“Sages do not accumulate anything, they give it all to others. The more they have, the more they give. The more they give, the more they have.” Unknown
We come with nothing, we leave with nothing.
In the meantime, we cycle through acquiring and releasing (beliefs, relationships, jobs, money, things) and sometimes we fail to strike a balance. We tend to accumulate all kinds of crap that doesn’t serve us: physically and otherwise. Lately, however, there seems to be a shift occurring. On a few occasions I’ve heard of people being turned down from donating to thrift stores because they’re overstocked. Friends and coworkers have all been saying they’re cleaning house and mind.
Simplification seems to be the theme of the year, and it’s about damn time.
We are all pawns in one big capitalist scheme: convince us that we need these things to live, to feel okay about ourselves, and we’ll buy into it. Market professionals tap into our very human, very susceptible ego-insecurities and manipulate us with them. If it goes on for long enough, we find ourselves inundated with useless stuff — stuff that we’ve assigned value to.
This is why it feels so damn good to let it all go.
Because aside from the needless materialistic stuff, we hold onto a lot of other things we believe are necessary as well (unsurprisingly, the two tend to be connected.)
1. Naive assumptions about other people’s lives, especially in comparison to yours.
This does not give you an accurate gauge of how well you’re doing or not.
You don’t know what people are thinking, you don’t know how easy or hard or well-off they have it, and chances are you never will. Your personal assertions on other peoples’ lives are projections of one thing and one thing only: yourself.
2. Attachment to your sister lives, the “ghost ships that didn’t carry you.”
A sister life is the “what if,” the life you could have lived if you made some other choice. (Some people call this a parallel universe.) But dwelling on this doesn’t allow you to ponder the possibilities, it keeps you stuck.
This is advice from a column by one of my favorite authors. The best way to look at the irrevocable choices we make in life is to outline all of the possibilities literally, not figuratively, on paper. Write down what your life would consist of if you chose a different career, if you went back to school, if you decided to settle down with so-and-so, have a kid or not, etc.
Look at these trajectories and I guarantee, one will instinctively feel more right than the others, even if you have to quiet all the loud voices that are pulling you in different directions to really hear yourself. It instantly simplifies your life and your understanding, and brings you at peace, allows you to salute the ghost ships that didn’t carry you from the shore.
3. Clothing you don’t wear, books you don’t touch, furniture that serves no purpose, clutter that fills a void.
Really, honestly evaluate what you use each day. Most of what you hoard away is for a hypothetical “someday.”
More importantly: most things you consume beyond the legitimate necessities are tools for deflection. You shop to be someone different, you acquire something that you feel will make you look more like what you want to be — or what someone else wants you to be. This is the essence of the non-necessities that we’ve rendered necessary.
There’s no reason to have drawers spilling out with clothing, closets filled to the max, and still head out every weekend because you “need” something. There’s no reason to hold onto the books you’re never going to read, they better serve someone else as a donation, someone else who could actually use them. Your home doesn’t look better because it’s packed with furniture nobody uses, decoratively, aesthetically speaking, simplicity always trumps. And the clutter that we compile, we don’t need. It only suffocates us in our space and serves to keep us attached to ideas that are even more clouding.
4. The inability to appreciate the necessities.
You don’t live a lowly, unaccomplished life because your goals and successes are having food in the fridge and the rent paid on time.
Often we neglect to appreciate the simple things that we don’t really ever think about (Do I have somewhere to sleep tonight? Do I have clothing that will actually serve it’s purpose: keep me warm in the winter, cool in the summer? Do I have to maneuver and scheme where my next meal will be coming from?) because they seem like things that successful people never concern themselves with.
Neglecting to appreciate what you have does not serve as a means of propelling you forward into getting more. It just lays the foundation that ensures you’ll never be satisfied — no matter what you do or don’t achieve or attain.
The other day I looked around my apartment and thought: every single thing in this room, I bought for myself. I bought this room for myself! I’m always worried about extra retirement savings and paying off debt sooner and saving more and spending less and little if ever do I stop and say, hey, it’s so great that my bills are paid, that I have never thought twice about where my next meal is coming from. That’s privilege. That’s accomplishment. That’s something to cherish.
