"Play outdoors. Love the earth. Live simply. Use only what you need."
That’s a line I read recently in an amazing article about a MLB player who spends his offseason living out of a van, leads a really cool life, and is most unconventional though having the resources to be rather flamboyant. I love the idea of living simply - making experience more priority than material.
We collect so much throughout our life, and many times it just becomes excessive. I'm one of the worst perpetrators of them all, and I feel terribly guilty when I look at some of the things I have and do not need. We all sometimes could be guilty of collecting too much. It’s so easy in this environment we live in to fall into the trap of consuming more and more even when it’s not necessary, oftentimes because of a subconscious (or conscious) effort to portray ones success. So much money is wasted by people trying to play up to the ideals of others. Those who incorrectly believe that material possessions are a symbol of true wealth are on a never-ending quest for something bigger, better, and more expensive - but why?
Living in Spain, I noticed that people were content with much smaller cars, fewer clothes, quaint accommodation, and meager portions. After living there for a year out of a suitcase and a duffle, I knew I had too many possessions back home. My thinking was justified when looking back even further, where I lived out of a backpack for the good part of a year before going to Spain. I was happy with the things I had there, so it really made me question my excess back home. I had a conversation with a friend about this as we traveled together before I journeyed back to the United States, and we decided to make a pact to declutter our lives in at least one way, and that was to simplify our wardrobe. When I got home, I emptied a closet to make space for my 'now' everyday clothes. I also rid of at least a dozen pairs of shoes, though admittedly, I'm a bit over the top with shoes in the first place. In the end, it made for such a freeing experience that provided me a little more peace, and ambition to continue the process in other areas of my life.
As I contemplated what made me most happy, I realized there were no material items on that list. I was happy spending time with people I love. For you, the reader, those people may be a partner, children, parents, family, best friends, teachers, or whoever, so find time to do things with them, talk to them, and be intimate with them. Also, find time to experience solitude, make time for yourself to meditate and think. Ponder important questions. Walk a little bit slower. Eat a little less rapidly. Drive with a sense of calm. Most of all, be present. My roommate in South Africa always preached to me about the latter, being present - though it can be hard to maintain this state of mind, it is amazing at how it simplifies your life. Living here and now, in the moment, keeps you aware of life, of what is going on around you and within you, and does wonders for your sanity.
So many articles have been written concerning the psychology research that shows experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions. Essentially, they seem to say that experiences provide happiness before, during, and after the ‘purchase’ or time, and that happiness last much longer. Think about the way you feel towards your phone, your shoes, or any item that you are around so often. There is a diminishing return on those items provision of happiness as they become customary to our daily routine. They deteriorate or become obsolete. It's the fleetingness of experiential purchases that endears us to them. Either they're not around long enough to become imperfect, or they are imperfect, but our memories and stories of them get sweet with time. Even a bad experience becomes a good story.
Many people are indeed resetting their priorities to reflect the notion that valuing experiences over things makes for a more happy human. Rather than going out to buy the newest Louboutins, Macbook, or BMW, they resort to going somewhere beautiful with people they love to get that surge of happiness. Psychology studies show this to be true, and I would have a hard time arguing the case.
A friend of a friend, a guy who seems to get this concept and lives out an incredible story, named Jed Jenkins, posed these questions - "Do your friends explode with life and give you life and you reflect it right back at them so that no one owns it and everyone owns it all at once? When you're in a crowd, are you aware of how you're coming across? Are you worried about that? Are you actually interested in the people you're talking to? Do you tell people they look lovely when they do?" He hints at being an authentic individual, focusing on the people around us instead of whimsical desires for flattery or recognition. In the end, my challenge is to simplify my life, elude the desire to overly consume, reduce unnecessary stressors, grow as a friend, love others, and be present.