Living: When less is more

Living: When less is more

Letting go of your possessions can relieve you of stress.

Here’s a short quiz: What’s your ambition in life? What do you aspire for? Where do you see yourself in five years? What defines success for you? What makes you happy?

Most probably, the answers to at least three of these questions would be something along the lines of a six-figure salary, a big house, a fancy car, fashionable clothes, expensive holidays… Perfectly normal. After all, that’s how we have been taught to measure success, haven’t we? Remember the carrot our parents used to dangle in front of us as kids to motivate us to study harder? That one carrot symbolised everything deemed to be associated with success.

But while a majority of us are still after that elusive carrot, there are people who are choosing a different lifestyle, the lifestyle of minimalism.

Letting go...

World over, people are willingly throwing out all the unnecessary crap that only the world deemed necessary to their living. Young, working professionals, who are probably the biggest victims of consumerism today, are stepping away from this maddening race, where the only constant is stress. Many have realised that all creature comforts come with a tiny asterisk that hides a whole lot of issues. For instance, clothing is an essential need. But what happens when we go overboard with it? Our wardrobe begins to overflow; getting ready every morning turns into a stressful routine because there are too many choices; and ultimately, messes up our schedule for the day. Sounds like an endless cycle, doesn’t it?

Minimalism is not about getting rid of all the materialistic things and living the life of a hermit. It’s about reducing the clutter from our life, stripping down to the bare essentials and clearing the path for better and more meaningful experiences. Simply put, it’s the art of living with less. It’s about asking ourselves if we really need all that we own in our life right now. A pair of socks to keep us warm in winters? Yes. But five pairs that only take up more space in our closet? Maybe not!

Subhash Sundaravadivelu, a 26-year-old from Mumbai has fully embraced minimalism. He cooks his own food, buys clothes only once in two years, and invests in experiences rather than materialistic possessions. He says, “I believe that the genuine requirements for my survival are food, clothing and shelter. Anything above and beyond that are just needs that we create for ourselves based on external influences. I used to indulge in a lot of eating out, watching a movie, but only because of the fear of missing out (FOMO). That’s when I wondered if all those things were really adding as much value to my life as they should? The fact is, they weren’t.”

Slowly, Subhash started simplifying his life, and his living costs came down considerably. “Since my living costs are less, the need to earn more has gone away. If my monthly expenses are Rs 10,000 only, what am I going to do earning Rs 50,000 or Rs 70,000 every month? Now, I have more time on my hands and less stress. I also realised that time is the actual currency. There are so many people in the world who are leading happy lives without all the ‘comforts’ that we think are necessary. Doesn’t that say something?” he asks.

Meaningless materialism

According to Devisha Batra, counselling psychologist, Epsyclinic, Iwill, it’s not the material itself that gives us happiness, but the meaning that we associate with it. She says, “A rich life, as many of us think, means owning a lot of possessions. However, this has brought us to a situation where everyone is in a rat race without understanding where one is heading. This leads to both physical and mental exhaustion. Hence, the principle of ‘less is more’ is on the rise. Materialism is that yardstick that provides success and material happiness but often leaves a trail of a mental chaos of stress, anxiety and worry, with an aim to achieve worldly ambitions.”

Naama Choonawala, a 28-year-old musician, believes in the principle of minimalism because she feels it’s liberating. “I make it a point to have as little stuff in my life as possible. Even in my music, I go minimal. Over time, I realised that there were so many petty things that I didn’t need. And when the number of things you own goes down, you stop cribbing about all the little things in life,” she says.

Simple joys

Clearly, the benefits of living with less are aplenty. First and foremost, our living costs come down considerably. There’s less stuff to deal with which frees up our calendar and leaves us with more and more time. Our mind won’t be occupied with the mundane stuff anymore, leaving us free to explore more meaningful pursuits. Slowly, the effects will trickle down into our psyche, wherein we’ll feel stressed less often and journey within, towards our own soul. What more, going minimal also has significant effects on the environment. Less materialistic possessions mean less pressure on the natural resources and less waste. Studies also suggest that minimalism lifestyle makes us more environmentally conscious.

However, if getting rid of things physically isn’t your cup of tea, you can always go minimal emotionally. Devisha explains, “Sometimes, we need to rid of emotional baggage as well. Do we tend to hold on to the past? Have we held on to strong feelings for people? Do we feel guilty and regret decisions in life? Having an excess of negative feelings creates discomfort in daily living. Purging uncomfortable feelings and emotions will set us free and allow space for more positive experiences.”

Ultimately, the choice lies with us. What do we value more materialistic possessions that give us a temporary high or meaningful experiences that add more value to our living?

So, let’s stop chasing that elusive butterfly of happiness. Let’s say no to things that don’t matter and yes to things that really do!