Minimalism or Packratism; It is Up to You

“The more the merrier”. Author, English Man

The popular saying, ‘the more the merrier’ is an utterly wrong statement to use as an objective in many facets of life. I may be wrong.

My religion tells me one should be in this world like a traveler. That one is on a journey to another destination where what you possess here does not mean much there. One is encouraged to aim for less worldly things and garner more spiritual attainment. A belief that only augurs well for those who deeply believe or have a core belief.

But what does it mean to be a traveler? A number of things. One, you are transiting from one place to another for an objective. You have left home in search of something. And when you assume the status of a traveler, something is bound to adhere to; packing. What do you bring on your journey and what do you not?

I was a terrible packer years then. In fact, right from High School days, I remember how I always try to bring everything and fill my bags to capacity. Fast-forward to my adult life, I still fail, not miserably though. At one time when I traveled to Tokyo, I had brought a number of clothing, for every weather (despite it was summer then). To be fair to myself, I was going to be away from my place of domicile for about 3 months. Therefore, I thought I should just bring enough clothes.

It was a terrible idea. I had simply brought more than enough. Now let me ask you, how many clothes do you bring for a journey lasting for about 3 months? Clothing for one month, so you can wash and reuse or for 3 weeks or two weeks or one week? The math isn’t so easy to come by after all.

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When you are going away for a year! 😀

My observant roommate in Japan, Alex noticed the need to improve my packing (over filled bag) and tells me how he packs. ‘Bring together all the things you need for a journey, then just halve it by two.’ He said in a genuinely British accent that resonates in me anytime I am packing to travel. “Halve it by two’. If I am going away for two weeks and thought to bring a pair of cloth for every day, that will be at least 14 pieces of shirts/t-shirts, trousers,  underwear (singlet and boxers), stockings. At least.

Wrong! Halve it by two Alex says. And you will be okay.

Packratism on a short trip is just a little tip of the ice-berg. What about in everyday life? What do you need every day? How much should you keep and how much shouldn’t? How many cars and clothing and shoes do you need in your garage and closet?

The word for such a less material possessive life is called minimalism; having less of everything. Minimalism is a tool for finding freedom, living more consciously and more deliberately.

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It’s what Buddhists monks and many people. They call it viagyra-the intentional giving away of your possessions. Sayyidna Abu Bakr, r.a., the first leader of the Islamic Caliphate after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) practiced viagyra too in his life time, by giving away all his wealth. Read about the beautiful story here.

Practicing viagyra leaves you to enjoy moksha-the moment after giving away everything. Having this kind of moment-the moksha moment- can reduce your mental stress. It leaves you with much more time for other stuff instead of battling to create time to enjoy/use/admire/caress/display/…(fill in the blank) your gadgets, farmlands, automobiles, houses, and whatever you may have purchased. Hence the thinking that you have all these and you need to guard and use them frequently creates thinking and decision fatigue.

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Buddhist Monk

Minimalism is a line of thought to always serve in what you do. From making purchases to traveling and collecting collectibles. It’s the opposite of being a packrat. Possessing a lot of stuffs that you have to carter for might become a mental stress.

I remember how last year, I used the elementary but powerful economic principle of opportunity cost and scale of preference to decide on what to spend my money on. Things or experience. See my blog post about it here.

I shrink in my chair and reminisce walking the streets of Amsterdam. From one street to another, turning at river canals and crossing over the old bridge. I found a very good restaurant; a Suriname cuisine. I heard the name of the country once before, but never knew they were colonized by the Dutch. So it was easy to have such a restaurateur from Suriname serving food cooked in his native seasoning in the middle of Amsterdam.

Those are the kinds of thoughts that come into my head often. Then occasionally, I get interrupted by what I could have possessed if I hadn’t spent my money on different cuisines and traveling to different places. That new phone, an expensive leather wrist watch or a designer couture bought from Champs’ Elysees.

The could-haves are just numerous to wonder in. but they didn’t matter then. And they cannot now.

To conclude my post, here is a challenge.

Look at all your possessions. Which ones haven’t you use used in the last 3 (or even) 2 months or so? Shoes, clothing or what? Now is the time to bring them all out and giveaway.

Want to go deeper in minimalism, read the Chicago Tribune post here.

Less is more! Less is more!!

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