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How I became a minimalist

In 2011 a week before the NATO bombings and the eventual ouster of Muammar Ghadaffi I was the Construction Manager on the Guryan Prison Project we had 600 Thai and Filipino workers that had to be evacuated in short order before they started the attack. After the last bus left for Tunisia and I checked all the rooms for stragglers, it was our turn to go, but I could only take one of the three bags I owned. After a three hour drive to the Tunisian border the taxi driver decided he would not drive all the way to the guard gate, he was very nervous the entire trip, so I had to walk about a kilometer dragging my only bag across the sand in the hot sun. I remember thinking about this as a pivotal moment, my entire life summed up in one medium-sized bag of luggage many of my treasured books and other memorabilia left behind for the rebels. Along the way, there were a few engagements where we were under threat, and the military robbed us at gunpoint. I now had a clear perspective. After my epiphany in the desert and my time spent in Asia, it became clear to me that money had no bearing on true happiness. When I returned home to Vietnam, I was delighted to be with my wife, family, and my “one bag.”I was very happy and content and quickly got over mourning my two missing bags.

From living in developing countries, the take-home for me is that the people with less tend to be the happiest and most generous. For the working poor in developing countries, the social safety net is their family and neighbors, and everyone shares the wealth based on their good fortune. The Buddhist principle is: the more you give, the more you get back by way of happiness and contentment. A phrase I heard more than once in Vietnam is “I never worry about being poor as I have been poor most my life and I know how to live poor.

Now I am living back in North America “the land of milk and honey”; we spend money upgrading our homes and making impulsive purchases, nagged by a need for change ignoring the opportunity for real contentment in the present moment allowing the “monkey mind” to rule us. We are programmed to love, pamper, wash our vehicles, homes, and stuff. We worry about security in our jobs so we can pay taxes, insurance, payments and maintenance costs on the real estate and expensive things we buy. We spend the little time we have left after working 40-60 hours a week cleaning and maintaining our homes on the nights and weekends. Instead, we should be spending quality time with our families and friends, taking trips, having experiences and making memories.

Our culture has hardwired us to be fearful of not having and doing the same as our neighbors and friends we follow the herd like lemmings to a cliff. Our success is measured only by what we purchase. We knowingly buy today what will be out of fashion or obsolete in one to three years, Apple and Microsoft marketing strategist operate on this principle. We are taken advantage of by our weakness and insecurities funneled into our minds by the trend makers, and media. Projecting memories and self-worth on objects that can be destroyed lost or stolen in the blink of an eye makes us vulnerable to things we have no control over, and our attachment to these things cause us pain or anger when they are gone.

We need to take control and not allow ourselves to be defined by what we own instead of developing our legacy. If you want to unclutter your life and receive the many benefits visit this post shows 28 benefits of a Minimalist life, it is an excellent site with lots of great tips and insight.



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