Sometimes we must embrace, at least temporarily, the discomfort of the other side of the spectrum. Sometimes we must hit both walls before we find the middle. Eventually, once the pendulum has traversed both extremes, we discover what works for us, and we end up somewhere completely different from where we started—somewhere in between both extremes.
This is what Joshua Fields Millburn says about his journey as a minimalist. And it’s true. First, you think you need more in order to be happy. You try to accumulate stuff you believe would add lasting value to your life. Then you discover and explore a different mindset: What if you would be happier the less you own?
So you try to get rid of almost everything you own. Sometimes maybe more than necessary, until you reach a point where you think: Okay, I discarded all the unnecessary stuff in my life—maybe even more, I’m missing something. It’s uncomfortable that way.
Then you are becoming less extreme until you are finally living in a way where you think: I have some superfluous things I could ditch, but it’s fine that way. It doesn’t bother me to possess some few superfluous things.
And this is the middle way, the healthy path where you wander between two extremes.
Because it is not about a minimal life, it’s about a simple life.
A study on costumer psychology shows that the relationship between money and happiness is surprisingly weak, which may stem in part from the way people spend it.
Drawing on empirical research, the researchers propose eight principles designed to help consumers get more happiness for their money.
Specifically, they suggest that consumers should …
- buy more experiences and fewer material goods,
- use their money to benefit others rather than themselves,
- buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones,
- eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance,
- delay consumption,
- consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives,
- beware of comparison shopping, and
- pay close attention to the happiness of others.
Those eight principles are described in detail in that interesting study itself.
Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast’s pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs. […]
A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and certainly accessible to it at more points, than one of an inferior type; but in spite of these liabilities, he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence.
We may give what explanation we please of this unwillingness; […] but its most appropriate appellation is a sense of dignity, which all human beings possess in one form or other, and in some, though by no means in exact, proportion to their higher faculties, and which is so essential a part of the happiness of those in whom it is strong, that nothing which conflicts with it could be, otherwise than momentarily, an object of desire to them.
Whoever supposes that this preference takes place at a sacrifice of happiness — that the superior being, in anything like equal circumstances, is not happier than the inferior — confounds the two very different ideas, of happiness, and content. It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect.
But he can learn to bear its imperfections, if they are at all bearable; and they will not make him envy the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those imperfections qualify.
It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.
- Stop buying stuff you don’t need.
- Pay off all your credit cards.
- Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in your house/apartment storage lockers, etc.
- Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit on the first floor of your house attic, garage, etc.
- Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in one room of your house.
- Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in a suitcase.
- Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t fit in a backpack.
- Get rid of the backpack.
Many times people end up in stressful situations because they’ve maintained low personal standards.
They let other people talk down to them, treat them unfairly and disrespectfully, and take advantage of them.
They’re willing to trade their dignity and self-respect for a job, an income, a place to live, a family, etc.
But in the end, these decisions so often lead to high stress and a feeling of not being in control. And that loss of self-control ages and kills people much faster.
If you find yourself in a stressful situation, then perhaps it’s time to start taking some control back.
Raise your standards about what’s acceptable to you in terms of how you’re treated, how you’re willing to invest your precious time, and how you want your physical environment to be maintained.
Communicate these standards to others, and if they don’t cooperate, stop dealing with them.