Monday, 23 December 2013

Simplicity and Consideration, OR.... Me, Myself, and I.

 
Simplicity and consideration, OR..... Me, Myself and I.  What type of person are you, do you live a simple and considerate life, OR DO YOU LIVE ONLY FOR YOURSELF.  It seems the Moura state school has the right idea and actively encourage their students to be considerate, in fact they have a whole collection of "behaviour/attitude" prompt cards at their school all with the underlying theme of harmonious living with others.  Isn't it funny how we teach these values to our children but as adults many seem to ignore them.  Minimalist living is not about living for yourself, particularly when you are in a relationship, have children, or both.  Minimalist living should benefit all, or as Spock said (Star Trek), "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one".  Minimalism can have immeasurable benefits for the family unit but it can be equally incongruous and destructive if it is based on the needs/wants of just one person within that unit.  This is where consideration for others and open honest communication are essential.  When you are part of a collective you have to be unremittingly mindful of the ramifications of every action/decision you make.  It is even more crucial to remember this if you make the aforementioned decisions without talking them through with every member of your family.  Yes, every member... Including the children...  This is basic, very simple 101 stuff people, the world revolves around more people than just YOURSELF!!
 
I can't reiterate enough the importance of making sure that your goals are collective ones, and not just individual ones.  MOST people make simple considerations every day, minimalists or not... When you put on the television you check if all watching have a programme choice and you would not monopolise the same shows night after night knowing someone really does not like them, when cooking tea you would not cook something you know one of your family really does not like.  Would you buy your wife roses knowing she is allergic to them, would you throw, sell, or give away possessions without first checking with the rest of the family?  Most people understand the concept of consideration for others, its pretty bloody simple really....
 
If you like to share your experiences of minimalism (or anything for that matter) via electronic social media platforms would you post things about your life/family without first knowing all involved were happy for you to do so.  I know someone whose wife decided minimalism was the road for HER.  She didn't consider the impact it could have on her husband, she didn't consider he was not happy with the purging of possessions, or that the posts she made online about HER journey were to some degree revealing more about their family than her husband was happy for people to know.  When you are married your actions can without doubt have an impact on your family, even if you don't see it.  If you have not communicated and discussed all you are doing then you are doing it for yourself alone and that is not minimalism.  The lady I am talking about has OCD issues both with food and compulsive shopping.  She will eat, diet, eat, diet, buy, give away, buy, give away, cycling through being happy and positive when on a purge then and depressive and moody when binging.  Fluctuating body weight add to her self esteem issues making it even more complicated and emotionally traumatic for her, sadly her negative moods are usually directed towards her husband alone.  Minimalism and the blog she writes seem to be for her a way of compartmentalising her issues, putting them out there for the world to see and giving people advice on the issues that she has not yet got anywhere near under control herself.  Minimalism is a life style, it will not cure OCD or other mental health issues.  Standing on the outside looking in it is my opinion that minimalism and blogging have become just another OCD area of her life.  There has been no real change, the up and down diet / binge eating continue and the tossing / buying continue in one form or another.  Unfortunately the up and down depressive moods which run parallel with the OCD cycle she seems to follow also continue to impact her spouse greatly.  You wont fix a heart attack with a band-aid and some issues need more than just a life style change to see results, often change must be made before embarking on a lifestyle like minimalism otherwise you run the risk of adversely impacting others.   In this case minimalism can become just another OCD activity without communicated or agreed boundaries that suit the rest of the family. 
 
If you keep shopping, but change your store from Myer to ebay or from the opp shop to FREECYCLE, you are still shopping.  Just because its free does not mean you need to have it.  I believe minimalists should have possessions, I have no problem with that at all, just keep them to essential items that all the family can see are worth having, things that serve you not the other way around.  Don't "love" your possessions see them for what they are and be thrifty/sensible when acquiring them.  We have a TV at our house, we often have a great time watching a show together or enjoying the education experience of a good documentary.  We don't however need a 60 inch plasma rocket ship TV that cooks your tea and brushes your teeth for you.  After all if you reduce household spending by thousands of dollars, have no debt and have a growing bank balance (things minimalism can help you achieve) what good is any of it if it just sits where it is and does not get used for a worthy purpose.  A lot of people die with very full bank accounts, hell what a waste.  What good is all your free time if you spend it on the internet, posting blogs, on twitter, putting up "eye candy" pictures on pintrest, that is just as OCD as the issues you are trying to resolve to begin with and with social media platforms growing every day where does it all stop!! Use the rewards you gain from minimalistic living to benefit your family, friends and greater community.... Don't be a Scrooge that still has the first dollar he earned.
 
The money you save and the free time you gain should be redirected back into your family but governed by the set of life rules you have collectively ratified as a family.  The husband of the person I refer to has two tiny cupboards in their bedroom for his modest and small amount of cloths, his wife has filled an entire walk in wardrobe with enough space to hang cloths for the entire family, but more often than not the door can't even be opened because its packed from floor to ceiling with OCD acquired "stuff".  The sad part is most of these possessions end up being given away or sold without even the original labels having ever been removed, all the while she blogs about not spending and writes about healthy eating and so on.  People, if you are going to do something don't be charlatans, many a lie have I seen posted on that blog,  an example was posting about the purchase of a new washing and how it was not purchased using any form of credit.... well her hubby showed me the Harvey Norman credit card purchase details for the washing machine.... If you do things like this you fool two people, those that can't know better and YOURSELF...
 
This Christmas / New Year is a great time to reflect on your life, what you have and where it is going.  You can continue to live as always if you want or you can stop looking at yourself and consider those around you.  Minimalism can help you do this, but first it might be time to get some skeletons out of the closet... It all comes down to choices and values.  Remember the greatest people in history, those who made real change and will be remembered have always been people that considered the needs of others before their own!!
 
During his life Nelson Mandela made freedom and consideration for others his goal.  He achieved more for South Africa than anyone before him and paved the road for others to continue his good works.  Need I say more!!!
 
 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Giver or Taker ? Todays simple challenge.



Some people are givers and some are takers, you can give some people everything and expect nothing in return but it's still not enough and they want (take) even more.  Can a minimalist also be a taker ?  I know what I believe to be true, what do you think ?

I spent some time last night having a look over minimalists blogs and other than a small few I was very disappointed.  Most were clones of each other, similar subjects, similar catch phrases, no real confrontational life changing suggestions, no real original thought and most glossing over minimalism as it really should be in favour of self promotion through Beguiling little articles promising you the world.... nothing more than bones without the meat IMO.  Sorry to all that I offend but a minimalist does not post a thousand times a week on trivial but "trendy" subjects all the while trying to promote themselves in some way.  Catchy little 20 days till Christmas challenges, 5 ways to change this, 15 things you should not do, 3 important this, 10 important that.... I doubt these people even live the words they write (I definitely know some that don't), how can they if spending so much time promoting themselves on every type of social media known to man (someone close to them must be missing out on something).  Have a look at these blogs, critically!!!  Most of them will have free giveaways of some description (that's the carrot), most will link themselves to Twitter, Pintrest, Facebook, and all manner of electronic social platforms and many will be trying to sell you something (usually their books) or will be promoting a pay per click type advertising arrangement for an external site.  Minimalism whose real agenda is personal fame or wealth all from the comforts of their home laptop have missed the point all together.  They are basically lazy people who just want a free ride and the adoration of their blinded fans.  I believe for a days pay you should do a days work, supporting your family and the greater community in the process.

Minimalism, AS I SEE IT, is the removal of life's rubbish in order to promote the only things worth having.... Love and Relationships !!  If what you personally gain from minimalism means someone close to you has lost or been hurt in the process then you are not doing it right, in fact you're not doing it at all you're just being lazy and selfish thinking of no one but yourself.  Have you ever noticed these days how everything gets watered down so much, people expect things for themselves they are not prepared to give in return, foundational truths become spongy platforms twisted and bent to suit individual selfish desires.  Just look at what is "acceptable" on TV these days compared to the 1960's and 70's when I was a child.  I watched a snippet of a TV program the other night, it was called "Ja'mie: Private School Girl".  This would have to be the lowest form of humour I have ever seen, the writer could not string more than two words together that were not profanities and the intelligence level of the script was about that of a high school student.  Oh sure it was meant to be a satire, a take off from real life, a joke, just a bit of fun.... People if you think this is acceptable viewing then you need to get a hobby.  Even worse if you actually think this junk is funny.  When I was a child, firstly this sort of rubbish was not around but if it were my parents would never have let me watch it.  See what I mean, everything is getting watered down, everything is becoming acceptable and minimalism like just about everything else has been diluted, titrated, diluted, and titrated until only homoeopathic levels of the original remain.  Don't fool yourself, one of the greatest things you can do (personally) to see change in life is to recognise your own facades and remove them, every layer... or you can just continue to live the lie, you will find plenty of people that will believe you, hell many will actually pay you but those close to you will always see who you are and where your heart is.

This is my simple challenge to you for the day, don't buy takeaway, don't spend your evening glued to the TV, to the Ipad, Ipod, Iphone, tablet, laptop, this top that top.  No one will really miss you out there in cyber land so why seek validations there... Today I would love to see you join together as a family, prepare a meal together, enjoy it together then spend the rest of the evening just talking with each other.... Just connect and let the rest of the world drift to nowhere.  A pictures says a thousand words, so here are some pictures.







Be true to who you are, to what you believe and allow your actions to validate the things of true worth in your life.  I don't want you to share this post on Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter, flitter, flapper or flopper.  I have nothing to sell you nor do I want you to become my adoring fan.  All I want is that you take this message home with you and make your home a better place for everyone.

Life, a thing of fleeting past,
So quickly loosed from mortal grasp.
Of what should be the things we care?
This thought, these words now hope to share.
 
A poet’s words, life’s truth do seek.
An artists brush, the moments keep.
The harp, its notes, do feelings hold,
But still the story goes untold.
 
A quest to find what’s just not there,
This hollow void within, despair!!
But some the answer say they hold,
To share with us for price of gold.
 
So what’s this thing, our souls do seek.
That man, to depths will journey deep.
To mountains high will climb so bold,
In effort to this secret hold.
 
The answer now can not be given
Unknown within this mortal prison
But time, this thing of fleeting past,
Will one day soon release its grasp.
 
But on this day, when questions told,
What if in mortal life so bold,
We lived that life without a care
Such that this question now will share.
 
Will share the fruits which now we reap
Of torment in eternal sleep
So love must be the question told
The gift to give worth more than gold.
 
 
~~ James Miller ~~

Friday, 15 November 2013

Time Out From The World. Press the OFF button !!

Press the Off Button.
 

It has been a little while since I last posted anything and during this down time I have been forced to do some real soul searching.  A search I fear has yet to reach it's terminus.  While I have written many draft posts during this time I decided not to publish them until I have a little more clarity and inner peace, some are confrontational (personally) and difficult for me to deal with right now.  Often my draft posts are just scribbled thoughts that evolve into articles that help me understand why I live the way I do ratifying the importance of our/my continued steadfastness. 
 
My Family !!!  They are everything, without their love and support I might as well be living alone in the house pictured above.  Nothing more than an empty wooden box stuck on a rock surrounded by the depths.  Hell, that sounds melodramatic and a bit morbid.... Fill that same wooden box with the people I love and it becomes the Taj Mahal.  For me it's not about the "where" or the "what" as much as it is about  the "with who".  Minimalism provided me with the ability (and focus) to repress a life of forced but subtle proselytization (to the religion of consumerism) and finally see the beauty of real living. 
 
Minimalism..... obviously you know this is how our family lives.... We collectively decided to disentangle our lives from the pressures of consumerism, from the futile and the worthless, and from the plethora of selfish mindsets propagated by the world in which we live.  Simply and quietly we wish to live, harming no one and having the right to be different.  We try to be as self sufficient as possible and always look for better environmentally friendly ways of doing things.  Things to save us money, organic grown foods, low cost heating and living in general, basically everything we do saves us money, keeps us healthy, unites us as a family and helps us to live with nature not in opposition to it.  With all these savings in time and money we reinvest back into our family, maximising the time and things we do and share together.  Some monies also go towards charities and aide programs, but these are a personal choice and not really important to mention other than to say we feel this is also an obligation we have as a minimalist family.

After that long winded spiel I still have not elaborated on my absence.  Where have I/we been ??  Well, quite simply we pushed the "OFF" for a while, after all that is what minimalism is about.  One evening we simply decided to turn off the TV, get off the Internet, and get back to basic living.  So that's exactly what we did.  We spent our evenings together cooking our meals and doing the normal stuff all families have to do.....BUT then when all the chores were done every night we took turns in choosing the evenings events.  Sometimes this was sitting together reading, discussing news paper articles and worldly attitudes, playing card and board games, embarking on some collective hobbies, really just spending quality time together minus the "world's" input, while still part of the world we tried to step outside it's reach and get back to the basics of living.  On weekends we prepared our organic veggie patches ready for planting, put up some new fences around the garden, fixed a few holes in the walls inside before a coat of paint, changed this, changed that, cleared the blackberries back to manageable levels..... It was fun and we grew closer the more we did together.  As a side note we stumbled upon two really great money saving ideas.  Firstly we installed LED down lights from Bunnings (three lights per unit, 4 watts each and super bright) throughout the house, the reduction in power use was very noticeable... YA!!!  Then we updated our shower heads, saving 80% on our usual gas bill (we have gas hot water heating) and also saving on water.  These little tweaks actually saved us much more money than we realised... total investment was around $150.  Prior to this we would use a tank of LPG gas every two weeks ($140)... now our tanks last over 8 weeks each... we got back our $150 outlay within two weeks of installation... Win/Win all round...
 
So that's us to date, yep we dropped out for a while and we will do so again when we feel life is closing in a little too much.  Every time we do this we grow closer as a family and remove one more layer of worldly over abundances.
 
