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Live With Less

It wasn't the first time I'd purged my belongings. It wasn't the first time I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, either. In fact, after living in Costa Rica without much of anything that I thought I needed back in the States, I realized that I could live with a lot less stuff.

Having more stuff just meant more stuff to take care of. More things to think about. More stuff to store.

This last push, however, was something different. I entered a deeper level of letting go; a deeper understanding of what it meant to live with less.

In the process of giving my ex her things, I continued to rid much of my own. I needed to purge.

When we'd backpacked through Southeast Asia for ten weeks all we had was a weeks worth of clothing. I'd learned how to live light. So I let go — especially of all the things and clothes that reminded me of her.

But it wasn't just "things" that I had to let go of. It was also the attachment to the storyline I'd been playing in my head.

I had let go of the idea of moving to So-Cal and starting a family with her. I also let go of the idea of ever having a family if that's what the gods had written… or of ever getting married again or anything to do with that type of storyline. Not that I was bitter and now hated the constitution of marriage, but it was a necessary concept that needed to be released. Again, I'm not saying that I closed myself off to the potential of ever finding another mate and still creating a family, but I needed to practice fully letting go of whatever it was that I was attached to.

The release caused a ripple. As if the magnetic field that had been suspending them in space vanished, more attachments began falling to the floor. Life avalanched into another grand cycle of letting go.

If I could let go of my marriage and the idea of ever having a family, what else could I let go of? What else could I live without?

It became a game.

Instead of adding more things to life; more things for convenience, more things for comfort, more things to make me feel better about myself; I flipped the switch. Less convenience. Less comfort. Less stuff. A barebones approach to exploring what really mattered in life.

What else could I live without?

A driving question that played on loop.

What else could I let go of?

Another from the same playlist.

It was about going in the opposite direction of what we’ve been told. Not out of pure rebellion, but out of curiosity to experience life a different way. I guess another experiment, as my dad would say.

We live in a society (especially if you’re from the west, like myself) where the norm is the acquisition of more. More. More. More. And not just more. New more. A new car. A new phone. And all the gadgets and accessories that accompany them. More shoes. More clothes to match the shoes. More toys. More things to store the toys. And more shelves to store the things that store the toys. More degrees. More cars. More houses. More status. More power. More things that make us feel cool or popular or secure or admired or… whatever it is that we think that “thing” will bring us.

It’s hard, however, to fill an internal void with external things. But people, because of what modern society has taught us, believe that it’s possible. So we consume. We consume because that's all we know.

But I'd become tired of consuming even if it was the cultural norm.

It was time to live with less.

Less clothes and material items tumbled into less nostalgia. And once I could let go of nostalgia -- our attachment to a time that no longer exists -- it became easier to let go other intangibles.  

Less hate. Less fear. Less anger. Less resentment. Less hurt. Less judgement. Less resistance. Less need to know. Less need to control.

Less. Less. Less.

The intangibles always outweighed the material. Love was larger than a Lexus and heartbreak heavier than a house. Choosing to carry resentment or hate or hurt or anything of that nature was like trying to “backpack” through Southeast Asia with two large rollers stuffed to the brim with hardened emotional bricks, a large duffle exploding with empty hits of instant gratification, and a day pack full of stories themed "poor me." That's a hell of a lot of baggage to carry through life, no?

So… what else could I let go of?

Less expectation of who I'm supposed to be. Less ambition. Less need to prove myself and my worth. Less need to accommodate other people. Less worry about what other people think — including those that I love (that's a tough, but necessary one if you seek true liberation).

Less stress.

Less mess.

Less of everything.

The new mission: live with less.


And when complete, simplify again.

A gardener’s job is never done. Learned that from my mom. And it’s not just the weeds that need tending. It's the pruning of plants we’ve grown to love and admire too.

I could always resubscribe to the lifestyle of stuff; of buying more, accumulating more, collecting more, and even striving for more. But for now, I've decided to hit unsubscribe.

We come into this world with nothing and leave with nothing, so why do we spend our entire lives chasing the accumulation of more stuff? To show how “successful” we are? To prove to others that we somehow “made it.” Made it to what? A house full of things but a heart without happiness? An office full of accolades but a soul without peace?

I’m not saying that you have to live life like me or even adopt a minimalist philosophy. In fact, the world would be pretty boring if everyone lived identically. Diversity is undoubtedly part of its beauty.

I am, however, going to challenge you.

Take inventory of your life -- not just the "things" in it -- and ask yourself:

Do I really need this?

Do I still want to hold on to that?

Is this what I want to carry with me as I travel through life?

Notes to self:

Remember that letting go is a practice. Keep practicing.

Travel light. Live light. Be light.

Written by

Jon Macalolooy

July 18, 2022

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