5. Predictions for the future.
Predicting your future doesn’t guarantee that that’s what will transpire. Planning is useless unless it applies to something you can do today.
We have a set plan, a mental image of what should and is going to be for our lives, and we decide these things on a moment-to-moment, instance-to-instance basis. How often do we deflect onto future hypotheticals, how often do we worry about them? How often do our conversations amount to: “I can totally see you doing that one day.” “I know I’ll end up here, or there, and doing this one day.” “I’m going to wear this to my wedding.” “I’m naming my kid this.” “He’s going to propose in six months.”
Start making yourself conscious of how many times a day you decide something for yourself. And then start to realize that the things you’re unhappy with in the present moment root back to what you decided would be best for you in the past, and now what’s actually happening isn’t okay because you decided it wasn’t.
6. The need to be happy all the time.
If you were happy all the time, if you never worried about anything or felt badly or hurt or sad or ultimately defeated, you would have a serious mental handicap. You would be mentally ill. You would be what would clinically be referred to as a psychopath: someone who doesn’t feel remorse.
Pain, like all other feelings, serves you. It’s there to tell you something. To show you what you care about, to encourage you to make another choice, to signal to you that something isn’t right. Don’t fight yourself, listen to yourself. Adjust accordingly.
7. Assumptions about what everything “means.”
The things you value you have chosen to value, even if you aren’t conscious of that fact. You get over things, you move on, you become a different person when you actively choose otherwise.
That said, not everything has meaning. Not everything means something to you, or about you. What does mean something is how you interpret it. That is a projection, and a reflection, of who you are. The external isn’t in itself meaningful, it’s what you take and feel from it.
8. Feigned outrage as a means of bonding, solidarity, and identity.
If you think something is wrong, don’t waste your time and energy being outraged. Rally for the opposing side. You’re wasting energy by continually putting it toward what you claim you don’t believe in or agree with. More often than not, collective outrage is a means of self-identification and worth.
Not to mention, it’s also a means of bonding. It’s how we build relationships. It’s how we differentiate “us” from “them.” It seems empowering to stand up for something, but the reality of it is that few people are actually “standing up for something,” they’re just pushing something else down.
9. A lot of friends.
Very honestly speaking, most of us have a few very close friends and a lot of acquaintances who don’t serve us, but we keep in our lives because it’s too much of an inconvenience for us to write them off entirely. We feel obligated to something that we are not, and we end up cluttering our days with avoided texts and complaining phone calls to another friend and belabored hangouts of which you leave feeling exhausted.
The number of friends you have does not equate to your overall likability. It is not a status symbol. It’s better to have four quarters than a hundred pennies, as the saying goes. The quantity doesn’t matter. The depth does.
What you’ll find is that when you commit and invest in a few meaningful relationships, you stop feeling the need to fill the void with more and more and more people whom you don’t actually want to spend time with.
10. The need to be in control based on the notion that you know best.
You do not.
The greatest thing about life is that no matter how deeply we’ve convinced ourselves we’re involved in the decision-making-process, it will continue to unfold as it’s meant to, whether or not we’ve signed off on our consent. A 2-year-old doesn’t have to decide to turn three. They just do.
Finding is actually about remembering. Allowing is just releasing. You really don’t create your future as much as you allow it to unfold, and you best do so by removing the blocks that prevent you from your highest potential.
This isn’t how you express and fill yourself with self-love and respect. Self-respect is believing you have the ability to work hard and achieve something, not that you inherently deserve it.
Radical humility is among the most noble characteristics.
You don’t inherently deserve a new car or home or more money or a better life. You deserve dignity. You deserve love. You deserve respect. You are entitled to these things, not the shallow, physical ones. To put it in plainspeak: you aren’t entitled to public assistance if you don’t really need it but can somehow pass off for deserving of it. You aren’t entitled to the last say or ultimate control or unprecedented fairness from the world.
You deserve what you work for. You deserve what you accept. You deserve that which reflects who you are.
12. Putting thought into who you accept.
Love people without stopping to consider whether or not they’re worthy.