As part of my training to become a Lead Orientation Assitant for RIT's New Student Orientation office this year, I was asked to read a book called This I Believe. The book is a collection of short essays outlining the personal philosophies of a whole bunch of different people. I was then tasked with writing my own.

I decided that it would make a good blog post to share with everyone, so without further ado, here it is:

Being Okay With Less

I don’t recall how I found the book that kickstarted the changes reshaping my life, but I purchased and read the book, regardless. Insanely Simple by Ken Segall tells how the religious adherence to simplicity is the driving force behind Apple’s monumental success. Not only was the book fascinating from a business perspective, but in reading it, I felt that the same principles could be applied to my personal life. In exploring these ideas, I found minimalism and began a journey that, over the past year, has dramatically changed my life. I believe that minimalism is the key to inner peace and happiness.

When most people think of minimalism they think it’s about getting rid of all your stuff. But, perhaps paradoxically, it’s not that simple. Minimalism is more personally defined and extremely fluid. If you boil it down to its core, though, it’s about eliminating excess and promoting the things most valuable to you. While this manifests largely through eliminating excess possessions, it extends into more abstract concepts as well; things like commitments, relationships, and hobbies. Ultimately, it’s about focusing one’s time - the single most important finite resource we have - on what one values most.

People generally agree that the best things in life aren’t things, but our relationships, memories, and activities we enjoy. Yet we live in a society that pushes us to believe that more is better. We want bigger houses and fancier cars, and we always have to work longer hours at jobs we increasingly dislike to get them. Perhaps worse than that, our measurement of success is predicated almost entirely on the things and luxuries we’re capable of buying. We drown ourselves in debt to have things we soon realize we didn’t actually want. We depress ourselves with the monumental task of cleaning, organizing or storing our things. Our garages aren’t for parking our cars anymore, but for storing the things that don’t fit in our houses. By choosing minimalism, I’ve chosen to not live that way.

Since embracing minimalism, I’ve eliminated roughly 1/3 of everything I own; excess clothes, random bits, bobs, and doohickies I’ve been holding onto “just in case I need them.” My small apartment bedroom doesn’t feel so cramped any more. In fact, I can almost fit everything I own in my car. I no longer feel burdened by small, useless trinkets I’ve wasted literally hours of my life organizing. Instead, I’ve found extra time to invest in hobbies, relationships, and activities for personal growth. I’ve reprioritized my time and my life for the things that mean the most to me. And when I want to buy something these days, I think in terms of upgrading or replacing rather than just acquiring. By limiting myself in the things I own, purchase, and accept as a responsibility, I’ve been freer to give due attention to more fulfilling commitments, including ones that involve giving back to others. As a result, I’ve been less stressed, much happier, and more comfortable with myself.

I don’t feel that this is an experience unique to myself. Indeed, many who find minimalism or choose to embrace simplicity throughout their lives often report many of the same feelings. My journey into accepting minimalism is still a work in progress, but already I’m feeling a change.

To become a minimalist is to accept that the praise of excess and the burden of possessions is an unhealthy practice; it means learning to find contentment with less. As a minimalist, I’m searching for a more meaningful existence through experiences rather than possessions, despite the intense consumerist values our society has developed. Through experiences we find purpose and fulfillment, and in the diverse, fast-paced world we live in, these can be hard to find. We’ve been conditioned to live in a state of perpetual discontentment because we never own the newest, the fanciest, or the most. But I’ve chosen to not live like this. I believe that being okay with less makes room for so much more.