“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Since we were kids we have been raised on the notion of having more.
It all comes down to the society we’re living in. When we entered school, we had to buy all kinds of pencils, pens, copybooks. As we grew up and started developing our own freedom of choice, we refused to use the same backpack as the previous year.
As we grew older, we started wanting many pens of different colors. We started seeing our favorite celebrities and characters on pencil cases, bags and planners—making us buy more.
By the age of 12, we already had too much. Things got worse when we hit puberty. Advertising grew more important, having us thoroughly believe that the accumulation of possessions will make us happy and complete. Hitting adulthood, we bought more clothes, more beauty products, more shoes, more cars, more devices and more all sort of things.
As I reached adulthood myself, little space was left in my bedroom.
I accumulated all sort of things throughout the years, especially clothes, accessories and shoes. Shockingly, I even kept all the things that I’d acquired during my childhood and adolescence.
At one point in my life, I thought, these things will bring me happiness. I especially believed that my possessions were a part of me and I wouldn’t be complete without them. Although advertising no longer fooled me into buying things that I didn’t really need, I refused to let go of my possessions.
I had clothes that I hadn’t worn in years. Unused things cluttered my drawers and shelves. Shoes that I’d outgrown stayed in my closet.
Fortunately, things changed when I started backpacking.
Before my adventure, I still remember the moment that I stepped out of my room. I beheld the stuff that I was leaving behind with a dismal look.
For four months, I lived perfectly with two tank tops, two pairs of pants, one jacket, one pair of trekking shoes and one pair of flip flops. Not even for one second, had I thought about a single thing that I’d left in my room.
I was happy.
I experienced the joy in having less.
My peace was incomparable. I had no worries about what to wear or what to do with my possessions. I had no possessions. Even the rooms where I have stayed were basic. Most of them consisted of a bed, empty shelves, a bathroom and a window.
When I was back home, I couldn’t sleep in my room for the first couple of nights. Stepping into that room full of things, caused me uncanny anxiety.
Once I settled and emptied my backpack, I started getting rid of things.
I created a space that was similar to the ones that I’d experienced during my travels. Whenever I had to throw out clothes I no longer wear or a thing that I no longer used, I asked myself, “Do I need this?”
To my surprise, I let go of many things, because truth is, I needed so little.
Why owning less can make us happier?
1. Less worries.
Excessive consumerism and accumulation of stuff is a sheer burden. The less we own, the less worried we are about what to wear, what to take with us when we go out and what to do when we’re staying inside.
2. Less attachments.
The less we are attached to people and things, the less suffering we will experience. To be attached to a book, an article of clothing or old shoes that represent a certain memory, is an absolute illusion. Our ego grasps at things just like metal is attracted to a magnet. The difference is that we have control over what we grasp at any time, any day.
3. More space.
I believe that the space we live in absolutely represents who we are. With more space, we create more inner-peace. If there is space in our surroundings, there will be a remarkable emptiness inside of us that will help us reach a peaceful place.
4. Know who we are.
With less things, we can experience our authentic identity—it is not our clothes, our shoes or other possessions. We will work on demystifying our true-selves. When we give away our possessions, we think that we are losing a part of us, but in fact we are winning a greater-self. With less, we will focus on the inner and not the outer, materialistic world.
5. Explore real long-lasting happiness.
Material objects are transient. They only last for a certain period of time and provide us with temporary joy. When we stop searching for happiness and safety through them, we will start looking for happiness in the omnipotent and permanent means, such as love, spirituality, kindness and forgiveness.
With dedication and willingness, we can start getting rid of many things bit by bit.
Before buying any new stuff, we can simply ask ourselves a few questions that will raise awareness and help us make a mindful decision:
Is what I am keeping or buying benefiting me in any way?
Do I really need what I am buying or keeping?
How long will I use this thing before I tuck it away in a drawer?
How long will this thing keep me happy?
Why am I keeping it or buying it?
When we strive to own less, and our space is cleansed, our soul will be too.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: flickr/Andy Mangold