My 2018 New Year’s resolution was to go minimalist. It’s been a fantastic and sometimes trying journey. Over the past ten months, I’ve given away, donated, tossed out, or sold hundreds of my possessions, ranging from camera gear to camping goodies, t-shirts to tableware, and nearly a dozen pairs of my favorite shoes. I’ve made incredible progress, my closet is down to only a handful of shirts, a couple of jackets, two pairs of jeans, and two pairs of hiking pants.
For the most part, I’ve stuck to my resolution and haven’t purchased anything, besides consumables or experiences, that wasn’t absolutely necessary to my minimalist endeavor, i.e., a hole opened on the sole of my only pair of Chuck Taylors, so I replaced them. (There was the scooter, but that’s a different story.)
In January, when I was claiming my minimalistic intentions, I hadn’t thought about the terrible weakness that would plaque me nine months down the road: Apple products.
With the launch of the new iPhone Xs Max, everything – my whole plan – fell apart. The previous nine months seemed like a sham. Before I knew what was happening, I was ordering the new iPhone as soon as it was available.
Although, I was gifting my current iPhone as soon as I had the new device in my Apple-loving hands, I realized, technically this was not a “consumable,” like the windshield wipers that had worn out and or the water bottle that had melted in the dishwasher.
Nothing was wrong with my current iPhone. It was in perfect working condition. I just wanted the bigger screen, the better camera, the faster processing. It would be a stretch to say the current device wasn’t really meeting my needs or it was broken.
So what was happening to me? Was this a bad habit? Consumerism at its worst? Me at my worst? Was I being vein? Gullible? Idiotic? I didn’t know for sure. I had gone almost ten months without indulging in commerce, retail therapy, impulse purchases – heck, I’d even gone without altogether when I could have technically replaced an item or two.
But it was an iPhone. My iPhone was my camera, alarm, wallet, email, calendar, messenger, blogging platform, notepaper, dictionary, news source, meditation tool, family connector – the list never ends. It was so much inside a single wonderfully designed, beautiful piece of magical glass.
Images of the larger screen, faster processing, and better battery life danced in my head. Eventually, needing no more convincing, I broke my resolution and bought it.
Being inside a mall was a surreal experience in and of itself. I hadn’t stepped foot in a shopping center in almost a year. There were the bright lights, shiny new goods lining the floor to ceiling windows, and hordes of people.
I had ordered the iPhone online and planned on picking it up at the scheduled time. I showed up, waited in line for about ten minutes, took a call for work, and by the time the conversation was over, I was being escorted into the store. In quick order, the store associate brought out the new iPhone Xs Max, and I left happy as ever.
Ten days later, I’m still loving my choice and the new device. I have not a sliver of buyer’s remorse or guilt. Without a doubt, I’d do it all over again.
My advice to anyone who might be struggling with buying or not buying an item is to run it through a few decision-gates in your own mind.
- Are you increasing your total possessions by buying the new item or is it replacing something else to be donated, gifted, or sold?
- Have you spent less than seventy-two hours contemplating the purchase or is this something you’ve been swooning over for the better part of a month or year?
- Will this new possession make you happy for the next few weeks or will it satisfy your needs and receive daily usage for the foreseeable future?
If it’s the latter options, you might be beating yourself up for no good reason.
The wonderful thing about minimalism is there are no real rules, it’s simply a way of living. The goal is to focus on only the very important and remove anything that is not, so one might live an intentional and richly meaningful life.
If replacing your old shoes or sunglasses or dare I say it, technology, with the latest model is going to make you happy and help you focus on what’s important to you, then stop spending a minute longer on worrying about it, and go get it.
Montana is an incredibly beautiful, not to mention enormous, state. From east to west it’s about the equivalent of driving from Chicago to New Jersey. Crazy big.
About a decade ago, I had the opportunity to do some backpacking inside Glacier National Park. It was one of the most memorable backpacking trips, from seeing a massive and somehow majestic moose standing only a few meters away to crossing a waist-high, ice-cold mountain river hoisting my camera and the rest of my pack above my head in an attempt to keep it dry. We also came across a mama bear with her two nine-month-old cubs. Luckily, no mauling ensued.
