I used to think I wanted to be rich.
I pictured myself winning the lottery and living in a huge house, hanging out and partying with friends and family.
There would be so much space that people would be conversing in every room, and there would be so much to do. Video games, sports, a massive selection of alcohol.
I imagined all the stuff I would have in my home: an arcade, a library, a bar, a cinema, a massive kitchen complete with a family chef.
I’d finally have enough room for all the stuff I wanted and never have storage problems again.
Nobody would be bored or want for anything, especially not me. And best of all, I’d be able to enjoy it because I’d never have to work another day in my life. I’d be happy!
Then I discovered minimalism.
And I slowly came to realise that what I thought I wanted was a big fat lie.
Lies that had been sold to me through the media and through every dopamine rush I experienced whenever I acquired something new.
Despite having so many luxuries and so much stuff, I wasn’t happy.
Back when I was a child I was spoiled. On Christmas and birthdays, presents would be piled to the rafters, and my parents bought me whatever I desired throughout the rest of the year.
The trouble was, I always wanted more, and that pattern continued into my adult life. I also had a real problem with letting go of things from my past.
When I started minimising, I felt an amazing sense of freedom, but something else started to happen as well – I no longer desired the latest smartphone, or a hundred books, or a game room filled to the brim like the collectors I admired on Youtube.
It’s also become virtually impossible to tell family and friends what I want for Christmas or my birthday because, truthfully, there’s very little I desire.
If you’d asked me that question two years before, I wanted so much that it was hard for me to choose what to ask for. The things I didn’t get, I could find in the January sales.
But now I realise that I never needed a bigger house, or any of the other luxuries I craved.
The more I’ve downsized my collections, the more I’ve realised I didn’t need a bigger house or more storage. A bigger house would just mean more maintenance and time wasted. And I’ve never been a party animal.
The reason I was so unhappy was because I wasn’t challenging myself.
I was living in mediocrity, staying at the same level I always had, doing the same job I’d always done, and was content letting my husband take care of the important stuff. After all, I was looked after and fine, so why change anything?
I soon learned just how dangerous that mindset was.
One day, he was driving us to work as usual, and we had a near miss with another car who pulled out on us from the left. As he swerved to avoid it, another car was coming at full speed from up ahead. I started screaming and my life flashed through my brain at a thousand miles an hour.
Mainly all the stuff I hadn’t done.
If my husband hadn’t had super-sonic reflexes that morning, we wouldn’t be here today and this blog never would’ve started.
For the rest of the day, I felt shaky and couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if I died without accomplishing what I wanted in life. I also came to the sickening conclusion that I’ve always been looked after, and if anything happened to him, I would be as helpless as a child.
Life can be taken away in an instant. Dreams extinguished along with it.
Minimalism has revealed that I don’t need stuff to make me happy. I need to be able to stand on my own two feet.
I need to be fulfilled. I need to help others. I need to become a full-fledged author and a successful counsellor. I need to make an impression on the world – not my stuff.
That’s why when my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas this year, I was delighted when he suggested that he pay some money towards my training rather than something else that will end up forgotten on a shelf.
I was also more than happy when, for my birthday, my mother paid for my hair to be done. She said she would rather get me something useful than something I would shove in a drawer.
After a year of feeling misunderstood as a minimalist, I can’t even begin to express how much that meant to me.
Now, I also want to say that it’s totally OK to enjoy giving gifts at Christmas, or to ask for a physical possession, as long as it’s something that’s well thought out, and will be loved for a long time, rather than something that will give a quick dopamine hit and end up in a charity shop by summer.
What I want is to invest in my future so that I can be fulfilled and support myself and my family. I want to be of value to others and to enjoy myself in the process.
Does that mean giving up every physical thing I enjoy? No. Of course not. And I’m not ungrateful when people do buy me things because that would make me into an asshat. Being ungrateful for how others choose to show their love is also a surefire way to end up miserable and frustrated.
What it does mean is being grateful for what I do have, and understanding that what I need for true happiness has always been right in front of me. It’s always been waiting for me to wake up and take action to get it.
A torrent of constant advertising, comparing myself to others, and wanting what I saw on Youtube was blinding me to that truth.
With that in mind, I ask, are you living a life of blind consumerism? Are you surrounding yourself with stuff, thinking you’ll finally be happy if you unwrap that one thing you always wanted?
What’s your true happiness?