Minimalism Changed Who I Am.

I used to be a (aspiring) musician, cyclist, gardener, canner, soccer coach, coin collector, stamp collector, home owner, and DIY handyman.  

I am no longer those things. I found that by selling, giving away, or otherwise disposing of my guitars, soccer gear, biking gear, coin and stamp collections, work files, house, and many, many, other possessions related to these pursuits, I was freed from the personas that took away my time and focus from the things that I wanted to be and do the most.

In his time management book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkman challenges us to focus on the top items that we want to accomplish. He shares a story attributed to Warren Buffet, where the Billionaire allegedly advises to prioritize your top 25 things, focus on the top 5, and then actively avoid the remaining 20 items. Those items prevent us from spending the time needed to do our highest priorities very well. 

Burkman is not this prescriptive and shares that “you needn’t embrace the specific practice of listing out your goals (I don’t, personally) to appreciate the underlying point, which is that in a world of too many big rocks, it’s the moderately appealing ones—the fairly interesting job opportunity, the semi-enjoyable friendship—on which a finite life can come to grief.” 

This was an eye-opening revelation for me. In order to focus on what I wanted to be and do the most—husband, father, friend, and student as well as a nomadic traveler, camper, hiker, reader, personal finance coach, and historian—I needed to eliminate my many other personas and lower priorities.

One of my top priorities was to travel the world nomadically with a carry-on and a backpack. This goal required some major downsizing–I fully embraced minimalism with some surprising results. 

When I sold my (barely used) electric guitar, amp, and case back to the music store I bought it from (at a fraction of the price), I felt free! I was giving myself permission to no longer be a musician. I no longer had this physical reminder telling me “You should practice music. Remember, it is the 9th thing you want to accomplish?” It was a conversation I didn’t want to have. 

The time and money I spent trying to learn to play the guitar took time away from what I really wanted to do – read, travel, learn a language, and take better care of myself.

Likewise, by getting rid of my canning equipment, lawn care equipment, cars, house, tools, old files and collections, I released myself from numerous commitments and freed up enormous time and resources. 

Having newfound time and resources to focus on world traveling, my relationships, reading, sleeping, stretching, and hiking has been amazing. I have traveled more this year (2023) than any other year. I have read more books this year than any other (including college). I have spent more hours with my close family and friends than I had been. I walk and hike more than ever. I am constantly learning new things and tackling my foreign language proficiency goal.

Doing fewer things better is…better! Removing the physical possessions around these lower-priority identities made it happen. By getting rid of these possessions, I gave myself permission to be who I really wanted to be. Minimalism changed who I was. 

If you want to learn more about minimalism and techniques to downsize, I highly recommend Fumio Sasaki’s book Goodbye Everything. While I did not minimize to the extent that he did, I found his minimalism philosophy and techniques to be invaluable.

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