When I arrived in Bozeman earlier this month, the little airport felt welcoming and cozy. It was built like a mountain lodge with raised wooden beams supporting a roof that takes on an average of seventy-two inches of snow each year. Outside, the Montana that I recalled entering many years ago, with it’s clean air, grand mountains nestled on an eternal horizon, and impossibly large clouds somehow not blocking the warm sun that fell on my face, greeted me kindly. Although many years ago, I had landed in Kalispell almost three hundred miles away, this was the same big sky country. It felt like an embrace from an old friend.
We stayed at a newly built dwelling called the Sage Lodge in Pray, MT. They were still putting the finishing touches on the rooms. When we checked in, we were missing oddities like lightbulbs and the sliding screen door handle. Strange, but the staff were mostly friendly and you couldn’t beat the location, which was almost on top of the Yellowstone River and a thirty-five minute drive straight across the Wyoming boarder into Yellowstone National Park.
Since taking on the minimalist way of life, there wasn’t much packed in my suitcase. It was light as a feather. Two t-shirts, an athletic long sleeve pullover, a SmartWool shirt, hiking pants, jeans, socks, hiking shoes, sandals, pjs, undergarments, a hat, sunglasses, and a toiletry bag. (Minimalism aside, I was glad the lodge we stayed in had laundry because by the third day, I needed them all cleaned.)
I’ve heard fishing is good for the mind, body, and soul, and we were in the best fly fishing spot in the world, so I figured why not. And it did not disappoint. On the Yellowstone River, there are rules about which fish you can keep, which you must release, and others you must keep or kill. According to the law, we released all our catches.
Every time I’d get a bite, I’d “set” my pole, which basically means pull it up as hard and fast as you can, and hope there’s a fish on the other end of it. I missed most times, but managed to net two beautiful rainbow trout. The experience of pulling them in, feeling their weight on the other side of the pole, and then guiding them gently into the net was invigorating. I’d wet my hands, hold them for a quick picture, and then they went back into the water hopefully a little wiser for the wear.
We also spent a day in Yellowstone. Did a six-mile hike out and back to the Imperial Geyser, saw a few bison, a bighorn sheep, and watched good ole Ole Faithful do its thing too. Impressive.
When the four days were over, I was sad to leave Montana. There is a rugged wildness, a real wilderness, about the state. And yet, I felt safe and supported by the mountains, the rivers and streams, the vast earth. Maybe it was just nice to get out of the city and see the stars. Whatever it was, I want to go back.
People say Montana winters are a “dry cold,” which I guess is supposed to be less cold somehow. I don’t know about that, but I might go back this winter just to test out the theory. I’m thinking snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Anything to get outside, even in the freezing temperatures, to be with those mountains and rivers, and under that big sky again.
I have a ton of gratitude for all that has come my way. I get to eat dinner everyday and sometimes hem and haw over which cuisine I might fancy. And I often get to have seconds if I so desire. I get to sleep in a comfortable bed every night with clean sheets under a roof that doesn’t leak in a house that is a safe place. I get fresh water freely and take hot showers daily. I work inside a building where, unless I’m really clumsy in the cafe, I won’t lose a finger or limb. My life is abundantly blessed.
Today on my 10 mile run I thought about many of the things, big and small, that I am grateful for including the ability to run freely under an open sky, at my own pace, feeling myself breathing, watching the path disappear under my feet, pushing my boundaries under my own will. It was perfect at times. I’m so lucky to have moved to a place where I have relatively easy access to a running path that will serve as my marathon training ground. I’m so lucky to have the means to afford running shoes, shorts, bras, hats, etc. And to afford to enter a marathon, with both my time and money.
All of this gratitude helped ease the pain on the run today, but make no mistake, there was pain. Enough to scare me into wondering how the hell I’m going to do almost three runs like the one I completed today with less than three months left of training time. I thought the fear and anxiety would have subsided by now, but I couldn’t have been wronger. The reality of how long this run is couldn’t be more real or scarier. I just don’t want to let anyone down.