All of us, at one point in our lives, enter through the magical gates of independence. For many of us, it’s usually during the twenties, for others, it’s even younger. Independence looks different for many of us. From partaking in activities alone, financially funding yourself, or even losing a family member, anyone of us can find ourselves in situations where we tackle different life experiences independently.
Personally, being the eldest child and a first-generation student, independence started a little earlier. As a boy watching my parents work hard day in and day out, asking for something I wanted was a thought I had to think twice. Constantly leaving home to roam the streets I wished to visit became routine. Many times they would go out of their way to surprise me with something I always mentioned but never asked for. Instead of being excited for what they got me, I’d get angry and tell them to return it because it came out of our savings.
Recognizing where my family stood from a financial standpoint at a very young age, I was able to realize the role I played within the family and understood what the difference was between a want and a need. Yet, as a naïve child, social-influence impacted me greatly. Growing up during the era of the Jordan’s, ‘hype’ streetwear, and the infamous tamagotchi’s, even though I didn’t need these things, I still wanted them — to ‘fit in’ and find my space in society.
To set out on fulfilling my wants, I started to earn my own money at a young age of 14, putting up flyers to tutor younger kids in math and English, simultaneously trying to build my resume by volunteering at a community camp. I wasn’t going to ask my parents for money because I knew what they had to go through to earn it and where they were investing it, in my future. If I was going to spend money, I needed to get it myself. I was going to earn it.
It wasn’t until the end of high school to the beginning of university where my needs + wants equation wasn’t adding up.
As time went on, I didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t content. Even though it didn’t seem like that externally, internally I was feeling anxious, nervous, and uneasy. I constantly found myself seeking places of quiet, lesser crowds, and no distractions.
Having so much, yet feeling so little, it had to be the space I was in that was influencing my mind to feel this way.
Seeing my closets full of unworn branded clothes, a desk piled with electronics, and shelves topped up with unworn shoes, it made me recognize that my everyday life had been occupied by ‘things’. Rooms, desks, closets, shelves loaded with things I gave materialistic value to. I was convinced that what I owned would give me fulfillment. The idea that the stuff I owned would bring me happiness, prosperity, and well-being. That the ‘things’ I owned would allow me to be superior on the socio-economic scale.
This is where I was wrong.
More than the spaces around me, the ‘things’ I owned gave me false actualization of reality. Cluttering my mind, it made me believe that the things I owned brought (or rather bought) me happiness but instead made me feel the opposite.
The Art of Reflecting
Ever since I’ve hit the petrifying age of twenty, a lot has changed from managing my finances, staying on top of my institutional life, building my networks and connections, and being around people who make me feel great and inspired. Even deeper, the age of twenty presented itself through energy which manifested onto me, simultaneously providing me with a list of questions of what I had to think about or do next.
Who’s important to you?
What adds value to your life?
What are your truest passions?
What do you aspire to be and how do you want to get there?
Where will you look to find motivation?
Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Being exposed to these questions, I started using my past to analyze and determine what the answers might look like. And that’s where I got stuck. Since I was constantly doing things which disengaged my body from listening to my mind, these questions were difficult to seek answers for.
So I took a step back:
Who was I individually?
What were my values?
What made me, me?
The Concept of Minimalism
To better reflect over this question, a friend of mine shared a simple yet life-changing tool that helped me with this: the concept of minimalism.
Having less, which meant more.
To hold on to things which added value to my life, and let go of things which I didn’t need.
To invest in memories and experiences rather than materialist possessions.
To create experiences which can perhaps be shared with the ones around me and carry life-long memories.
As we grow older responsibilities including, familial, academic, friendships, and self increase as we work towards living a more meaningful life. With that, we recognize that the ‘things’ around us mean much less than we assumed when we owned them.
Taking a step back to recognize that even if you didn’t carry the newest iPhone, wore name branded clothes, or drove the most expensive car, you would still be loved and taken care of by those who love you, by those who you’ve made memories with, by those who appreciate you because of your morals, values, attitude, and positivity, is the biggest blessing.
Is this all cliché? Yes. But it’s something we oversee because we tend to want more unconsciously.
Here are some ways I intentionally practiced minimalism and worked towards living a more meaningful life and thinking more clearly:
Number 1: Live within your means.
Intentional living. Living within your means is to spend less than or equal to the amount of money you make or get from your family/friends.
Some ways you can practice this include: making your meals at home for school or work, instead of buying new clothes, making new outfits with the clothes you have, or even reducing your phone bill to include what you need in dire situations.
Number 2: Remind yourself that life is about experiences, not things.
The ‘things’ that you have will always be there, in front of your eyes. Many times you’ll buy the thing you wanted and watch it collect dust. But something that won’t hold dust is the memories and moments you make through the experiences you expose yourself to. Whether it be by attending a camp, going on a long drive with your friends, or even spending quality time with your family at a park, try to spend money on life’s experiences.
Next time you are tempted to buy something ask yourself: can I save this money for my next vacation, family adventure, or even a dinner with my special someone?
If your answer is yes, make it happen.
Number 3: Recognize the difference between decluttering and organizing.
Organizing: Sorting and storing things you have to create more simplicity.
Decluttering: Getting rid of things you that are no longer necessary, no longer being used, or you simply don’t love anymore.
By decluttering you can create more space for things that mean more to you. Having a clean, simple, and meaningful environment will contribute to having a quieter, more peaceful mind
Number 4: Reduce information consumption.
To declutter is not only to let go of things but also to let go of various aspects of social media. Many times we get overwhelmed by the amount of information we intake in a single day. From what our friends are doing to what the political situation is around the world to which Kardashian will break up with their special someone next. Even though it directly has nothing to do with us, we let it impact our minds which then affects our behaviors. By deleting the apps and unfollowing people who don’t bring direct value to our lives, we can create an online space which is more meaningful and allows us to express ourselves more ethically!
Number 5: Don’t let sentiment hold you back.
“How can I throw this out? My best friend, who I haven’t spoken within the past 10 years, gave this to me on my birthday. There’s so much love in this”
This is the most common excuse we present ourselves when it comes to letting go of things to create a more meaningful environment. When we attach sentiment to things, we then allow the thing to force an emotion we wish to feel. This leads to us keeping everything we have.
If it was truly given with so much love, let’s try to build our relationships asking each other to go on coffee dates/fun activities to learn more about each other.
One of the most impactful advice I had been given to help with this was:
“If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be.”
Now I’m not saying, “GET RID OF ALL OF YOUR STUFF!!” because that would be ridiculous. But what I am trying to tell you is maybe you should start asking yourselves the questions I asked myself.
To ask whether or not the things you own truly add more value in your life.
To ask if you didn’t have the things you have now, would you still be happy?
If your answer to these questions is yes, you are one step closer in living a more meaningful life!