Lesson 11: I don’t need nearly as much as I try to convince myself I do

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Everything I own and need fits in my car. So, as you can imagine I don’t own very much.

Honestly, the bulk of what is in #hotelprius right now is sleeping bags and/or gear to better prepare me for the different weather conditions I encounter in the different places I visit. Stuff like extra jackets, my laptop and a few cooking needs, a day pack with toiletries, a flashlight, a stove, an air pad, and clothes. Clothes are perhaps the things that take up the most space. It takes a lot of different types of clothes to stay prepared for all weather conditions.

Sidenote:
I will say, I don’t have very many clothes now, at least relative to most people with… you know…real closets. These days, I only wear one of the two pairs of jeans, a flannel with a plain tee underneath, and usually the same grey Patagonia sweater or jacket almost everyday. I do have some nicer clothes on reserve but only for special occasions like job interviews or dinner parties. What I own currently is truly all I can fit in my car and in the small “basement” that rests under my head, and the little extras up top in the “attic.” End sidenote.

The truth is, every single day I am bombarded constantly with advertisements and billboards, and other people that do such a great job convincing me I need something that they have. Some times I can avoid the bait dangling in front of me, but other times I fall for it hook line and sinker. But, I will say this: living out of my car has caused me to really evaluate what is truly a need and what is merely a want.

The thing is, I used to not think or be this way. I was excess’ biggest advocate. Just a few years ago, I wasn’t a minimalist, in fact I was on the complete other side of the spectrum. What happened? Perhaps this great purge of mine was in response to the fact that I finally saw my stuff for what it truly was; just stuff, and I arrived at the place where I had enough and was tired of looking for material posetions to make me happy.

It was before college and certainly before #hotelprius was ever even thought of. I was in my early twenties and I took a few years off from school and began building my empire. Just kidding. But in a short few years, I accumulated more than I’m proud to admit. I had it all. From several big screen TV’s to the latest gadgets and coffee makers. All different kinds of things to make life easier and more comfortable, but mostly crap I didn’t need. Sadly, I used material possessions to try to add value to my life that ultimately never gave me what I was looking for. In retrospect I realize now, the things I owned made up a large part of who I thought I was and who I was trying to be. I let stuff be apart of my identity. Without it, I’m not sure there would be have been a whole lot left. The way that I saw it, my stuff and what I owned was a direct representation of my success at such a young age. It was only when I had to sell everything and get rid of my stuff, that it was revealed to me just how much of my identify was placed in what I owned.

Fast forward to a year ago. When I chose this adventure last December, I forced myself to get rid of everything again, of the what I thought to be accumulated “excess” in my life. It was a huge purge and I rid myself of almost everything. Everything had to go through a very rigorous filtration process… and then another, and then another, just to make it all fit. Am I glad I did it? Yes and no. But mostly, yes!

Yes, because it made me realize how much of the crap I could actually live without. And no, because I’ve learned that little things do add up and nothing is worse than a wasted investment and having to but something for the third time.

But even in the last year of having minimal and finding contentment by living as efficiently as possible, and even with this newly learned life lesson, I’m amazed at the crap I still try to convince myself that I need. I need this new Iphone or I need these new jeans. I need these _______(fill in the blank). Now I’m not saying these things are bad in and of themselves. I don’t believe they are, at least not anymore. In fact, I think having nice things is great and certainly some things make life easier or more convenient and there is nothing wrong with that. But need? I think the real battle I fight is finding balance between the minimalist lifestyle I live now and the excessive one I lived before. The real battle is fighting the lie that having more things will make me happier. I unfortunately still make this mistake more often than I care to admit. On occasion, when I am looking for something to do to kill time, I’ll find myself window shopping. This is partly due to boredom and partly due to how American consumerism has conditioned me to believe that I will be happier, more confident, more productive, more comfortable etc if I have more. The worst part of it all is thinking that this logic is somehow right or okay. It’s not, and I think most of us know this and desperately want to get away from the consumerist, “I-need-everything-lifestyle” if we could. We know we have become excessive but most of us don’t care. We keep buying things and spending our money on more stuff in hopes that the next thing will give us what we are looking for. Then something newer or prettier comes out, and suddenly we need that too.

I don’t have any solutions to avoid the american epidemic plaguing our country. I don’t know if it will ever end. We are too far gone. The only advise I know how to give is what I have been trying to focus on in the last year of my life. And even still, I’m not claiming it as foolproof. For me, I have to remind myself and be thankful every day that what I have now, is truly all that I need. And it is. The truth is, we really don’t need much to live. And we don’t need much to be happy, but coming to the place of contentment with what I have, I find is the biggest challenge of all.

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