I love Minimalism. I love Joshua and Ryan (The Minimalists) and their fantastic movie. I also love Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist) his family oriented approach. A little KonMari Method? Why not! But it is not the golden one shot wonder to happiness. It is only part of the answer.
A surprising number of guys called Joshua will tell you, getting rid of your stuff will make you happy. This works on the idea that we have been backing the wrong horse in the happiness race. That we have been spending and spending, and accumulating and accumulating in an effort to get our happy on. You know the score: “I will be happy when I have the iPhone X”. We purchase the new shiny toy and get a beautiful rush of happiness…which quickly runs out. We then want another hit of happiness, so we look to the next purchase, and the next and the next. This leads to an empty bank account, an overstuffed house and continued unhappiness (combined with the worry of debt).
So, the conclusion is that if the unhappiness came from purchasing too much stuff, then getting rid of all that stuff will make you happy. So an empty house will create happiness. Or even a small house. Or a gorgeous tiny home (love love love these!!!!). So then we purge, donate, bin, burn our way to happiness.
But … oh where to start?
Even though we now sit on our one sofa, with our one cup, one bowl, one spoon and one knife, we continue to back the wrong happiness horse! We continue to believe that the material world will bring us happiness! Though the possession of less ‘things’ and a tidy, clean, clear beautiful space, we will be happy. We are still doing the same thing, but in a different form: looking to the material world for safety, security, happiness and peace.
Minimalism does partly work, as we start to realise that our happiness is not located in objects such as our phone, our entire wardrobe of clothes, our kitchen packed with gadgets and our giant book collection. Having more does not equal a full life. These are very valuable lessons to learn in life (if you are privileged enough to need to pare down your possessions). But it is only part of the answer.
The minimal message is that, after the declutter, we should reorient our lives to appreciate experiences, connections, family and friends. This is a beautiful message. Why spend all your time cleaning and arranging your junk when you could be out living? Yes! However, we are still looking for happiness in the material world: in our relationships, on what he/she said to us yesterday, whether our travel went well, what the traffic is doing etc…
This is where it all starts to unravel because no matter where you go, or what you do, you will take your thinking with you. You may have less stuff to think about (so clearing and slowing your thinking for a little while) but that ever-flowing voice in your head will find something else to focus on. Be it your career, your boss, the state of the world or wondering how Joshua’s hair from the Minimalists gets so high!
It is our thinking about the material world, not the actual material world, that causes our stress, insecurity and anxiety. Someone may live in a very cluttered house and be as happy as a clam! In this case it is clear that the clutter is not creating unhappiness or happiness. It is the person’s thinking that makes it so. As the trend of Minimalism gathers speed, more of us will experience the thought of “ooooh, I must de-clutter” and “when I declutter, I will be happier”. With this thinking actively engaged in, it appears that the clutter is starting to bum you out, because you are thinking about it and believing that it “shouldn’t be there”. So when you get rid of it, the thought changes, creating temporary happiness. Hurrah! Except then the next fixation of our thinking occurs, and the next, and the next. This is why Minimalist can get hilariously competitive, trying to have less, and less and less stuff to chase the happiness dream. It is ironic that they are still fixating upon the material, even when it is only tiny 15 items (http://andrewhy.de)!!
Happiness lies not in stuff, nor in the not having of the stuff! It is neither! Happiness lies in the realisation that our thinking creates our feeling of the world around us and dictates whether objects makes us happy, sad, mad or just plain confused (rather than the objects themselves having that power). Having less objects, less materialist things, doesn’t change this basic fact about how humans operate, whether they label themselves as non-materialist or not. Our thinking grips us far harder than any amount of clutter could.
Our thinking grips us in such a vice-like grip because, and only because, we grip back! We engage, agree, like and dislike with our thinking (suspiciously like Facebook, eh?). Most of us are locked in a full time conversation with our thinking as we navigate the physical world. It is us who will not let go of our thinking, not our thinking that will not let go of us.
If our happiness is not in the material world the question is, where does it lie? It lies beyond the form, in the formless. It is beyond the material world and it is beyond the thought which we use to interpret that world. It is in that which makes up the material world. It lies in what we, as humans, are made up of, and what our chairs, tables, and clutter is made up of: the formless energy of the universe. It is called so many things: the Big Wow, The Divine, God, Goddess, All That is (and so many more). Out of this arises our thoughts, us, tables, chairs and everything else in the physical world. Once you listen and orientate yourself to the formless, what lies beyond thought, beyond the material, then happiness will be a much greater constant in your life.
Conversely then you will then become a natural Minimalist, as you know that objects in the material world will not make you happy; but also you won’t get bummed out if you have more than one bottle opener in your kitchen draw! The material world will not have so much grip on you because you won’t grip so tightly to your thoughts that tell you that you must have the latest dongle, wongle, gadget or shiny thing. You will have backed the right horse and finally finished your search for happiness in the material world.