Why downscaling is the new black
We live in a plastic world where everything seems to have become disposable. Surrounded by stuff we don't need, bought with money we don't have, we keep accumulating things to make ourselves feel more at home in the world. For many, having a lot of stuff makes them feel better because it seems to fill a void. For others, it is a sign of their success. Having finally arrived at a place where they have a lot of possessions they can finally announce to the world that they have "made it", or "reached the top".
But for a growing number of people the world over, possessions no longer define who they are. They have discovered other ways to feel more at home in the world. They have begun to realize that experiences and relationships are far more valuable than worldly possessions. They have learned to look within for fulfilment, realizing that externals do not bring them happiness in the long run.
The concept of downscaling is not a new one, but given that we are so bombarded with advertising for the latest thing to hit the market, with subliminal promises of happiness and fulfilment, it is no wonder that people have become so addicted to stuff. The classic image of success further pressurizes us to own more stuff. Look at most people's goal sheets and you will likely see a picture of a big house and a fancy car. That's because the general perception of success is so tightly linked to having more possessions. But what if I told you that you can be blissfully happy with fewer possessions?
Could you imagine for a moment how your life would be? No huge mortgage to pay, no high insurance costs to protect all your stuff, no expensive maintenance on luxury vehicles and no more false friends. If you consider how stressful it is to manage a high-maintenance lifestyle and the associated health risks, it makes sense to think about downscaling.
When I decided to sell everything I owned 5 years ago to hit the road with my kid, I was pretty nervous. There was still a part of me that equated my success with having lots of worldly possessions. People would visit me in my beautiful home with my huge swimming pool, full-time housekeeper, and two cars and think I was very successful. And indeed I was. But I wasn't very happy. The stress of maintaining an expensive lifestyle began affecting my health in subtle ways. Insomnia, indigestion, headaches and anxiety attacks were the order of the day for me. Amidst all the clutter I was struggling to be my authentic self.
Fast-forward to five years later. Nowadays everything I own can fit into a 23 kgs suitcase, hence the nickname I've adopted: "Suitcase Mom".
There is something deeply profound about changing your perception about success from external manifestations to something deeper and more meaningful. I'd like to share some ideas with you on how to downscale and have a better quality of life.
1. Don't give a f*ck. The most important thing you can start off doing for yourself in your quest to downscale is to stop caring what others think. You will lose friends, people will gossip about you, look down upon you and try to belittle you because the image they have of you is being compromised. You have to toughen up and not give a toss about other people's opinions of you. You will have to find other ways to define yourself once you get rid of your excess stuff.
2. Donate to charity. Find a charity organisation you care about and give your stuff away. Seriously. If you have not worn that outfit in over a year, chances are you never will. Do you really need 10 handbags? 20 pairs of shoes? 15 suits? 5 umbrellas? Get real. Learn how to let go of stuff. Those less fortunate will benefit from your excess stuff while you will learn how to focus on experiences instead of possessions to bring you fulfilment.
3. Learn to shop with a list. I never go to the store without a list these days. I buy exactly what's on the list and nothing more. I no longer lust after material possessions because I've learned to live without them.
4. Learn to live on less and save more. Working with a stricter monthly budget forces you to own your life in more responsible ways. Putting money away for your retirement means when you get to old age you can still maintain the same comfortable lifestyle because you've practised it for so long! It's common sense, right?
5. Create a travel budget. When you downscale you end up having a lot of extra cash you didn't have before. Let that become your travel kitty. Traveling opens you up to new ideas, profound experiences and allows you to grow in interesting ways. I am a lot more grounded, calm and focused since I started traveling because I've seen life from so many different angles and through so many different lenses. Traveling allows you to develop a tolerance for others who are different from you.
6. Be generous. Downscaling means you can afford to help others less fortunate. I don't mean that you need to give money away, but donate your time, mentor a youngster, volunteer at a shelter, do anything that forces you to help someone else. Or if you prefer, help animals. Anytime you focus on the needs of others it helps you put life into perspective.
7. Learn to relax more. You can do this in simple ways, like meditating, listening to music, going for a walk in the forest, etc. I discovered I could relax much easier when doing deep breathing exercises. Focusing on my breath helped me to take my mind off my problems and into the moment. This, in turn, helped me to feel more grounded and calm.
8. Learn to enjoy minimalism. The less clutter you have around yourself, the calmer you feel. Too many material possessions distract you from your core purpose which is to love yourself more and find your happiness from within. I find that when I enter a home where there is a lot of clutter it actually makes me feel quite anxious. Read this wonderful blog about minimalism.
Downscaling can be a gradual process. You don't have to be quite as drastic as I was. In the end, living on less will change you in positive ways while improving the quality of your life. What have you got to lose except stuff you don't really need anyway?
Check out my personal blog: www.thatsuitcasegirl.com
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________________________________________________________________________________________Amour Setter is a Digital Nomad/Entrepreneur who has been traveling the world and working remotely for the past 5 years. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook