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7 Things That Shouldn’t Impress Us Anymore

It is important to no longer heap accolades on those who flaunt selfish pursuits. Consider this short list of things that should no longer impress us.

Minimalism has changed me. What began as just a journey to own less stuff has changed the way I view myself and the world around me in significant ways.

One of the most significant changes is my reevaluation of how society defines success. Too often, those who make and spend and keep the most resources for themselves are labeled as the “successful ones.”

But this is unfortunate. Some of the best people I know would not be regarded as successful in worldly terms—precisely because they have decided to spend and focus their resources on less material things.

These people are far too rare—or at least, they do not get enough recognition. Instead, it seems ingrained in us to desire and appreciate the praise and the admiration of others. And because of that, many people will compromise greater and more worthwhile pursuits for the facade of temporal, worldly success.

I think it is important for us to no longer take the bait—to no longer heap accolades on those who flaunt selfish 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 things that no longer impress me:

The brand name of your clothing. Manufacturing practices are important. So is quality and fit. Why the name printed on the inside (and often times the outside) matter, I will never understand. Too often, people pay a premium just for the privilege of become a walking billboard. I am no longer impressed by the logo on your shirt, your purse, or the face of your watch. Instead, I admire those who are confident in timeless fashion and seek to make an impression by their character and their countenance.

The number of carats in your jewelry. One of the most important chapters in my new book, Only What Matters: The Life-Giving Benefits of Owning Less, contains the story of Bryan and Nicole. Bryan and Nicole, five years into their marriage, continue to make sacrifices each day to help pay off lingering wedding debt—most of which is wrapped around Nicole’s finger. While the size of the rock on someone’s finger is noticed by some, most are not even looking.

The price of your car. The goal of any vehicle is to safely transport persons from Point A to Point B. Reliability is important, so is comfort (especially if you spend lots of time in it). But most luxury (and sport) cars appeal to a different motivation, they are no longer just about transportation. They often appeal to our need to broadcast success and get noticed—even if that means impressing strangers for 60 seconds at a red light.

The square footage of your house. Houses provide shelter and opportunity for stability. They represent investment in both our finances and our neighborhood. Over the course of my life, I have owned several homes (just one at a time) and have experienced the pride that comes from providing and creating a home for my family. But years ago, we intentionally chose to downsize and buy a smaller one. It is a decision I have never regretted. And to this day, when I drive past a large house, the only thing I can think of is how much happier we are in a small one.

The dollars in your bank account. The ultimate measure of success in our world today is personal wealth. Incidentally, we are not the first—this standard holds true across almost every society 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

The model of your cell phone. Just the other day, I was spending time at a local park with my kids and a group of their friends. One of the most repeated conversations I overheard was their constant comparison of technology. “Which iPhone do you have? What number iPod is that? And guess who just got a new iPad for her birthday?” It was alarming to hear kids under the age of 10 spend so much energy comparing models of battery-powered electronics. And as much as I wanted to blame them and correct them, I was reminded that we adults are not that different. If we are not comparing cell phones, we are often lusting after faster computers and bigger television screens.

The age of your retirement. Retirement is the ultimate goal for most people. 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 we find in it. But more than that, the age of someone’s retirement is based on countless factors, many of which are outside of anyone’s control—one man may strike it rich by simply being in the right place at the right time, while another may have experienced the exact opposite circumstance (just ask any number of 65-year old Baby Boomers). 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.

The photos on your social media account. Almost everyone posts flattering images and experiences of themselves online—from new clothes and restaurant food to local concerts and airplane wings. These images are closely guarded and selected routinely portraying only the most exciting parts of our lives. With foolish abandon, we blame Photoshop for perpetuating unattainable images of perfection while simultaneously editing and photoshopping our own lives for social media.

Let’s stop trying to impress others with the things that we own. And start trying to inspire them by the lives that we live.

What Is Minimalism?

Interesting article . . . .

So what is this minimalism thing? It’s quite simple: to be a minimalist you must live with less than 100 things, you can’t own a car or a home or a television, you can’t have a career, you must live in exotic hard-to-pronounce places all over the world, you must start a blog, you can’t have children, and you must be a young white male from a privileged background.

OK, we’re joking—obviously. But people who dismiss minimalism as some sort of fad usually mention any of the above “restrictions” as to why they could “never be a minimalist.” Minimalism isn’t about any of those things, but it can help you accomplish them. If you desire to live with fewer material possessions, or not own a car or a television, or travel all over the world, then minimalism can lend a hand. But that’s not the point.

Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves. Want to own a car or a house? Great, have at it! Want to raise a family and have a career? If these things are important to you, then that’s wonderful. Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately.

There are plenty of successful minimalists who lead appreciably different lives. Our friend Leo Babauta has a wife and six children. Joshua Becker has a career he enjoys, a family he loves, and a house and a car in suburbia. Conversely, Colin Wright owns 51 things and travels all over the world, and Tammy Strobel and her husband live in a “tiny house” and are completely car-free. Even though each of these people are different, they all share two things in common: they are minimalists, and minimalism has allowed them to pursue purpose-driven lives.

But how can these people be so different and yet still be minimalists? That brings us back to our original question: What is minimalism? If we had to sum it up in a single sentence, we would say, Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

Minimalism has helped us…

  • Eliminate our discontent
  • Reclaim our time
  • Live in the moment
  • Pursue our passions
  • Discover our missions
  • Experience real freedom
  • Create more, consume less
  • Focus on our health
  • Grow as individuals
  • Contribute beyond ourselves
  • Rid ourselves of excess stuff
  • Discover purpose in our lives

By incorporating minimalism into our lives, we’ve finally been able to find lasting happiness—and that’s what we’re all looking for, isn’t it? We all want to be happy. Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself; thus, it’s up to you to determine what is necessary and what is superfluous in your life.

