11. April 2020
Let’s build a better system
The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate based on how rich you are, and I hope this realisation sinks in with the people remaining at the company, especially those protecting the offshore assets.
When your grandchildren ask you what you did during this crisis, do you really want to tell them that you helped swindle the same public sector that kept you and your family alive?
If now isn’t the time to finally recognise that for a healthy world, we need properly funded government, then that time will never come.
To all those who are working for companies that abuse the tax system, I say this: The offshore world has no loyalty to anyone.
Blow the whistle, expose the fraud, let’s build a better system. Do it now, before it’s too late.
Last month, I lost everything after years of defending this system. It could be you next.
30. Dezember 2019
10 lessons learned from 10 years of minimalism
1. Minimalism starts with yourself
When you wake up and realise things aren’t working the way they are, that you need to make a change. You decide to take responsibility for getting what you want out of life. The letting go begins first inside you, and goes from the inside out.
2. Decluttering stuff is easy, decluttering life is hard
A lot of blogs and Youtube videos about minimalism talk about things like clearing out your wardrobe or how to store things neatly, but what’s not as fashionable to talk about is that it’s easier to donate a sweater or label boxes than it is to say no to a lot of the things in life you used to say yes to without thinking. Minimalism is about all the things in life that you don’t make you happy, not just stuff.
3. Costs and distractions come in many forms
Most people don’t think hard enough about the price they really pay for distractions. Buying too much stuff doesn’t only cost more money or rent/mortgage to fit it in your house, it costs time to earn and all the opportunities that you could have had instead. Scrolling through the news or spending time on social media or generally doing things that don’t add to your happiness takes an emotional toll people don’t even realise.
4. Most things are replaceable, the best things in life are not
When you have given away stuff you thought you might need one day but ended up not missing it at all, and repeated that a few hundred times, you’ll realise that those are the kinds of things that people work so hard for but don’t really matter in the end. It’s the things you can’t buy or that you can’t ever get back once lost that are truly valuable.
5. Minimalism isn’t just about taking away
It’s not about getting rid of stuff so that you can have a tidier house. It’s about making room for the good things in life, those irreplaceable things—for memories and experiences that add to your happiness, relationships you would have otherwise neglected, and for opportunities and lessons that will shape you in to a better person.
6. Minimalism is a happiness philosophy
With the study and practice of minimalism, you discover the ingredients of happiness—how to find contentment, how to value quality, how to feel abundance, how to be mindful of small moments, redefine success, and how to be grateful. Indeed, learning to be happy is one of the hardest things you can do.
7. Minimalism is an ongoing practice
The first stage of getting out of the cycle of thinking buying stuff will make you happy is pretty difficult, but once you’ve gotten out of that mindset, the harder part will be staying off the hedonic treadmill. It doesn’t end with a weekend of tidying up. Your practice is making dozens, if not hundreds, of small decisions every day to not slip back into old habits.
8. Minimalism gifts you time
The best thing about minimalism is that it gives you your time back. Where once you spent it on working to pay for fancy cocktails or a house or car that’s flashier than you can afford, now you can take the time to do things you enjoy, like taking care of yourself, or doing things you enjoy with the people you love.
9. Minimalism gifts you freedom
When you let go of caring so much about what other people think you, or needing to prove yourself over and over again, the biggest burden you didn’t know you were carrying your whole life feels lifted away.
10. Minimalism is yours
Your definition and purpose of minimalism is unique to you, and will change over time. You’re not ‘doing it wrong’ if you don’t have less than 100 things or whatever measurement someone made up. There’s no such thing as a true definition for minimalism because it’s different for everyone at different times in their lives, don’t feel you have to follow arbitrary rules to be defined as a minimalist. Minimalism is completely up to you.
Jessica blogs about living life fearlessly, constantly learning, and exploring what it means to be human.
15. September 2018
Quit social media
I have been in a social media crisis for the last couple of years, and it has been bewildering. Cal Newport is pointing the way out of this chaos for me with his call to digital minimalism. I am answering that call. I am done with social media. The thing they all have in common is the short attention span. There is no depth in social media which is why it can eat so much of your time and leave you with virtually nothing in return. It is the internet equivalent of candy.
The draw for social media for me is that it has the promise of being something worthwhile. For instance, I can post a link to this blog post on social media to try and generate traffic. It works in that I get some hits from people who have their curiosity roused. But I know that I will have lost them by the third sentence. The bottom line is that idiots don’t read. The result is that our civil discourse has been reduced to the tweet, the meme, and the 30 second video. I despise this world of the short attention span. The way out is to embrace digital minimalism.
As for promotional purposes and uses, I have to face an uncomfortable but uncompromising reality. When you are a writer, you want readers. People on social media are not readers. Writing is for smart people, and smart people are in the minority. This is why even bestselling authors still have to keep a day job. Most people don’t read. Going forward, I can either keep writing, or I can delete my blog and become exclusively a star on social media. You can be smart, or you can be popular. You can’t be both.
