Love people, use things. Those are the closing words from the incredible documentary Minimalism, by the aptly named Minimalists Josh and Ryan. Their message is simple: austerity is simplicity, and it can lead to deeper appreciation of the parts of life that we normally take for granted.
Slowing down, cleaning our living spaces of unneeded material objects, and perhaps even letting go of relationships can all set the stage for the changes that we would like to see in our lives. On the flip side, when we are tethered to material gain, wealth, a constant chase to obtain, and grabbing so tightly onto objects, it weakens our ability to connect deeply - ironic, eh?!
When monks practice solitude and live in austerity, it deepens their ability to appreciate little MORE. The simple definition of austerity that I pulled from google is “extreme plainness or simplicity.” I think a better definition for austerity is simply the practice of letting go of all that is not necessary.
One can practice austerity on a multitude of ways. When we eat pure food, we retrain our tastebuds to appreciate and prefer purity. When we clean our homes of items that we no longer use, it can sometimes lead to a feeling of lightness and clarity of mind. In the documentary mentioned above, one man is interviewed who was able to consolidate every item he owned into two duffel bags! Two!! There is a certain power and strength that comes from basking in only that which is necessary. However, when we are consumed with consuming, we poke holes in our own boat and start to sink. Each material thing draws our attention, and when we are drawn in many directions, it is impossible to be present to the truly valuable experiences in life. It is a bit like the philosophy of “flailure,” which is a term that was coined by my friend Sam and which means to be pulled in so many different directions that you end up not moving at all.
The trend of letting go is growing in pop-culture, thanks to people like the Minimalists and Marie Kondo. I encourage you, my reader, to try out this practice yourself and see how it makes you feel. Even if it starts out small like donating some clothes to goodwill (or even selling them on Poshmark), I guarantee you will feel a palpable sense of accomplishment and a feeling of being lighter.
"Practice not perfection." Thank you, Marie Forleo :)