In the fall of 2005 I started my undergraduate degree at Bowling Green State University. Like a typical college freshman that goes away to school, I spent a lot of time and money buying things for my new dorm room. I was going to be out on my own for the first time in my life and everyone wanted to make sure I had everything I could possibly need, and more. I had a hot water pot, a coffee maker, microwave, cases of convenient food and drinks, lamps, bean bag chairs, a futon and an array of other random things that you’re “supposed” to find in a college dorm room. It was definitely way more stuff than could comfortably fit in a 12 x 12 room with a roommate. Essentially, I was identical to your typical college student in every way.
DECEMBER 2005, NEWBIE MINIMALIST
Fast forward several months and I was beginning to wonder if there was a better way. I was tired of living in a tiny room that was packed to the gills with “stuff” that I barely used. Granted, everyone else’s dorm room looked basically the same - so what was I complaining about? In my angst ridden annoyance over being dominated by my stuff I found the blog Zen Habits. And thus, my foray into minimalism began.
This isn’t a minimalism blog. I’ve already spent plenty of time and effort writing about that. However, minimalism was my ticket out of complacency. I realized that I didn’t have to live like everyone else. I didn’t have to get through college, find a great job, and start acquiring the symbols of success like people expected. It took me years of thinking about the topic and experimenting with what felt right in my life but eventually I came to realize that I was more than my stuff. The whole process of thinking about my relationship to material goods spurred me on to more aspects of living consciously — but minimalism got the ball rolling. It made me start thinking about what I was doing and why I was doing it.
BREAKING FREE OF COMPLACENCY
I see a lot of value of trying out various lifestyle experiments like minimalism or vegetarianism. Doing something that removes you from what everyone else is doing forces you to think. I don’t particularly care if you decide to be a minimalist or a vegetarian, but I do care if you think about why you’re living the way you are.
Living a minimalist lifestyle forced me to think about my relationship to stuff, which made me think about my habits, and eventually led me to reevaluate my future. It helped me clarify my values and lead me down the path I’m currently traveling. If I’m not interested in accumulating stuff what’s my motivation to work? The work itself became the motivation and explains why I’ve stepped away from my original chosen profession of teaching and am embarking on a degree in positive psychology and a career as a coach.
Minimalism was the jolt that got me out of complacently accepting everything society told me I should be working toward. What is your jolt going to be? Can you try minimalism? Can you try changing your diet? Can you commit to some sort of 30 day challenge that will test the boundaries of what you think is possible? Whatever avenue you decide to take, waking up from complacency and blind acceptance is worth the effort and sometimes it takes something drastic like living with less than 100 things or eating only a plant-based diet to snap us out of it.