In January 2017, I set my New Year’s resolution to live a minimalist lifestyle. I had watched the documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix and this time I felt the momentum and readiness to commit to action. I gave things away, pared down my wardrobe, and focused hard on limiting my future purchases. My year in minimalism was not an overnight success, but rather a longer journey whose benefits slowly trended upwards.
As Barack Obama stated once in an interview, change doesn’t happen quickly. Our ship is already sailing in the ocean. You can’t turn the ship 180°, you can’t turn it 90°, you can’t even turn it 45°. But you can turn it 2° and after some time, that ship will be in a totally different part of the ocean.
Having turned my sails 2°, I am really proud of the progress I made in the past year. In my earlier life, I operated on rewards arriving fast and having little patience for my return on investment. In the past decade though, I have experienced how my short-term actions equal my long-term goals. These benefits can take more time to see, but they also don’t dissipate as quickly either. And at the end of 2017, the long-term benefits of minimalism were for me unexpected and exciting.
I started volunteering at two different organizations. A few months into minimalism, I felt new space in my life freeing up. I searched on volunteermatch.org and found a great position serving breakfast to homeless/low-income seniors in the Tenderloin. I see familiar faces each shift and the gratitude I experience brightens my week.
I also became a board member with my meditation organization, which I have been attending for years. The community I am involved with there brings me a deep sense of belonging that I can only describe as my tank being filled up. I feel calmer, centered, and more giving being a participant of this weekly gathering.
I started reading. This is a little embarrassing, but prior to this year, I probably read 2-3 books a year. And some years that might even be generous. I had plenty of books on the shelf, but they went ignored. So I gave away/donated all my books and decided their would only be one book in my house – the one I was reading. I currently check out a new book at the library about once a week and have dipped into new categories of literature I never explored before.
I focus on enjoyment from experiences. In my leisure time, I regularly take exercise classes, yoga, meditate in nature, and hike. I floated in a sensory-deprivation tank, took a 10-week singing class, and joined a communication workshop. I attended retreats with spiritual teachers Byron Katie and Matt Kahn. I traveled to Portugal with my sister, Taiwan with my best friend, Sedona and Joshua Tree with my beloved father.
With regards to long-term benefits, clearing my skin was not much different. In 2008, I committed to live a clear skin life. It took me 2 years to figure out all the angles my skin could break out from. And the way I keep it clear today is simple: all my meal choices are conscious ones. I look at everything I put into my body and assess the risk of damage I may or may not be doing to my skin. Over time I have learned exactly what my body likes and doesn’t like. I still indulge in less-healthy options sometimes, but not in the foods that cause breakouts.
As a long-term result of my short-term conscious eating habits, I am 33 years old and have never been happier with my body. My self-esteem is through the roof since I no longer feel ashamed to show my face to people. And it paved the way for me to bring unconditional self-love into my life.
Some questions for you and for me this coming 2018:
- What do you value most? (health, fun, family, friendship, authenticity, community, humor, safety, inner peace, service, wisdom, etc).
- How do your daily actions align with those values? How we spend our time each day adds up to how satified we feel over time with our values.
- What long-term actions have you taken that brought you great reward? And if you’ve never tried it, where are you willing to do so?
May this year be an inspiration to you, a time to refocus the direction your ship is sailing, and may you stay the course to reap the delicious benefits.
Elise May. CN + LE