I am an advocate of the power of not owning things. We build our prisons by desiring stuff. Cars. Houses. Fancy clothes. Backyard pools. Motorcycles. Campers. Even rich fatty sugary foods that make us obese.
The ultimate minimalist was Mohandas K. Gandhi. At the time of his death, he supposedly owned 12 items.
I am happiest when all of my belonging fit in a 33 liter backpack. Whenever I stay too long in one spot, things accumulate. We can’t help it. It’s the old ant and the grasshopper syndrome. Work like a dog and save for a rainy day or you’ll starve in winter.
I’ve never gotten it down to twelve items, but I strive for under 100.
Gandhi’s attitude toward material things is straight out of Buddha:
“You may have occasion to possess or use material things, but the secret of life lies in never missing them.”
It’s funny that both Gandhi and Buddha were born into wealthy families. I guess you if you can have all the possessions you want, you understand how little they really contribute to happiness. Reminds me of why the Kennedys were liberal democrats, at least by the standards of the day.
1. Accumulate Only What You Need
Gandhi believed in possessing little except the clothes he wore and some utensils for cooking and eating. He gave away or auctioned gifts that were given to him.
It may not be possible these days for us to get down to less than ten possessions like Gandhi did, but start cutting down to bare basics. Recycle or give unwanted or unused items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or a local women’s shelter.
“Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”
No one said it better than Bruce Lee.
2. Eat A Plant-Based Diet
While I recommend eating a low fat, plant-based vegan diet, you may not have to go that far. I eat vegan to fight diabetes.
Gandhi followed a strict vegetarian diet and cooked his own simple food, which was locally produced. He ate this simple food from a small bowl, a reminder to eat moderately, and mindfully.
So eat simply and moderately. And vegan.
3. Dress Simply
This can sometimes be difficult given your ego.
If I need to go to downtown Jacksonville, I take the bus even if a car is available. I don’t like parking down there, and I don’t trust bad things not to happen.
I do dress simply. Trouble is, I look like the Unabomber, or at least, most of the homeless guys on the street.
You can simplify your life by dressing for comfort, not to impress.
4. Lead A Simple Life
Getting rid of useless stuff, whether physical items or relationships, simplifies a life and reduces stress.
Gandhi meditated daily and spent hours in reflection. Most of us would be lucky to get in 10 or 20 minutes of meditation. I personally prefer walking meditation which combines some gentle exercise with ho’oponopono.
At the root of a simple life is doing everything for yourself that you can. Simple work. Self-sufficiency.
So don’t take life too seriously. Remember to take time out to play.
5. Your Life Legacy
Even though I enjoy writing, we have to let our life be our legacy. By living a simple life, you are able to devote your life to a chosen higher purpose.
For example, by living a vegan lifestyle, you do not participate in the killing of other animals on the planet, pollution and greenhouse gases from animal agriculture are reduced, and you live a healthier life.
I don’t have to tell anyone what I’m doing unless I’m ordering lunch at a restaurant. I don’t have to convert anyone or change the planet. I just contribute by deciding with each bite not to contribute to animal suffering.
As a note on Gandhi, his eyeglasses and pocket watch and some other possessions sold at auction in 2009 for $1.8 million.
The auction of items once owned by Mohandas K. Gandhi, including a pocket watch and spectacles, touched off outrage in India. Even after his death, governments and some other people believe they have a right to your stuff.
No one can take his legacy.