Live + Breathe

4

MINIMALISM ISN’T ABOUT LIVING WITH LESS, IT IS ABOUT LIVING WITH MORE.

Do we stumble on things or are we just not fully aware that we are searching? I wasn’t looking for a way to purge most of my belongings, but that is exactly what my wife, Inga, and I did when we discovered minimalism. It entered our life at a time where I wasn’t happy or fulfilled with my current job and I was bringing a lot of my stress, sadness and worthlessness home with me each evening, and Inga was seeing a psychologist for her anxiety. Our entry into minimalism was through a game. The rules of the game are quite simple—you find a friend and you each discard one item from your home on the first day, two on the second day, three on the third day and so forth for thirty days. A total of 645 items each. The first two weeks are easy, but it gets more challenging as you get deeper into the month.

In the beginning, Inga went along with the game as it was a way to do a little spring-cleaning around our home, and then it became the thing we did each night, together, excited to see what the other person was going to release from their life that day. Some days we were amazed and proud at what the other person had selected, and other days we were thankful. We brought our daughter, Andy, along for the ride and explained what we were doing. On two separate occasions she came to me with a pile of her toys and said she would like to donate them, telling me that she doesn’t really play with these ones anymore.

Going through the process together allowed it to be a talking point within our home and our relationship. We weren’t doing this for ourselves but for each other, which developed a deeper bond and a common purpose. We made it through the month and we felt cleansed, like our home and minds had been through a detox. It was therapeutic. What started out as a little game completely changed our mindset and outlook on possessions and money. It gave us the time to really question what we truly valued and realign our compass.

We decluttered more of our home as the weeks passed and now it has become a habit. We strongly question each new purchase or item we bring into the home and we don’t buy anything unless we believe it will add value to our lives. Inga’s anxiety started to improve. Seeing space and order in our home meant there was one less thing for her to be anxious about. She took the principles of minimalism to her business and created more space for her personal time, which enabled her anxiety to be much more manageable.

One evening Inga raised the idea of the family living overseas for a year. I wasn’t enjoying my work and Andy was only three-and-a-half years old, so the timing seemed perfect. We didn’t know how we were going to pull it off but we weren’t frightened by the task, we felt alive by it, and I believe that is because of minimalism. It enabled us to break down tasks and questions so we could see them for what they really were, without the fog of society’s expectations and the cloud of possessions.

Feeling alive doesn’t mean that fear is evaporated—perhaps it was the fear of the unknown that made us feel alive by the notion.

When we told family and friends that we were going to take off on a year-long adventure, one of the first things people would say was, “What are you going to do with all your stuff?” Oddly enough, that is all we thought it was. Stuff. Apart from needing to rent out our home, our stuff was so far down our list of priorities we hadn’t really thought about it. Our stuff didn’t own us anymore. „We were more comfortable in our relationship and knew we would work through each of the hurdles together. The main hurdle we faced initially was affordability, and this was the topic of conversation for a number of weeks. How could we afford to travel through North America for a year? We had the advantage that Inga could take her design business, Inkling Design, anywhere there was internet connection, but this also meant that we couldn’t take the affordable option and hit the road in an RV or van. We landed on the idea of house and pet-sitting so the large cost of accommodation was taken out, and we went all-in on trying to make it happen.

I put all of my PR and marketing skills to work and I hustled. I literally spruiked my family every night for three months. I sent countless emails to people, I researched their towns, the breed of dog they had, we had one of our friends take professional photos of our family for our house-sitter profiles and to send to home owners. After months of continuously trying, it finally paid off. During our first Skype conversation with a couple in their 60s, they said that they would love for us to house-sit their home and two cats in Clam Lake, Wisconsin, over their winter. Our little dream was finally becoming a reality. This is a town of 36 people in the middle of a national park where temperatures drop to below -25°c. Our adventure was going to be filled with experiences so different to that of our home life.

Five months later we packed, donated or sold everything we owned and headed on a family adventure attempting to house-sit our way around North America for a year. Only the first house-sit was organised when we left Australia and we didn’t know what was going to unfold after that. But we didn’t let the unanswered questions and fear impede with our desire to live immediately. Our family was together, learning and experiencing new things with each other, supporting, caring and loving each other, venturing into the unknown and a world of possibilities together.

Minimalism isn’t about living with less, it is about living with more. Less possessions are a simple by-product of minimalism that allows you to fill that space with the things you love. Have fun and live immediately.

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