The Freedom of Less - There's More to Life than Having Things

Saturday, November 13, 2010 9:34 AM



The sky is falling.

Well maybe not, but there's too much distraction, too much clutter and too little meaning in the world; and our reverence for the simple things in life has fallen by the wayside. I need to get away from it all, if only in my own mind. I'm tired of my actions being driven by the standards of excess and consumerism. I'm changing lanes.

This change in perspective has been brewing in me for a long time. Lately I've been talking about my intention to simplify my life and develop a healthy detachment from external things. Embracing minimalism is a way to create more space for the things that give me real, sustainable joy. What is minimalism? Leo Babauta from Zen Habits describes minimalist living as getting rid of things you do not use or need, living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It's a way to escape the excessiveness of the world around us, so we can focus on what gives our lives value and meaning.

This is what I'm working towards, but it's not a simple process for me. You see, I have a moderate case of affluenza. According to The Fab Do Gooder, Bessie Winn-Afeku, affluenza is an unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. Occasionally I'm able to get this affliction under control, but it flares back up very easily when my defenses are down and I'm exposed to certain triggers. Please note, the triggers are everywhere - television, magazines, internet, billboards - I'm bombarded with temptation everywhere I look. In order to develop a healthy resistance to the triggers, I must get to the root of what's causing the disease and heal it from the inside.

I realize that I'm a product of an excessive society, and I've been conditioned to associate abundance and satisfaction with acquiring things. It gives me such a rush to spend money. When I'm bored, I buy. When I'm not feeling pretty, I buy. When I'm sad, I buy. When I'm happy, I buy. You get it. Everytime I get money in my pocket, I've already spent it in my mind. The latest product on the market claiming to define my natural curls, check. The perfect brown boots for that outfit, check. You name it - it's checked off on my list and in my shopping cart. The media has conditioned me to buy things to stay relevant - to show my style, my fresh, my success. Of course, I'm not saying that it's always detrimental to buy things. However, I will say that my personal spending habits are a result of my fear of lack and this is undoubtedly detrimental. It is a fear that tells me that there is not enough to go around, so I better get mine now. This is the underlying emotional pattern I've identified within myself that truly needs attention. In my heart of hearts, I know that buying things is a vice that gives my ego the tangible evidence it wants in order to prove that I'm worthy. This is a deep rooted emotional pattern that can only be addressed through honest soul searching and a deeper look at the source.

In America, and particularly in the Black community, we chase shiny things just to show that we can have them. Even as children, we felt cooler and more accepted when we had the hottest new toys. Many of our families couldn't afford to give us the latest and greatest, so we overcompensate as adults. We buy cars we can't afford, clothes we may only wear once or twice and invest more of our earnings into our appearance than we do into building wealth. The idea of having less when we have the means (or not) for more, is entertained by few. Having less stuff requires more individual character. As an alternative, most of us prefer to live through our representative characters. That representative character wants to be admired and respected, preferably in designer clothes. We live in a competitive society, where our possessions and our appearance are a big part of determining our status. So, we often spend beyond our means and overindulge to maintain this representative and keep up with the insatiable, material world. As a result, we stay surrounded by trivialities and filled with a false sense of worth.

For years, I blindly spent myself into debt and stress because I didn't want to miss out, be found out, or cast out. My youthful insistence on immediate gratification became my adult financial and emotional burden that carried over into other aspects of my life. I've decided it's time for me to refocus my lens. If you know like I know, we are happening to the world; the world is not happening to us. With that in mind, I want my environment and my possessions to reflect love, meaning and purpose; because those are the things that are important to me. I'm tired of being surrounded by things, spending money on more things and never being satisfied. Nowadays, everytime I think about something I want to buy, I am making a conscious effort to redirect my thoughts to things I want to create - visions, networks, books, businesses - things that remind me that everything I need to be successful is inside of me. I don't need to wear my success or drive it, I can show it through my contributions to the world. I hope that this change in perspective will not only add to my peace of mind and sense of self, but also improve my financial stability and instill a foundation of modest abundance in my children.

Here are some of the previous posts I've written on simple living and minimalism:


Do you suffer from affluenza? If so, is this something you want to change? If not, why?