I’ve always lived rather minimally. Moving every two years does not allow you to hang on to a lot of unnecessary things. All my possessions can fit into 3 large Rubbermaid containers; with exception of a couple pieces of furniture, 2 suitcases of clothes and some mountaineering gear.
However, it wasn’t until my recent trip to Nepal that I realized how little I truly needed. During our 23 days of trekking I only had what I could carry on my back. My pack weighed 30 pounds, but at elevations above 4,000 meters it felt much heavier. I wore the same 3 sets of clothes for the entire trip, didn’t wear make-up and never did my hair (there was no point as my head was covered by a hat the entire time to keep in body heat). It was not an easy experience by any means. Due to the altitude it was extremely cold, and hard to breathe, but I wanted for nothing (besides maybe a hot shower). You do miss the comforts of home, such as heat, running water and making your own meals, but you don’t miss your ‘stuff’. The experience helps you realize how many pointless things you own. The lack of ‘things’ to take care of and endless list of things ‘to do’ was a freeing experience. The only thing you had to do each morning was get to your next destination and for that you relied on your own two legs. Nothing to worry about except putting one foot in front of the other. Our bodies are amazing, and often in our modern societies we don’t push them enough. With enough time, you can get pretty much anywhere by walking. I noticed many other people hired guides to carry their bags. Although it was tough, and there were tears; in the end I was so happy I pushed my body to its’ limit and climbed the three high passes (Kongma La, Cho La, Renjo La) without any aide.
Short clip: Khumbu Three Passes
Simplicity is freedom and a value adder. By simplifying the extraneous, you gain the ability to focus on the intricate details, and take time to enjoy and explore. Our happiness is never a result of the things we have, it is completely based on our experience of the world around us. With our busy lives is we often don’t have enough time to be present and are just going through the motions. To gain more from our experiences, we need less ‘stuff’, and less distractions.
What is a Value Adder?
It’s important when embarking on a more minimalistic lifestyle to figure out what your ‘value adders’ are. These are going to be different for everyone, and it is completely based on the experiences you derive from certain possessions.
For example, many people would probably think the amount of mountaineering, and backcountry camping gear I have is excessive, but without it, I could not pursue a hobby I am passionate about. Getting out into the mountains to rock climb, hike or try a mountaineering objective brings me great joy and the experience is a value adder to my life. The only thing I need more of to pursue this hobby is free time. What is something you are passionate about that is important in your life?
Sometimes, you will find you can gain value from certain things without possessing them. The library is a great example of this. I love books, but owning a lot of books is not feasible for my semi-nomadic life. I don’t want to pack up and move boxes of books every two years. I use the library for most of the books I read. Yes, sometimes I have to wait for them to become available, but I usually have so many on hold that I am able to read something else in the meantime. Our library system here in Calgary is free, and they even transport the books to the location closest to you. It doesn’t get much cheaper or easier than that!
Living minimally, doesn’t mean getting rid of all of your possessions, it means getting rid of the things that don’t add value to your life or serve a functional purpose.
Decide which extrinsic things bring value to your life, keep them and try to use them as much as possible. When making future purchases be more deliberate and ask yourself, is this a value adder , does this serve a function, or is it necessary?