by Nandini Gulati, Holistic Health Coach,

“Live simply so you can simply live!” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Even as little kids, we are bombarded with advertisements showing how we can be strong if we drink a certain beverage or popular with other kids if we possess certain toys. Our minds are impressionable and it is hard for us to escape this conditioning targeting our innate needs as humans.

For adults the stakes are higher. Brands create aspirational fantasies and then promise their fulfilment through enhanced sexual prowess, beauty, monetary success, fame, stardom, riches and luxury.

We rush around all our lives working hard and stressed to win the race to earn more and acquire these brands and the lifestyle they promise, with the innate assumption that all this will make us happy and fulfilled.

If we are lucky, somewhere in this chase for more, we discover that the truth is quite the opposite. For most people the realisation dawns later in life, if at all. By then, however, we may be buried under loans and EMI’s or trapped in an unfulfilling marriage or diagnosed with a chronic illness as a result of living a stressful and unhealthy life chasing illusionary objects of happiness.

This happened to me after I stepped away from the corporate treadmill and saw the value of simplicity and minimalism.

To understand minimalism we must understand its antithesis, “consumerism,” which is based on the premise that the more we buy, acquire, consume, accumulate and possess, the happier and more fulfilled we will feel. 

But in fact, the more material objects we possess, the more time and money we spend in their purchase, upkeep, maintenance, care and upgrades. Without even realising it, we become tied to our possessions and ultimately burdened by them.

There are many people across the globe who are discovering the freedom of owning less. They have worked at simplifying their lives and are able to live more in alignment with what they value most. They can spend more time with their families, travel the world or pursue their passions and the work that brings them joy.

It’s time that more of us climbed onto this bandwagon of simplicity to free our time, reduce financial stress and understand what it means to live more freely.

Here are 7 steps to minimalism, partly inspired by Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist) and Courtney Carver (Be More with Less).

  1. Write down your “why”. Why do you wish to own less? What value will that bring to your life?
  2. Start by discarding the easiest things, like what’s broken, expired, redundant or useless or if you have duplicates or triplicates. Go one room or area at a time.
  3. Limit your media consumption especially exposure to marketing and advertising.
  4. Create/ declare a clutter-free zone in your home. This will be your “minimalist sanctuary”. Ask yourself: how do I feel here?
  5. Experiment living with less. For example, choose your favourite 33 items of clothing for the next 3 months. Box the rest and set it aside.
  6. Avoid eating out or ordering in. Eat simpler and healthier meals. Choose grains, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables over processed and packaged food.
  7. Practice gratitude for all you have. Share what you have in excess with others.

An added benefit of living simply is reducing the burden on the environment. Every item we buy uses up the resources of the Earth in some way, has a carbon footprint and leaves residue and waste behind – some more toxic and unsustainable than others. Consider the true cost of your purchases on the environment and other living beings.

There is a widespread parallel movement of zero waste warriors who educate us about buying less, borrowing from and donating to others, reusing and repurposing items we already own to extend their life and use, and teach us how to send less waste to the landfill. If this topic interests you, I strongly suggest you learn more about zero waste practices like composting, cooking at home, growing your own food, recycling, repurposing, sustainable fashion etc.

I would like to end with a story.

A European disciple is very fond of his Indian Guru and is intent on visiting him at his home in India. One day his wish comes true and he travels to India and reaches the village of his Guru.

The Guru who lives a simple village life is delighted to see his student and welcomes him to his humble home.

Seeing the home bare with hardly any furniture or personal effects, the disciple can’t hold his curiosity any longer and says, “Guruji, may I ask you something?”

“Go ahead.”

“Is this a new home? Did you just move in here?”

“No. I’ve been living here for years.”

“But then… Why is it so empty? Where is all your furniture?”

Guruji is silent for a moment and then says, “Let me ask you, where is yours?”

“But Guruji, I’m just a traveller.”

Guruji smiles and says, “So am I.”