What speaks to your heart? What makes you smile or laugh out loud?
Have you ever made a happiness list to see, on paper, what sings to you? I highly recommend it. I have done it on my own and with various friends.
What turns up on these lists (I will leave a brief list of mine at the end)? I have yet to see anyone listing a car, a new shirt, a piece of furniture, or a jet ski. What people list are things you cannot buy; the items can be summed up as experiences, including time with friends and family.
It might feel a little silly, but just give it a try. Make an extensive list of all the things that make you happy and content with life, all your favourites, from the big holidays to the everyday cup of coffee. Then think about all your purchases of non-essential items over the past few months, and, consider how you have spent your precious spare time.
Do you suddenly feel a bit guilty about spending money you don’t really have on items you don’t really need, only to cost you additional time cleaning, washing, or maintaining them—time that you don’t really have.
If you haven’t begun minimalizing your life, then start with material possessions, and, of course, the hardest step, emotional minimalism.
This process should be hard. It is hard removing items from our life that we have already spent our hard earned money on. You won’t have any idea of the feeling of freedom getting rid of these items gives you until you do it.
But once the clutter is removed, you can focus on filling your life with soul-feeding, happy experiences. Less time cleaning equals more time with friends and family or travelling near and far.
Be prepared to face some awful truths as you question and understand what (if anything) each item really adds to your life.
It is hard emotionally because of the false idea of happiness we expect material possessions to bring us. As George Carlin said “…trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body”.
But if you can do the hard work and understand what adds value to your life, what makes you happy versus what is habitual in possessions and in how you spend your time, then you can start to insert more of these happy items in your life.
I can tell you, I have never regretted reducing my clutter, so I have less cleaning, or reducing my spending, so I can travel more. Asking myself the hard questions and just letting go have only made me happier, stronger and more focused.
A few of the items on my happy list are as follows:
- Sharing good times with friends or family
- Discovering new parts of the world, near and far, and new traditions
- Expressive, emotional art
- New music
- Grandma’s house
- A morning coffee in the warm early sun, when the air is still fresh
- A touching story (book or movie)
- Different points of view on everyday experiences
- My faith (especially when I can share it with someone)
- People who look out for me
Photo: George Redgrave/Flickr