I saw this picture for the first time the other day. It shocked me. These were all the possessions that this man had. Rather than feeling demoralized, he was calm and honorable in his actions. The items before you represented everything important to him: sandals to walk around, a watch to tell time, a foundational text for focus and intellect, and glasses for the simple necessity of sight. Stripped of everything extraneous, this man could be freed to become one of the greatest heros of all time. Before I talk about the owner of these possessions, let’s talk about our possessions.
What does your picture look like?
I don’t know whether to be saddened, inspired, apathetic, neutral, and/or happy, but I can now fit everything I own into a single room. Walking through my apartment, I almost expect to see a tumbleweed race across the linoleum floor. It’s barren. I don’t necessarily feel exceptionally positive, as there’s a societal expectation for stuff that I cling to.
Magazines like Dwell and websites such as Apartment Therapy emphasize how home designs affect emotionality. The model home is well-kempt, orderly, and colorful — energizing its inhabitants and providing a sense of calm. But despite these stereotypes and assumptions about design, by paring down my accoutrements, I feel calmer. With the extraneous emptied, I can focus and save for what’s important.
Even though I can fit everything into a room, it’s far greater than the preceding picture. Could I reduce my possessions even further? Perhaps.
What if your house flooded tomorrow?
This past weekend I traveled with a friend to Minnesota. It was my first time in the Twin Cities. I loved every minute. Before I left, I packed and scanned over my apartment.
Every time I travel, I look over the bag and apartment for missing items. I ask, “What am I forgetting?” Only one thing came to mind: I heard that my area of town may be flooded when I return. I moved two cheap electronics above the floor and left.
Leaving rapidly and with such efficiency made me think:
- That was faster than ever
- I feel really free
- I want to do that again and again and again
In the past, I worried about the condition of my possessions. Would they be safe? How long could I be away from home? This time, I didn’t hesitate — these things wouldn’t hold me back from hopping in my friend’s car and celebrating the holiday. If my house flooded — thankfully, it didn’t — I would’ve probably suffered some losses. But in the end I would be okay.
How do you make your picture look like that?
Many people own TVs, cars, and houses. The picture frame doesn’t seem to fit our countless commodities and material goods. We’ve amassed stuff to fill our homes and heads. We can’t even collect and commingle it all for a friendly picture. This leaves us open to feeling loss and ache.
The photo above is a collection of all Gandhi’s worldly possessions. Gandhi fueled a movement for Indian independence from British rule. His message was of peaceful civil disobedience. Today, he’s an inspiration for civil movements around the world. He only had about 14 or 15 items.
How many things do you need to live the life you want? How many products do you need to be happy and live with purpose? Oftentimes, buying more products limits our ability to live meaningfully.
When we crave for more than the picture frame can hold, money must be made. Suddenly, we are working harder, longer hours to consume more. It can come at the cost of our free time and life we want to lead.