17. Dezember 2016
How to exhibit an incredible Christmas
If you want to exhibit an incredible Christmas this year, stop listening to all the talking heads and all the propaganda. Get rid of all the stupid gifts you’ve blown way too much money on. Clothe yourself in humility, kindness toward fellow man, be a friend. Serve others. This is how society should be all year round. You don’t have to be a product.
1. Januar 2016
Throwing ballast overboard
Less is often more: Recently, more and more people are renouncing consumerism and exchanging possessions for freedom.
With the amount of 1.57 trillion euros worth of private expenditure in 2014, the Germans set a new record. The shopping spree is one of Germany’s most popular leisure activities and consumption is generally looked upon as a path to fulfilment and satisfaction. Yet more and more German are seeking a recipe for a happier life beyond the amassing of possessions. Material affluence has long been a thorn in the side of idealists; now pragmatic young people are discovering their preference for fewer possessions.
Take, for example, Alex Rubenbauer. The young student from the Nuremberg area wanted to give his life more order and structure, and therefore resolved to take the step into simplification: “Relinquishing as many things, activities and relationships as possible helped me; my life now feels as simple and manageable as I would like it to be”. A whole minimalist movement is seeking to simplify their lives by consistent omission. Minimalists break out of the circuit of consumption and hoarding, freeing themselves from the everyday constraints that consuming brings with it.
To own a lot of things can become a burden, because buying, maintaining, finding room and finally disposal cost time, money and energy. And last but not least, owning countless things means distraction, says Rubenbauer: he felt the clearing out of superfluous possessions as a “relief”. Minimalists live according to the principle that “Less is more”. But the letting go of things is not an end in itself. The thereby achieved gain in space and time should exercise a positive effect on life: less stress and obligations, lower costs, less tidying up, cleaning and maintenance – and more room for good relationships, ideas and experiences.
Focussing on the essential
For Rubenbauer and others minimalism is about focussing on the essential. “Not still more multi-tasking, but rather more and more single-tasking. More concentration instead of distraction. Minimalism is freedom and independence”, says Rubenbauer, putting it in a nutshell. “Basically, it’s about identifying what’s important to you in life and getting rid of everything else.”
But the motives for adopting the minimalist lifestyle are as various as its adherents: some want to trade unnecessary ballast for a clear head; others want to spare the environment or their purse; and for yet others it is about a critique of consumerism and an alternative to the consumerist society of excess. But minimalism invariably begins with mucking out superfluous or little-used things. How far this goes is left to each individual and is highly variable: some define a maximum number of possessions for themselves, while for others it suffices to set their face against consumer constraints. Many minimalists seek visibility and blog about their new-found lifestyle.
Alex Rubenbauer too would like his blog to “give people food for thought” and “make a contribution to a more sustainable world”. The constant media coverage of minimalism has made it a trend topic. And yet materially reduced ways of life are by no means a manifestation peculiar modern life, but have existed for millennia, as for example in the form of asceticism or the life in many religious communities and monasteries.
Voluntary renunciation of options
Bernd Vonhoff, National Chairman of the Professional Association of German Sociologists, sees in minimalism an “antipole to social developments that find their expression in ‘always higher, faster, further’”. For a growing number of people there is “a discrepancy between the increasing number of options and the actual restrictions on their own possibilities of action”. Minimalism, he says, is therefore a response to the increasing complexity of our world. Deliberate relinquishment can help cope with stress: “Voluntary renunciation of options simplifies choice and allows for self-determination.”
In general, he continues, “self-determination is an important aspect of minimalism”, and therefore only a rich country such as Germany can provide the ideal conditions for the minimalist form of life. Because this way of life always presupposes the conscious decision to live with less than you could actually afford. “Minimalism without a conscious decision would be poverty”, Vorhoff notes, and “experience shows that a life lived in what is felt as lack doesn’t lead to lasting satisfaction”.
Minimalists are not necessarily consumption refuseniks. Alex Rubenbauer attaches importance to a “good material standard of living” and though he buys “less”, what he buys is “of good quality”. When they consume, minimalists see to it that the things purchased do in fact fulfil their purpose – ideally, that they make life simpler.
For most of them therefore laptops and smartphones are indispensable. These devices constitute access to the digital world, where to possess little need not always mean doing without. Books, magazines, photos and CD collections today are all non-material and stored on so-called “clouds”. Through digitalization, thousands of things merge more or less into one: the smartphone.
Dave Bruno’s The 100 Thing Challenge started a real race amongst minimalists to be able to call fewer than 100 things their own. Meticulously, many minimalists list their belongings on their blogs. The self-imposed rules sometimes bear strange fruits, as when, for example, the question is raised how many things are constituted by a pair of socks.
Largely undisputed, however, is that only material things should be counted. Digital wealth, which is only further enhanced by the fact that it enables you to have personal data, information and files constantly and everywhere at your disposal, is ignored. In digitalization Bernd Vonhoff sees a “very decisive influence on the possibilities of living minimalistically”. But he also poses the question whether, with the aid of technology, possessions have only been transferred into the virtual realm.
Nora S. Stampfl is on the track of social change as an author, futurologist and organizational consultant.
Translated from the German by Jonathan Uhlaner for the Goethe-Institut.