The Value of Voluntary Simplicity | Young Minimalist

The Value of Voluntary Simplicity – Richard B. Gregg

Originally published in 1936, social philosopher Richard B. Gregg coined the term ‘voluntary simplicity’. As a Harvard graduate and later a student of Gandhi’s work, in this article Gregg explores the philosophical, intellectual, spiritual, social and very real reasons for adopting a simple life. Gregg was an influential author, with much of his work focused on creating non-violent social change, Martin Luther King, Jr cites him as an influence (Ansbro 1982).

As minimalists, we would do good to read this and deeper understand how a simpler life can create good in the world. Gregg’s article is an inspiration to many, including Duane Elgin who wrote a book titled, Voluntary Simplicity.

Download the PDF article: The Value of Voluntary Simplicity

Ansbro, John J. (1982). Martin Luther King, Jr: The Making of a Mind. Orbis Books. pp. 146-7, 149.

What is minimalism? | Young Minimalist

What is minimalism?

Minimalism (n):
- a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterised by extreme spareness and simplicity
- design using the bare essentials

What minimalism isn’t

Before we have a look at minimalism, let’s start with what minimalism is certainly not. It is not: getting rid of everything, living in a tiny house, eating 1 grain of rice for every meal, selling your car, middle-class, being an extreme environmentalist, boring, no fun, lonely or (self-) idolatry. For a more in-depth analysis of the misconceptions about minimalism look here.

Right now that’s out the way.

A philosophy of minimalism

Minimalism is intrinsically materialistic. “What?” You might say. “I thought minimalism was about getting rid of things, living with the essentials, not living in excess?” And you’re right. That is exactly why it is materialistic.

Contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton (the guy who started the School of Life, made popular on YouTube), would say that we don’t really “live in very materialistic times”. We don’t, in fact, desire material objects, but the rewards from acquiring those items: e.g. recognition of wealth or status, or, acknowledgement of taste in fashion. Yet, de Botton would argue that material items actually have another, purer purpose. A purpose to aid in self-development and knowledge, as well as to “play a positive psychological (or spiritual) role in our lives when higher more positive ideals are ‘materialised’ in them”.

Thus it comes to mean, good choices in our material possessions can change the way we live our lives, for the better. I believe this is the underlying purpose of minimalism: to make conscious decisions about what we own and dedicate time to in order to live a fuller, more purposeful life.

So what does this mean?

The first thing to understand about minimalism is that it is not a simple, thing you do. It’s much more than that. A way of life, built upon the aforementioned philosophy. In order to live a minimalist lifestyle, there is a lot of soul-searching that you must go through. Minimalism allows you to focus on what you love, and remove all the extra noise from your life. It is a way of living your life with intention and focus. By doing & having less, you create room for more (Makes sense right?).

The thing is, most of us don’t do this. Many of us are busy doing jobs we don’t like to buy things we don’t want. I spent most of my university life working part-time jobs in pursuit of a way to define myself as successful. Getting the newest phone, buying new shirts for work, travelling around London in taxis and paying for round after round of drinks. And it worked, others recognised me for it: I heard a ‘friend’ say once, “I love going out for drinks with Kevin, after a couple he just keeps buying rounds for everyone.” I was living a life focused on money & things because money & things make you happy. At least, that’s what I thought.

So when I found minimalism I wasn’t really sure I would get on with it. It didn’t really fit with my lifestyle. But when I gave it a chance and answered the questions posed to me honestly, I very quickly found that minimalist living was exactly what I was looking for all along. Minimalism has allowed me to: stop saying “yes” to everything, stop working in an industry that I didn’t enjoy and spend more time doing things I love, be closer to my family, have more money, get healthier, live moment to moment and travel.

“The more you know, the less you need” – Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia

Learn more … about yourself

The ultimate benefit of minimalism is discovering things about yourself that you don’t know. Self-discovery not only gives you a great buzz, but it allows us to make decisions more intelligently. By figuring out what you love doing, what your values are and where your life is failing you, you are able to take back control of your life and direct yourself onto the path you truly want to be on. So where do we start?

