Minimalism has changed me. What began as just a project to simply own less stuff has changed the way I view myself and the world around me in new and immeasurable ways.
My most significant change? The way I reevaluated how society defines success and how I define my own image of myself as a successful person. Too often, those who make the world go round are said to have the ability to spend the most, use even more resources, pay the least into the safety net, and keep the rest for themselves. This is our society’s archetype of success.
But this is no longer how I view success. Some of the best people I know would not be regarded as successful in worldly terms—precisely because they have decided to focus their efforts and resources on fewer material things.
These people are far too rare—or at least, they do not get enough of the recognition I believe they deserve.
Instead, it seems ingrained in us all the desire to gain the admiration of others. Because of that, many people will compromise their greater moral compass to justify gaining access to the facade of temporal, worldly success.
I think it is important for us to no longer take the bait—to no longer lavish accolades and social construct on those who flaunt selfish temporary pursuits.
To that end, because of how my view of the world and its people has begun to change, I will offer a short list of 7 things that no longer impress me and that I have stopped buying into this last year:
The brand name of my clothing. Manufacturing practices are important. So is quality, fit, and a company’s stance on ethics and worker’s rights. So why the name printed on the outside of the shirt should matter, I will never understand. Too often, people will go out of their way to pay a premium just for the privilege of becoming a walking billboard for companies who in turn do not support their gender, family structure, moral compass, lifestyle choices, or who publicly promote size bias. All of which is beyond me. I am no longer impressed by the logo on your shirt, your handbag, your makeup palette, your tennis shoes, or the face of your watch. Instead, I am choosing to admire those who are confident in timeless fashion and seek to make an impression based on their character and their countenance.
The number of karats in others jewelry. One of the most important lessons I learned while missioning in Africa is that sometimes all that glitters is not gold. Far too many of the world’s diamonds are mined using practices that exploit workers, children, and communities. Worse still, many miners are dying in undocumented accidents, child labor is widespread, and corrupt leaders are depriving diamond mining communities of funds badly needed for basic living conditions such as running water, sanitation, and vaccinations. It’s also worth noting that small-scale mining, which produces about 15% of the world’s diamonds, often pay workers under $1.00 a day in wages for products that sell at market numbers in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars. So for me, there is no excuse to buy such products. Not for weddings, not for push presents, not just because you vlog. So unless you are a geologist or a curator at the British Antiquities museum, the size of the rock on someone’s finger, is useless, tacky information.
The price of your car. The goal of any vehicle is to safely transport persons from Point A to Point B. Reliability is important, as is the comfort and convenience they provide. But most luxury cars do not sell reliability or the family of proud workers who design, assemble, and manufacture those automobiles, but instead seek to appeal to a different motivation, that of classism and elitism. Appealing marketing that speaks to our inner needs to broadcast success and wealth. Our need to get noticed—if only by strangers for 60 seconds at a red light while becoming heavily indebted to lending companies as a result. To this I say: The sexiest car you can own is the one that has long since been paid for.
The square footage of others’ homes. Houses provide shelter and opportunity for stability. They represent an investment in both our finances and our neighborhoods as a whole. I have personally experienced the pride that comes from providing and creating a home for my family. But several years ago, my husband and I intentionally chose to downsize our lifestyle, move to a smaller 2,500 square foot home. We did so to pay less annual millage and to have fewer home repairs and upkeep. We also plan to purchase an even smaller home in the years to come. And to this day, when I drive past our family’s former much large house, the only thing I can think of is how much happier we are in a small one. So for me, new construction and newly flipped homes just don’t impress me much.
The dollars in everyone else’s bank account. The ultimate measure of success in our world today is personal wealth. Incidentally, we are not the first—this standard holds true from the beginning of time. But I’m starting to wonder if we have been using the wrong measure. Maybe the number of dollars in a bank account is not the greatest measurement of success. Maybe instead, the amount of good we are able to accomplish with our lives is a truer measure of success. So while I appreciate you letting me know how much you can earn per year or berating me for not being on your level, in terms of economic progress, instead I’d love to know how many others you helped lift up along your journey, what your academic accomplishments are, and how much free time you have to enjoy the fruits of your labors with friends and family. I want to hear your ideas on hope, joy, and personal sustainability, and how those ideas shaped your plan for lasting economic wealth. As the adage goes, a man will die but not his ideas.
The model of someone’s cell phone. Just the other day, I was spending time standing in the checkout lane of a grocery store. One of the most repeated conversations I overheard was others constant comparison of technology. “Which iPhone do you have? or What iWatch is that? And guess who just got a new iPad for her birthday?” It was alarming to hear children under the age of 10 being seduced into comparison and commercialism when it came to battery-powered electronics. And as much as I wanted to blame and correct them, I was reminded that we adults are no that different. If we are not comparing cell phones, we are often lusting after faster computers, gaming systems, or television screens. Even as women, I cannot tell you how many Facebook groups are devoted to the debate over Pressure Cooker XL vs. Instapot, the Bluetooth edition! This year I want to focus on electronics that help my business, my blogging, and to help keep my family safe. No more, no less.
The age of others retirement. Retirement is the ultimate goal for most. Unfortunately, this creates an attitude that sees the greatest goal of work is to remove ourselves from it. I think that approach is short-sighted and fails to recognize the fulfillment that can be found not in work, but in a meaningful, lasting career. Even more than this, how often is the age of someone’s retirement is based on factors outside of anyone’s control—The rise and fall of the stock market, tenure, employment packages, and contract. And this doesn’t even begin to count those who will continue working late in life because they have graciously used their financial resources to bless others through volunteerism, mentorship, and work in the non-profit sector. While my husband and I both have a designated retirement age set, I will no longer be using the high life of the centenarian elite as a gauge to view the end of my own days of employment and occupation.
The photos on others social media account. Almost everyone posts flattering images and experiences of themselves online—from new clothes and restaurant dishes to local concerts and blogger swag. These images are closely guarded and selected routinely airbrushed, cropped, flipped, edited, and scheduled. Images that portray only the most exciting parts of our lives. With foolish abandon, we blame Photoshop and Pinterest for perpetuating those unattainable images of perfection while simultaneously editing and photoshopping our own lives for social media to emulate the same. While as a blogger I see the necessity of many of these photos, in terms of netting a larger social media following and increasing our stance as online entrepreneurs and media influencers, yet somehow it still feels hollow and undeserved. This year I’m making a personal commitment to love images for what they truly are, beautiful, engaging, income generating captions of moments long since gone by. I’m vowing to be less envious and a little less salty too, when it comes to viewing the photos on the social media accounts of others.
So, friends, those are the 7 things that I stopped buying into in 2017. Let’s stop trying to impress others with the things that we own. Let’s hold each other accountable in finding purpose and pleasure in ourselves. And to start inspiring others with the lives that we live, as we are each and every unperfected, unairbrushed day. If there is something you would love to stop buying into this year, be sure to let me know below!