Through our essays we intend to present to you ideas of how to achieve a minimalist lifestyle without adhering to a strict code or an arbitrary set of rules. A word of warning, though: it isn’t easy to take the first steps, but your journey towards minimalism gets much easier—and more rewarding—the further you go. The first steps often take radical changes in your mindset, actions, and habits. Fret not, though—we want to help: we’ve documented our experiences so you can learn from our failures and successes, applying what we’ve learned to your own situation, assisting you in leading a more meaningful life.

This is just our take on minimalism. For more, read our minimalism elevator pitch, as well as some of our friends’ explanations of minimalism:

Leo Babauta’s Description of Minimalism

Joshua Becker’s Benefits of Minimalism

Courtney Carver’s 25 Reasons You Might Be a Minimalist

Colin Wright’s Minimalism Explained

Sustainable living – the simple life

Sustainable living means a lifestyle that uses as few resources as possible and causes the least amount of environmental damage for future generations to deal with.  Permaculture is an aid to those individuals who strive towards a self sustaining, off the grid lifestyle.

“We see a system of exchange based on abundance instead of encumbrance, equality instead of competition, opportunity instead of obligation, gratitude instead of greed. We see all peoples everywhere, enjoying equal access to all good things, and with this comes a blossoming of the soul of humanity such as has never been seen throughout the whole of time. – Author Unknown.”

  • Housing: Sustainable homes are built in such a way that they use few nonrenewable resources, do not require much energy to run, and cause little or no damage to the surrounding environment. A sustainable home should be constructed from materials that have been produced in an environmentally friendly manner. For example, a house might be built from straw bales, adobe, or reclaimed stone or brick. Many homeowners pursue sustainable living by making their homes as low energy as possible, either by making sure that they have very high energy efficiency or by producing their own power from the sun or wind.
  • Sustainable energy: The energy sources used must be renewable rather than limited in quantity. Energy sources such as fossil fuels cannot readily be renewed, so instead of these, sustainable living requires using renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, water, or geothermal energy. The energy must also be captured and used in an environmentally friendly way that does not damage the environment for future generations. For sustainable living, a person must leave as little impact on the world as possible.
  • Diet: The diet of someone who is focused on sustainable living should focus on foods that are at the base of the food chain. A vegetarian lifestyle is best suited to sustainable living (but not essential provided animal rights are respected) because it requires the fewest resources to produce and causes the least amount of environmental damage and degradation. The food should also be grown organically without the use of chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides that can pollute the environment and cause health problems for other animals or humans. It is best to eat food that has been grown locally to reduce the problems caused by transporting food over long distances. Many people try to grow their own produce in their yard or in a community garden near their home. A Permaculture food garden is best suited for this purpose.

Essentially, sustainable living involves living as lightly on the Earth as possible. Someone who succeeds at living a sustainable lifestyle will use very few resources and will leave the environment as untouched as possible so that future generations will be able to enjoy the same high quality of life that people do today.

We see . . . . a new world

We see a system of exchange based on abundance instead of encumbrance, equality instead of competition, opportunity instead of obligation, gratitude instead of greed. We see all peoples everywhere, enjoying equal access to all good things, and with this comes a blossoming of the soul of humanity such as has never been seen throughout the whole of time.

Author unknown

John on ecovillage communities

From an article by Ross Jackson Permaculture Magazine article – issue 40 2004:

An ecovillage is, ideally speaking, a microcosm of the macrocosm, as it represents in a very small area — typically with 50-400 people — all the elements and all the problems present in the greater society, while providing visible solutions to these problems, whether it be living sustainably, resolving conflicts peacefully, creating jobs, raising children, providing relevant education, or simply enjoying and celebrating life. Contrast this with the broader Western society, with fragmented families, separation of work and home, separation of rich and poor, crime in the streets, and living in constant fear under stress, not least because deep down we all know that the current Western life-style of exaggerated consumption and social inequity is unsustainable and unjust on a global scale, and will come to an end sooner or later

A few good reasons to have your own veggie patch:

  • Fresh. It can’t be fresher than this . . . . Throw in some fresh air and exercise as well – it cant get better than this.
  • Fun. The joy of planting your own veg and reaping the rewards .
  • Taste. By varying i.e. carrot seeds you can have a wide selection of veg to choose from.
  • Decorative. Gone are the days of a veggie garden hidden away somewhere – be creative and incorporate veg and herbs into your normal garden. You will be surprised at the results . . .
  • Waste not Want not. Pick what you need and share the surplus with your neighbours and friends . . .  (I get quite a kick out of showing off my baby marrows or whatever is available)
  • Think green. The advantages of a bio friendly garden and chemical free foods are well known.
  • Crop rotation. Buzz word for planning your veggie garden in such a way that you prolong the availability of different kinds of veg by for exampel sowing seeds every few weeks, etc.
  • Nutrition. It helps you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Health: You decide what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides come in contact with your food.
  • In charge: It lets you control when to harvest your food.
  • etc – (If you can come up with a few more good reasons for one’s own veggie patch lets have them.) We also look forwad to your comments . .  .

Speak to Yvette if you would like assistance with your herb and/or veggie garden. yvette@farmerjohn.co.za or phone us. We look forward to hearing from you