Grateful and Sensitive

There are many reasons why so many Minimalists are able to maintain this lifestyle easily without succumbing to consumer urges. Others have a difficult time, going through binge episodes(consuming and collecting), followed by guilty purging episodes (mass household minimizing); big spring cleaning projects every year after an entire year of comfort shopping.

The reasons for being able to consistently maintain a modest home for many Minimalists I have seen include:

  1. Some people are just wired NOT to covet things. …… seriously. These folks are “Mighty Oaks” as I call them.
  2. They keep their exposure to a consumerist world limited, perhaps eliminated altogether. This is a good idea anyway. We don’t need to be exposed to garbage information in the form of ads and influential media. No TV, no smartphone, living in some level of seclusion.
  3. They are so consistently focused on their projects, that other urges haven’t the room to creep into their minds. They simply haven’t the time for anything else but their immediate passions.

These are all excellent reasons, and to be honest I am envious of folks that fall into either #1 or #3 (Although I believe I am half way there on #3).

As for me ……. I can sum up my method/mindset for maintaining a Minimalist life in two words:

Gratitude and Sensitivity

In previous posts, I have discussed gratitude in some depth. But for the purposes of how I mean it here, I’d like to define it differently. You see …….. people have a natural desire to want what they don’t have. This can be lessened (or eliminated) by cultivating a want for things we already have. THAT is gratitude. People tend to take their riches for granted, and when this happens they want the “next best thing”; this is of course, is a bottomless void we’d be attempting to fill.

The other reason I am able to pretty easily maintain a minimal life is through mindfulness. I permit myself to be sensitive to all the sensations going on around me. Smells, visions, tastes, and most importantly, touches. I pause to let the heat of the suns rays splash upon my face. I breathe in the seasonal air and let it wash through me. I make the most of the company with me and try to connect deeply in some way. I permit myself to take in all that is going on around me already, and in doing so gain a level of contentment that no amount of consumption can offer me.

Many people, as they have progressed into adulthood, have become numb. Blind to all the wonderful sensations going on around them, and are bored as a result. They have been desensitized by the fast rewards flashy consumer driven world we live in today. This is a shame, because they are missing out on the better part of life.

My Minimalist Winter Wardrobe

Let me start off by saying that my indoor wardrobe is the same all year long. I am a jeans and t-shirt guy in the Winter just the same as the Summer.

What’s more, My Autumn/Spring jacket is also my Winter jacket. It’s a leather jacket with a thin mildly insulated liner. Fortunately in New York’s Hudson Valley (where I live) the weather seldom gets SO cold as to necessitate a thick, well insulated winter coat; that is, unless you happen to spend a LOT of time outdoors in the winter (you work outside or spend a lot of time shoveling snow, for example). That is  …. a thick winter coat is not necessary IF we have the right accessories. My Winter outdoor clothing accessories are as follows:

  1. A thick scarf. This is ABSOLUTLEY necessary if we wish to keep a minimal wardrobe for the Winter season. Most of our body heat is lost through our neck. Keeping the neck warm beats keeping the chest and torso warm, hands down. Having a good scarf is the reason we don’t need a separate winter coat.
  2. A thick winter hat. Also necessary. Gotta keep our melon warm, as this is where the body heat is generated.
  3. Thermal gloves. Unless we plan on keeping our hands in our pockets the entire time we spend outdoors, those fingertips will freeze up in no time.

That’s it. The above items are the bare minimum needed for our outdoor wardrobe during the winter season. It’s the only articles of clothing we need if the only time we spend outdoors is when we are in transit. I am of course assuming our homes and automobiles have heating. On the other hand, in the event that we intend to spend considerably MORE time outside, here is a list of additional accessories to keep us warm (NOTE: We STILL don’t need a “winter coat”):

  1. An Autumn/Spring flannel Shirt. Wear this UNDER our Autumn/Spring jacket, and we have the equivalent of a winter jacket (better in fact). Plus we have multifunctional clothing that is good for more than just one season.
  2. Thermal underwear (top and bottoms). Under Armor makes them and so does Nike. They keep us warm and they are discreet. No one will even know we have them on. Furthermore, since they are not thick, they are not an encumbrance to our movement. We can still look sexy in thermals. Not so much with thick outerwear making us look like the Michelin Man.
  3. Thick wool socks. To keep our toesies warm.
  4. Winter gloves to put over the thermal ones. Only needed if we intend to actually touch snow.

That’s it! That is my total outdoor Winter wardrobe, and my ONLY change in wardrobe for the Winter season for that matter. It’s all we need in mid-state NY.

Replace “have to” with “get to”

Our attitude/emotions effect our behavior (this we already know). But the opposite is true too; Our behavior DOES influence our emotions as well.

With that being said, what we say to ourselves (and others) can completely change our perspective and cultivate gratitude.

Here is a neat trick I have discovered that has been invaluable in cultivating gratitude (and ultimately joy) for me: Replace the phrase “have to” with “get to”.

“Have to” is a chore. Makes the mind feel like we have an obligation we would rather not have:

  • I have to pick up my daughter from school.
  • I have to clean the home.
  • I have to go grocery shopping.

“Get to” is a privilege. Makes the mind more appreciative of the task ahead. Makes us view our tasks as small adventures, opportunities for joy. Also, it forces makes us step outside ourselves to see the task from a broader perspective:

  • I get to pick up my daughter from school. (A wonderful time to bond with her. Cultivate connection)
  • I get to clean the home. (So you have a shelter you can be grateful for. Too many are not so fortunate).
  • I get to go grocery shopping. (You have the means not only to feed yourself and family, But LOOK AT THE WONDERFUL VARIETY.)

It can be difficult remember to have gratitude on the fly when we need it at a moments notice. But if we can remember key phrases that we use as “red flags” during our comings and goings, we can catch ourselves at appropriate moments to be grateful. “I have to” is one such red flag.

Side Note: If there is ever a time when “get to” can’t replace “have to” for a specific task we have, this is a clear red flag that this is a task that adds no value to our life. Time to minimize.