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are my values in life?
  • What do I currently do, that I would rather not?
  • Which areas of life do I want to improve?
    • Split them up (e.g. Health / Relationships / Money / Work / etc.) and break these down further
  • What does my version of success look like?

Re-visit these a week later and then proceed to step 2 – Becoming a minimalist (link to follow).

Reduce your wallet size | Young Minimalist

Minimise your wallet with ease

Is your wallet overflowing? Here’s a few easy steps to minimise your wallet

Ever since I was a kid, I loved collecting cards. I’d go through every single bit of post to see if there was a bit of plastic in there that I could grab and put in my wallet. Thinking about it now, it was a bit weird. Anyway, getting my first actual bank card was so exciting! And as the years went on I accumulated more and more bits of plastic.

overflowing wallet

That’s it up there. It doesn’t look that oversized, but whenever I sat down, I knew I was sitting on something. If I had to sit down for more than 5 minutes I’d take it out of my back pocket and either hold it, or put it in my bag so my leg wouldn’t go numb. It contained:

  • 6 debit/credit cards
  • my ID
  • my personal licence (to sell alcohol)
  • 5 store points cards (Nectar/Clubcard etc.)
  • 10 different café stamp cards
  • 2 climbing wall membership cards
  • a railcard
  • 2 library cards
  • 2 student IDs
  • a bookstore card
  • 5 business cards from other people
  • 5 of my own defunct business cards.
  • Oh, and a lot of random receipts…

So I figured I’d try minimise my wallet. While I can’t just get rid of all of them I can certainly be wiser in choosing what I take around with me all the time.

Here are my Minimalist Wallet Rules:

Only carry 1 bank card.

If you’re living a minimalist lifestyle you’re not going to be buying many things, so choose an account you’re going to spend from and only take that card.

Use Apple/Android Pay

So if you’re a sceptic you may not want to do this, but I find it super handy! I still tend to pay with the card I’ve designated, but it’s useful to know that there is a backup on your phone just in case something happens to that one.

Take your ID

If you’re lucky enough to look young and live in a country which IDs people a lot, you’ll probably need this with you.

Use a points & loyalty card app

The one I’ve downloaded is Stocard (iOS & Android). It allows you to enter all the major supermarket cards (Nectar, Clubcard, Waitrose etc.) and various shops (Holland & Barrett, Cotswold, Subway, Waterstones) and you can add your own (I’ve added my two climbing gym cards, Mile End Climbing Wall & The Caste). That’s taken 8 cards out of my wallet!!

Alternatively, download loyalty apps

Many of the major supermarkets have their own store apps. Clubcard, Waitrose (which you can use to scan your shopping as you go), Nectar (not a great one), Subway and more. If you don’t want to use an app like Stocard, use their own app!

Don’t carry cash

If you live in a city, almost everywhere you go will probably take card. In fact more and more places are only taking card! Less cash? More space! As a restaurant in Gothenburg said on its window: “Card is King!” – or in our case, 1 card is King!

Have a ‘Home Wallet’

I have repurposed my old wallet to be my ‘Home Wallet’. It’s got all the cards I don’t carry on me. So my other bank cards, my loyalty cards, café stamp cards all stay there. If I know I’m going to need a card that day, I take it with me. So I only carry my Railcard when I know I’m taking the train! There are two benefits to doing this: 1) it makes you think about what you’re doing that day. Increasing you awareness, and 2) it stops you spending unnecessarily – if I don’t have my café stamp card I don’t have a coffee. Of course I could just get a new stamp card and combine them, but this is where self discipline comes into to play. If I didn’t set out to have a coffee that day, I’d be falling back into auto-pilot if I did have one.

The Results?

