Thursday, 1 May 2014

Minimalism, money and happiness

In the last year or so our family has made the decision to live as minimally as we can possibly manage.

Not out of poverty or not being able to afford to buy things, but simply because it just makes sense. For several reasons: environmentally and ethically, for increased personal happiness and satisfaction, and to create freedom from the entrapment of 9-5 living.

 Environmentally and ethically, it is unnecessary, irresponsible and unethical to live the way that the western world is living.

Why do we need all. of these. things?

Within recent years I have personally read many blogs, research articles and testaments to a rapidly growing social movement toward minimalist living and anti-consumption, for the purpose of cutting down on our 'wastage and expenditure for the sake of waste and expenditure'.

We live in a country where people go shopping, just for the sake of going shopping.  We buy things just so that we can have more things, with little thought to where those things have come from, or what we will have to sacrifice, environmentally and ethically, to buy them.

 And it doesn't seem that radical an idea to just stop buying things. 

But in a post - World War 2 world, where personal worth is often defined by how much money you earn, how many possessions you have, and the monetary value of your belongings, it has now become a radical idea. 

The idea that we, as members of Western Society, are not intrinsically more valuable than the third world countries and communities that are suffering unimaginable levels of environmental pollution and personal poverty, in order to provide us with all of the things (valuables, belongings, disposable material possessions) that we think we 'need' is fast losing weight as the state of our world and our environment is rapidly falling into decline. 

We have too much stuff

We are making too much stuff

We need to get off the roller coaster - now

And on a more personal note - in our daily lives, how much value do all of our materialistic possessions add to our lives?...

When children receive MORE toys, do they instantly become happier? does it make them more joyful? has it been your experience that owning more possessions makes you feel more free? does it make you walk with a spring in your step? laugh more?

And how much money do we need to buy all of these things to make us feel happy...

Can you put a dollar figure on how much money we need, to buy the material possessions required to create happiness?

Yes...apparently. $75,000 per year, according to a study in the US of happiness and its correlation with income. The main finding of the study, was that at $75,000 per year, happiness plateaued.

People did not feel ANY happier after they reached a point where they felt that all of their needs were met, the bills were paid, and so forth.

However in much of the abundant literature that is available on happiness, life-satisfaction and contentment, most of the indicators for happiness are not linked in any way. You do not need a big house, or two bathrooms, expensive cars or designer clothes to make you happy. And chances are, if you own those things, those things also own you too.

It creates anxiety to take care of, protect, store, transport and worry about all of the things in our lives that have become bound and attached to us.

What if we let those things go?

What if we were free of the societal expectation to buy new clothes all of the time?

To have matching sheet sets, and cars that are barely off the show-room floor before they are replaced with a bigger, better model?

What if we didn't buy take-away food, and lived from the markets?

What if we reduced our living expenses so much that we didn't have to work 38 hours a week to maintain our consumer-overload lives, and we had more time and freedom to pursue the things that we are really passionate about?

To me, that is freedom.

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