~~ Try it yourself sometime, just press the off button and see what happens ~~
 
~~ James Miller ~~
 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Affirmations from Buddha.


~~~ Buddha ~~~
Many words of inspiration can be found in religious texts, I have often perused the archives of human spirituality scrutinising and dissecting every line and every verse, attempting to unravel the quandary that is life and fill the wanting void.  It seems to be a common human condition that we seek external guidance when the going gets tough or when life's pressures seem insurmountable. People, and often entire cultures, tend to look toward a perceived higher power or an "enlightened" doctrine to solve their problems.  Nearly everyone I speak with can attest to this "inner void" we all feel from time to time, and just about everyone fills it with the wrong things, myself included.

Minimalism was my first step towards physically decluttering life but as I stripped away the unnecessary garbage significant holes were left behind.  I had spent so much time working, earning money and buying things that I had neglected what was really important. The gaps left after this purging process were almost palpable.  Removing the physical junk revealed an even bigger mountain of mental clutter previously masked by worldly consumeristic conducts.  I found this a very daunting situation to be in and at times my resolve really wavered.

Fortunately, it didn't take me long to realise that what had been missing were meaningful relationships and inner spiritual peace.  I am not saying that these important elements didn't exist in my life per se, but they had been seriously neglected and were in need of some real effort on my part.  At this point in my life minimalism became as much a diagnostic tool to identify issues as it was a tangible method for removing material clutter.  The more I removed the more minimalism revealed.  What an incredible web of self deceit I had woven.  Indoctrinated by society, but equally indoctrinated by my own mindset, all made worse by a plethora of meaningless external validation pushing me further down the wrong path.

Historical religious leaders have often been referred to as the first minimalists, many religious doctrines advocate the removal of attachments to the physical world and earthly possessions.  Look at the life of Christ for the ultimate example of selfless minimalism.  For Christ the things that mattered were spirituality and relationships, all impeccably encapsulated in the instruction, "love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself."

Buddhism and it's teachings have often been a source of daily affirmations for me, while I am not a Buddhist that does not preclude me from seeing pertinent truths within it's teachings.  As minimalism changed my daily life so I was able to give more attention to the underlying cause for the way I had been living.  In the end it was all about free choice, I had made a conscious choice to live a worldly life, now it was time to choose to live a different one.  Minimalism was now about changing the way I think, it had become a mental endeavour where the junk was no longer physical and easy to dispose of.

At this point in my life minimalism was still a new concept, daily affirmations were therefore very important to me. They gave me focus and served to remind me where I was heading and why.  Most people who choose minimalism as a lifestyle initially make good progress, physical decluttering is the easy part, but soon realise that if minimalism is to become sustainable it's their mindset that ultimately must change.  As I mentioned, this was the hardest part for me and the part I still battle with the most.  You have probably noticed that a larger percentage of my posts relate to changing the way you think, this is of utmost importance.  I still discuss techniques for physical change like debt reduction, decluttering, parsimonious living techniques and so on but without a mental left shift most people simply end up back where they started.  Physical minimalism is no more than monkey see monkey do if not backed up by a complete change of thinking.

The message I want to share more than any other is that you can adopt every and any technique you like in order to bring about change in your life, but if you don't radically alter how you think you wont get far before you fall.  Change your mind to change your life, this is the essence of minimalism.  Your ultimate goal as a minimalist needs to be the provocation of a thought process that empowers you to formulate your own solutions to problems, change on a mental level will create change on a physical level.

 
 
The quotes below are from Buddhist texts and are just a few that I found really helped me on a daily basis to stay focused.  Encourage yourself daily and change the way you view life because this is where minimalism begins. 

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.

All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you If you do not act on upon them? 

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
 
In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true."


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Care Factor Zero - The Sooner You Don't Care The Better You Will Feel

Have you ever heard the phrase "care factor zero", I am sure you have?  The phrase is for the most part used in a negative way, defiantly against authority / common sense or to portray the speakers total lack of interest in something (smugly spoken).  I also hear it used during arguments, usually by the person losing the debate, in the form of a "shrug off" to the victor.  For most people the phrase would have a negative connotation, or at the least you would have encountered it's use in a negative situation.  I have actually learned to embrace this phrase, now more and more often applying it to situations in my life.  I will explain more as the post progresses.

Of course there are many things in life that we do need to care about, this goes without saying, but I would like to encourage you to start NOT caring.  I believe we need to learn to say no, to turn our backs on STUFF, and to walk in a new direction.  The question is however, what things and how?  As with everything in life the answer will be different for me than it is for you but as a minimalist learning not to care about certain things has been one of the most freeing experiences of my life.  Saying no and reversing years of subliminal and other forms of societal indoctrination has been the hardest part of my journey as a minimalist but the most rewarding.  The physical tossing of junk is easy, learning to let go of attachments and the underlying mental brainwashing is really where minimalism begins, it is our mindset that creates the physical ties we have to worldly possessions.  I have always stated that minimalism is a mental concept not just a bunch of physical actions.  The battles a minimalist fights, in my experience, are usually in the mental realm not the physical one.

The "what and how" I mentioned above were only revealed to me after I understood minimalism and had defined the concept specific to my life and situation. This is an essential starting point for any new minimalist and one I have elaborated on in earlier posts.  You need to go through this process to have a clear understanding of minimalism, to establish a starting point, and to provide future direction.  Take these initial steps and you will have a foundation to build on and clarity of purpose.  Complete lucidity of thought is so very important because with it comes focus and with focus comes determination and strength.

Consumerism, keeping up with the Jones, success (worldly definition), greed, jealousy, anger, control issues, self esteem, hate, coveting, peer pressure, ego, addictions, these are some of the things a minimalist needs to learn to say no to.  This is where we need to embrace the phrase "care factor zero" and learn to reverse a lifetime of programming, this is where minimalists fight for their freedom and walk a different path to the majority.  Yes minimalists are a minority subculture but I am very happy being so.

Essayist and Poet Ralph Emerson summed it beautiful in his quote below.  To be yourself, your true self, amidst all the pressures of modern life should be considered any man's greatest triumph.  Do this and I promise you will enjoy real freedom, your relationships will soar to new heights, and you will finally experience life and love as it was meant to be.

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

To finish please have a read of the quotes below, I have ordered them in a conceptual sequence, can you follow the underlying theme?  To me they paraphrase thus, Don't be afraid to be crazy or different, people like us change the world.  Don't be afraid to try new things, they are the spice of life.  Don't be afraid to walk your own path, you will always find someone to walk with you.  Don't be afraid to be yourself, in doing so you will find true and lasting friendship.
~~~ James Miller ~~~

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Apple Inc.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” ― Albert Camus

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ― Elbert Hubbard