Minimalist Wallet
Reduced from 41 cards down to 5!! (Needed a new slimline wallet)

My wallet now contains: 1 bank card, my ID, my 2 student IDs & my railcard (as I now take the train everyday). I’ve reduced from 41 cards down to 5! And I’ve never needed a card and not had it. Fed up with carrying all those cards? Change it.

Got any other suggestions to minimise your wallet? Comment below!

Add more time to your day | Young Minimalist

Add more time to your life

How does doing more of what you want to do sound? Need more time? All you got to do is find those things that add value to your life! Simple.

Deciding to live my life was the first big hurdle I had to get over when changing my lifestyle. It doesn’t sound difficult, but it does mean taking on a lot of responsibility. We tend to live on auto-pilot. We do things because we see other people doing them. Simple things like, having coffee in the morning. I mean if you think about it morning is the last point in the day we should drink coffee. We’ve just been sleeping. We should be rested and awake! But we do these things because they’ve become habits and it is incredibly difficult to break a habit, especially if it has a little buzz attached to it. These things are a waste of time, changing them will give you more!
So in wanting more time, I was forced to change my life. To become aware of my life. I basically had to analyse every part of my life to understand why I was doing things and if those activities were adding value to my life. In every day there are things we have to do and things we do. These are two very different sections and it is important to make a distinction between these.

Things we have to do

This is a pretty self-explanatory section, and I’m sure that I could give a reason for everything in this section within a second. Here are some examples:
  • Brushing my teeth every morning & evening – because I want to keep my teeth in my mouth.
  • Eating lunch – otherwise I will be hungry, malnourished, and have no energy for the rest of the day.
  • Do my daily exercise – so that I can keep to my goal of becoming a stronger rock climber. (This is actually a reminder to me now. Be right back!)
Right, where were we?
Oh yeah, the things we have to do are not always easy, happy, good things: ‘I have to go to work in order to pay the bills’. And there may be other similar non-exciting ones, if you do not enjoy cooking then that would come under this section.

Things we do

This section is a lot more difficult to pinpoint. The earlier coffee example fits under here. Everything in this section is something we do habitually. Our brains are designed to make life easier for ourselves, habits are one of those ways we make life easier:
  • Having your morning coffee
  • Turning on the radio in your car on the way to work
  • Checking Facebook after your alarm goes off
  • Putting the TV on whilst eating dinner
These activities don’t seem that bizarre, and their not, but why you do them may reveal something you did not realise. These are habits we’ve picked up from other people, the films we’ve watched and some may even be our own creations. What the issue is, is that they are taking up time in your day when you could be doing something you want to do!
How many people have said, ‘oh I wish I had more time in the day to do that thing I really want to do’ ?

Want more time? Do less!

To analyse my life, the first thing I did was to record my daily activities at the end of each day. I did this for a week. This can be split in many ways – you choose – I chose to log every time there was a significant change in either my location or a change in my purpose: I logged my morning routine, the journey into university, my lecture chunks, the breaks I had, lunch, any afternoon activities, sport, travel back home, dinner, pre-bed activities. Note the time spent doing them and the value those activities gave your day (scale of 1 – 10, 10 being high). ‘Value’ is either enjoyment or purpose, thus going to work would probably have a high score, but spending 20 minutes in the shower may not.
Once you’ve done this, give yourself some time (an hour should do) to go through your log and find all the activities that you did the previous week that scored 5 or lower. All these things are in the Things we do sector. There should be nothing scored 5 or below that we have to do, as everything we have to do should be adding value to our lives.
Now the hard part. Spend the next 2 weeks, not doing those things that scored 5 or below.
Be strict with yourself, but know that it doesn’t matter if you accidentally do do some of those things. You probably will, I know I did! The point of the activity is to bring awareness to your actions during the day. I would advise recording this time as well. It will allow you to see how much time you save. I was spending 90 minutes every weekday doing things I didn’t need to do! That’s a lot of time!
After this second week, relax a bit and see if any of those activities creep back in to your life? My guess is some might, but the majority will not. At the end of the month, you will have loads of time to start doing that thing you wanted to! But most importantly, you will have a significantly greater awareness of your day and the things you are doing. You’re on track to living your life!
New Year, New Routine | Young Minimalist

New Year, New Morning Routine.

