More Freedom.

Photograph by Leonard von Bibra

“The things you own, end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), Fight Club.

OK, maybe not the most conventional source for a quote but profound nonetheless.

Our things demand our time, money and energy; and veritably can begin to dictate our lives. You might find yourself straining financially for the things you think you need, or just simply have the burden of maintaining all the things you do have. Consumerism drives desire, and if this goes unchecked and not rationalised against what you actually need; then the excess acquisition of goods, along with the overemotional attachment to these physical things will quietly steal your freedom.

If today you were to start with absolutely nothing to your name, then you would no doubt be overjoyed with the essential things such as shelter, food and water; clothing, warmth and perhaps a mattress to sleep on. It’s these basic things that humans require, and that actually as you start to add more and more stuff to this growing list it will at some point stop adding any more happiness to your life. The relationship of things to happiness will evidently tip the other way, where too much stuff and choice will bring on anxiety and stress.

Taking a step back and reviewing all you own and asking if each item truly adds to your life will result in an opportunity to clear out what isn’t needed and begin to reclaim your freedom.

A previous relationship breakup allowed me to do just this, it was not only an opportunity to part with the person but an opportunity to also part with stuff, by removing some of the belongings we owned together. We’d lived together a short while and had purchased items of furniture and various bits and bobs between us, so when it came to the end of the relationship–an amicable end–an excel spreadsheet was drawn up of all our joint possessions; each item with a column next to it to lay claim. The list was completed, with no crossover and no fuss; I had halved my stuff overnight.

I actually had no TV for three months, but then I didn’t really need it nor all the other stuff that left with her.

In the months that followed, I travelled to new places: Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Olso, Ljubliana, Berlin and Porto; I was rarely at home. This only went to highlight further that I didn’t need to replace the items that were once there. Having less stuff meant I hadn’t imprisoned myself at home with lots of stuff to worry about or run up debt just to have all the things that I once had. In their place, I now had the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do and be wherever I wanted to be. It was a simple matter of ‘have less, do more‘.

This new situation ultimately led me to have the freedom to quit my job and begin working for myself; because I had less financial obligations, I was able to take the risk of starting a business. One that–for the last 18-months–has given me the freedom to work when I want and from where I want. I no longer subscribe to the rat race. When you have too much stuff to pay for, you worry about moving job, a job that you might even hate, and may just be doing for the guaranteed salary at the end of each month; the money to pay for more stuff, or worse, pay off the stuff you already have. You then ultimately end up in a cycle that becomes harder to break as the things you buy become bigger and more expensive, this, in turn, leaves you stuck in that nine to five job with no escape, longing for that holiest of days each month, payday. The money might be good but is it actually costing you more in mind, body and spirit?

My current work setup is somewhat fluid, I work from a MacBook–which I am using to type this post– that lives in a bag with its charger, a notebook, a pen, a pencil, a pair of headphones and the book I’m currently reading; that’s it. I can work from anywhere, gathering inspiration as I go from the people and environment around me, which for my job as a designer, is certainly proving to be beneficial.

I appreciate for some that money is a goal, and some people are happy to do a job that they don’t enjoy just for that big money. However, if you’re at the wrong end of the job satisfaction scale and in the conundrum of whether you can afford to move job, then please know, that I actually have more money now that I have less materialistic wants. I’m pleased that I can say that I enjoy my job, and I’m happy to be at work. Your time at work, is after all, on average, over half of your total waking hours during a working day.

Looking back, as my new relationship started to gather pace, I naturally transitioned to spending more time at my girlfriend’s place; the bag which once contained only a few items now began to include the clothes and things I most needed to stay away from my own home for prolonged periods. It was this process that led me to realise that the stuff I was carrying around with me was essential and that what was left at my own place wasn’t really needed. This awareness meant that when we eventually moved into our own home together, I already knew I could remove a lot of unnecessary stuff from my life. And with only the things I truly needed moving with me, the process was quicker and easier to complete.

There were, however, a few items that ended up in limbo, items that I was unsure if they were truly needed or in fact, actually that important to me. They didn’t come with me but were stored elsewhere for a short while, giving me the time to reflect, and it soon became clear that they were neither needed nor missed; so these ‘in limbo’ items were sold or given away. I now have fewer belongings than I have ever had and can feel the freedom from both the weight of those unnecessary belongings and the emotional baggage that went with them.

We all need a certain amount of things to live, and a further amount of items to bring joy, but the rest of our stuff might just be holding us back from financial, physical and even mental freedom.