Learning this took me quite a long time. I would say about 44 years. I was stuck in the mindset of getting the latest iPhone, best TV, fastest computer…the best of everything. I had to have it all. It was like I was only satisfied with what I had when it was the latest and greatest thing to hit the streets. My dad also had to have the best of everything, so maybe I got the “give me” gene from him. I can honestly say, regarding possessions, I was only happy when what I had was the best…and that was how I lived my entire life.
I work my days as a computer scientist, solving problems, writing software, working with computers at least 12 hours a day. I always had to have the best. It started out with my first major computer job. I was considered a junior member of our White Hat Hacking team. There were four senior guys. They would get new computers at least once, sometimes twice a year. Once they received, configured, and transferred their data to their new laptops, their old laptops were handed down to the junior guys. I was use to getting a new computer every year. I know, I was a bit spoiled. We all were. It became so routine that it was expected and something to look forward to. At this point, I was always grateful for every computer I received.
“I think my boss created a monster.”
Fast forward about seven to eight years. I am working for the same company, but on a different project. This project typically had crazy deadlines and would require me and my team to work an extreme amount of hours, for days and weeks at a time. I was in the office a lot and constantly working. When our boss put tough demands on us, I would step up and say that I don’t think we can do that in the timeline specified. To this he would reply, “How about a little bonus to get us there?” His bonuses usually consisted of a new Apple product. Knowing how much I loved Apple products, and so did my team, we consistently stepped up and never missed a deadline.
This happened again and again, deadline after deadline. Our boss really knew how to motivate us and we never lacked for anything. The problem was that once a new Apple laptop was available, I had an itch to have it. I wouldn’t settle for an older model if a newer model was available. I was use to getting a new laptop every year, so once Apple had their hardware events, I wanted a new one. Little did I know that this work hard and get new stuff reward triggered that “give me” gene. I think my boss created a monster.
When it all Changed!!!
My need for the latest and greatest continued up to about a year ago. As part of my self improvement and happiness seeking journey, I read a book by The Minimalists called Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life. It talked about only having what you need in life and that anything above that was more work. At least that is what I took from it. So, I thought about it, as I looked around my home office. I had six computer screens, five laptops, an iMac, and two servers. After taking in everything I had, I took a really good look at myself. I realized that those devices’ primary job was to collect dust and eat up electricity. Of those devices, I only really ever used four of them a month. Then I realized it was more work to have them and I was not being efficient. Since I pride myself on being efficient, I knew I had to make a change.
Over the next three months, I started a minimization project in my office, where I was only going to have in my office, and on my desk, the things I need to use regularly to do my job. I started chopping out the things I did not need, did not use, and consolidated everything else onto a few devices. I am happy to say that today, in my home office, I only have one computer monitor, and two laptops. I have also have a reminder set to remind me each week to check my office and remove anything that is not needed. That is when I noticed something funny had happened.
Somewhere in the middle of this home office minimalism project, I lost my yearning for new things and began to appreciate what I have. I realized that I don’t have to have the latest tech gadget just because I am a “techie.” Whenever I see the latest and greatest gadget, I ask myself if I truly need this device and does the work getting and maintaining it outshine the cost I have to put into having it. I realized that being efficient was not only more productive but cost a lot less than having everything just to show I have it. This was quite a change for me.
Will this work for my clothes too?
I decided it was time to take this mentality to my clothes closet. As I walked in my closet, I could see clothes hung and stacked across the entire half of a pretty nice size walk in closet. I set a goal to get rid of 1/3 of my clothes within the next three months. I then read that goal each day and started paying attention to what I wore and what I didn’t wear. Finally I took one Saturday and started going through my closet.
Using the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule), and an attitude to get rid of the old clothes, I worked my way through my closet. How many black shirts did I really need? How many shirts did I really need with armpit stains? Did I really need to keep the jeans that fit me when I was forty pounds heavier? Did I need to keep the jeans that were uncomfortable when I wore them even though they looked good on me? Also, did I really need fifteen sweatshirts? Especially the ones that were from 20 years ago. There were clothes in my closet that I hadn’t worn in years, but I just held on to them. Well, not any more. That day was a day of reckoning and I cleaned house, sorta speak. Some clothes for donation, some clothes handed down to my son, and a big ole pile of crap for the trash. I did not do the math to determine if I was able to get rid of exactly 1/3 of my clothes, but my closet does look about 1/3 less packed than it did.
Less is more!!!
I concluded that I am not only happier having less than before, but I am also more efficient when I have less. Less computers to dust, patch, and power. Less clothes to sort through when trying to find something to wear. Less things have given me more time and more peace of mind. Also, I pretty much don’t buy anything any more, besides what is needed. I scrutinize everything before I make a purchase. I picture myself walking down the road having to carry the burden of all my purchases and how they slow me down more than speed me up. Since I love efficiency, this really helps me stay on track to only get what I need.
There are only three things I regularly purchase now. My house and everything in it is hitting that 12 year failure mark, so I had to buy a new fence and now have to buy new appliances. Thus, I have to maintain my house and things in it. The difference is now I scrutinize what I buy and ask what I really need vs. what I am being offered when purchasing. Secondly, I buy books. I average about 1-2 books purchased a week. These are educational books so I can learn about improving every aspect of my life. Lastly, I buy experiences. Nights out, vacations, and good times with family and friends. You see, physical things get worn out and go out of style, but experiences get better every time you talk about them. Look at your purchases…physical things versus experiences. Which one do you really think is better?
I can honestly say that I have found happiness and a sense of joy and peace because I no longer yearn for new things. I don’t eagerly await the next Apple event to see what I can run to the store and purchase. I am finding happiness and joy in simplicity and minimalism which has replaced my yearning for new things. I was such a “give me” freak that if you told me a year ago I would be happier with less and with wanting less, I would not have believed you. But here I sit today, happier with what I have and no longer yearning or chomping at the bit for the newest thing.
The Minimalist book really helped change my life. I bet it could help you too. Use our affiliate link below and get your copy: