Yoga for Dummies, p. 277
Yoga encourages you to cultivate the virtue of greedlessness in all matters. The Sanskrit word for this is aparigraha, whcih means literally “not grasping all round.” The yoga practitioner who is well-trained in the art of greedlessness is said to understand the deeper reason for his or her life. Behind this traditional wisdom lies a profound experience: As you loosen your grip on material possessions, you also let go of the ego, which is doing the gripping or grasping. As the ego-contraction relaxes, you increasingly become in touch with the abiding happiness of your true self. Then you realize that you need nothing at all to be happy. You are unconcerned about the future and live fully in the present. You are not afraid to give freely to others and also share with them your inner abundance.
Lately I’ve felt a strong desire to simplify and reduce the number of needless possessions I’ve accumulated over years of mindless consumption. It’s shocking to step back and take a no-holds-barred inventory of all the junk filling up space in every corner of my house. Over the Christmas holiday I got the organizing bug and decided it was time to purge the bookcases in my home office, which I had jokingly nicknamed the “Harry Potter room” because there was no telling which piece of paper stuffed into the shelves was magically holding everything together. Unfortunately, even after buying three new bookcases, the purging turned out to be more of a paper shuffle, and now a month later I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed by crap on the shelves. That’s just one room in the house. Obviously, more bookshelves wasn’t the correct answer.
I now realize I didn’t need to be better organized (although organizing the stuff you truly need isn’t a bad thing), I needed to get rid of stuff and stop buying things I don’t need. Of course, deep down I think I knew that answer all along, but that’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s hard to explain the mind-shift that I’m having right now about consumerism, but it’s almost as if someone grabbed me about the shoulders and shook me back to reality. It’s about time to start living more simply.
Of course, renouncing all possessions simply does not present a realistic approach to minimalism and simplicity. Most of us have families, jobs, lives, and unless we’re willing to give up those lives, our approach won’t be so drastic.
What we need is a realistic approach to change. Slow change is best for most people.
Here are 10 steps to minimalism as adapted from one of my favorite blogs, mnmlist, that I intend to implement over the next month:
1. Stop buying unnecessary things. Only buy the necessities, and always ask yourself: is this truly necessary?
2. Get rid of the obvious things. Stuff that’s getting in your way, that you rarely ever use. You can often fill up a few boxes immediately, put them in your car, and donate them to a thrift shop or to friends and family the next day.
3. Get rid of more obvious things. Now that you’ve cleared up some of the clutter, you can take a look around and start seeing other things you rarely use. Box these up as well.
4. Clear the clutter on your floors. If your floors are barely visible because you have clothes and boxes and different items all over the place, start clearing your floors.
5. Clear other flat surfaces. Shelves, table tops, counter tops. They don’t have to be completely clear, but should only have a few essential objects.
6. Start going into closets and drawers. One place at a time, start clearing out clutter.
7. Cut back another third. At this point, you should have simplified drastically, but you can revisit what you still own and see things you don’t really use that often.
8. Start letting go, emotionally. For emotional reasons, there will be things that you “just can’t part” with — clothes or shoes or books or mementoes or gifts, childhood items. This is difficult, but given time, you’ll learn that such attachments aren’t necessary.
9. Get rid of another third. At this point, you’re pretty minimalist, but you can cut back more.
10. Et cetera. The process will never end, until you actually give up everything.
I intend to blog about my de-junkification project over the next month and would love to hear any experiences or insights you might have on the process of creating a more simple, minimalist life.