Your Morning Routine can bring you a healthier lifestyle! Develop the way you breath & shower.

As we start a new year some of us will be trying to redesign our lifestyles, doing more sport, waking up earlier, eating healthier, being more productive, focusing more on our relationships. New Year resolutions are popular every year, the problem is keeping that resolution as the year goes on. In changing my lifestyle to one of simplicity and meaning, I have decided to begin my changes with my morning routine. I’ve never really had a morning routine, and there are conflicting notions around whether routine is good for you or not. Does it put you into auto-drive? Does it help your body do its thing? I haven’t really figured that one out yet, but I’ve decided that some routine is good. With some subtle changes to my morning routine I’ve become more ready for the day and almost always start the day with a smile. I will present these changes in separate blog posts, as I feel they warrant explanations and reasons to allow you to make a good judgement as to whether you will decide to incorporate this into your life also. The order of the activities is up to you, but I would recommend the order of the posts.
BE WARNED: it does involve ensuring you have time in the morning, which may mean you have to wake up earlier (which in turn means you may want to go to bed earlier as sleep is such a (underrated) necessity in our lives). Now that you’re mentally ready, let’s get to it.

The Wim Hof breathing technique

I’ve been hearing about this for a while, and it is something that I was suspicious of at first. But after talking about it with a friend who challenged himself to doing it, I decided to give it a go also. Hof claims it has many benefits, like being able to control your immune system, improved sleep quality and reduced stress. (Sounds pretty good just after a bit of breathing right?) There have been heaps of research done on this, mainly on Wim himself [Watch Hof – VIDEO]. The technique has a couple of components: Breathing, Cold Exposure and Commitment.
So let’s begin with the breathing. There’s essentially a few simple instructions to follow – if you want more in depth get hold of his book, Becoming The Iceman:
  1. Find a comfortable seating position where you can keep your back straight. This can be cross-legged on the floor, preferably with pillow support under your coccyx, or in a firm chair.
  2. Take a deep breath in (to full capacity) using your diaphragm and allow to naturally discharge without any conscious effort at all. Close your eyes whilst letting your breath go.
  3. Do this 30-40 times and on the last breath, let your breath go for as long as possible, until your body forces you to take a breath…
  4. Again, fully fit your lungs and hold for ten seconds, then let go.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 three – six times.
  6. After holding the last breath for ten seconds. Take a couple of deep breathes and become fully aware of how you and your body feels. Bring awareness back to your surroundings and, when ready, open your eyes.
Give it a go now!
Well done. Now onto the next step.
Take a cold shower!
I know, this is a bit of a weird one. But according to Hof, controlled exposure to cold has many benefits toy our health: ‘including the buildup of brown adipose tissue and subsequent fat loss, reduced inflammation to facilitate a fortified immune system, balanced hormone levels, improved sleep quality, and the production of endorphins’ [taken from Hof’s website].
To start with, try staying under for 30-40 seconds. Then as you get used to it build this up to longer periods. It is surprisingly easy to build up this tolerance, and really enjoyable. The second cold shower I had, I was under there for about 3 minutes, lathered myself and my hair and rinsed. Once the initial shock is over, your fine – its mainly the getting under that’s difficult.
That’s essentially it. Build this into your life, make it a daily event, and, crucially, do it with intention. Developing the skill to engage in your actions with intention will allow you to focus more and be more productive. Also, intentional living, something advocated heavily by The Minimalists, will help you cut out the useless activities from your life, freeing up more time to do what you want to do. I’ll be writing about this in more detail in a later post. For now, try this in the morning and see if you feel the difference.
Once you’ve had a go for a week or so, share your new morning routine experience below!
What's holding you back? | Young Minimalist

What’s holding you back?

