my longing for meaning. I want an intentional life. A life not controlled by society, by advertising, by our perception of success. I want a life of meaning. I want a life of happiness.