Find your anchors and free your self

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to find things that would satisfy me. These things are not only objects, but activities, connections and values. They were supposed to make me feel like I belonged, had a purpose. The one thing I hadn’t questioned is: “What’s the effect of these things?”

An anchor is something that holds a ship at bay, anchors keeps an object in place: they are dependable. For years I, along with many others, thought of this as a good thing. Dependability is a good thing, right? Right? For sure, we do need trustworthiness in our lives, but this highlights our overt concern for safety.

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for” – William G.T. SheddClick To Tweet

In society, we are drawn to idolise others. We get asked, “Who’s your hero?” or “Who do you admire?” These questions are supposed to get us to reveal a bit of our inner self, yet all it compels us to do is look outward, to the plethora of other people. We are not comfortable revealing our true selves to others, as this would open us to potential humiliation. If we told our real inner story, we could be judged, and the potential for hurt rises drastically. Our obsession with celebrity and idols is, in my opinion, down to one thing: the fear of discovering who we are. In fact, it may even be: the fear of not liking who we are. And thus we turn to external stuff to create our image.

“Insist on yourself; never imitate” – Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo EmersonClick To Tweet

In turning to meditation as a form of self-treatment from depression and anxiety I made the discovery that so many have made before me. I found an island inside me that had always been off the map. That island was me. This discovery has lead me up the path towards a more enlightened version of me. One that understands who it I am and what it means to be me. In asking my self questions, I got answers about that self. What are my values? Do I really enjoy doing this? Is this object adding value to my life? Is this person making my life better? Are all questions I asked, and continue to ask my self. They constantly reveal interesting answers.

I learnt that I had done what so many others had done. I had followed. Chasing the idea, the template, which is given to us – and reinforced by our education system – and portrayed as the route to happiness. Work hard, get money, buy the biggest house you can, get a nice car, have a family at some point, retire happy.

I am not saying following is a bad thing, it is not. I, in writing this essay, am following the whole of history in trying to solidify my thoughts with the pen. Following others in their knowledge of meditation and self-discovery, but I am doing it with awareness. Many of us do not. This may seem a bizarre thing to claim – “Of course I know what I am doing!” you might say. I do not mean this statement as an attack, but as an invitation. I urge you to ask yourself one simple question of the action you perform immediately after you finish reading this: it may be checking your phone, it may be looking at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or BuzzFeed, it may be getting back to that task at the office, it may be driving to the shop. Whatever it may be, ask yourself:

“Why am I doing this?”

But be wary of your answer. The first answer may be a superficial one: “I’m checking Facebook to see what’s new.” Or, “I’m doing this task as it is part of my job, I need my job to earn money to pay the bills.” Both valid answers at the face of it, yet both put a veil in front of the real answer. Once some digging is done, the real answers may be more like, “I don’t want to miss out on the latest trend” or “That new thing is coming out soon, and I have to work so I can buy it.”

It is only then that we can find our anchors. And they are certainly holding you place. Those bills, that debt: that’s an anchor. Your fear of missing out (FOMO as it has been dubbed): that’s an anchor. In searching for my anchors I found that I kept coming back to the same place for most of the decisions I was making in my life. (I mean down to the smallest of decisions). My main anchor was the fear of disappointing my parents. I have always had this fear, and still struggle in dealing with it. However, if I am to live my life, it must be myself that I am afraid of disappointing, not others. And now in recognising my fear I am able to combat it.

In fact last night may have been the most significant advancement I have made on this front. And in thinking about it now, my fear was misplaced: it wasn’t that they were going to be disappointed by me choosing a path different from others. It was that they didn’t understand. I hadn’t explained to them the reasons for my decisions.

Find your anchors. Understand you anchors. Un-tie your anchors and you will find freedom.Click To Tweet

ASK: “Why am I doing this?”