Minimalism - Your Best Life with Less Stuff, More Experiences, More Joy

Michael Burg, MD

“I want your life.”

That’s what friends say to me when I explain what I’m doing now, and have been doing for a while.

I write most days. Reading has again become a habit. Most days I engage in some sort of local adventure — a hike, a beach walk, a plunge into the ocean, something good, fun and active. Until recently I was happily traveling in New Zealand, long-term. More travel was planned, to Europe. That plan changed for obvious reasons, but it was planned.

Oh, and I work a bit. Not as a doctor, although that is my profession.

One could say, and some have, “Well of course you’re able to enjoy an enviable life. You’re a rich doctor.”

With their comments, they’d be referring to my “jet setting” when away from home and chilling when at home, with a splash of work thrown in for life balance.

But that’s not how it is.

I do have a certain set of financial resources, not vast by any means. But I don’t touch them to support my lifestyle. They’re stashed, for a retirement “rainy day.”

Instead I plan so that income and expenses either match or income slightly exceeds expenses and I can do as I please. Essentially, I’ve put a financial perpetual motion machine in place. I live simply and like it. That has earned me financial freedom.

It can do the same for you. Here’s how.

Live simply. Don’t shop. Live joyfully.

Live Simply

Ensure that your income equals or exceeds your expenses. If you can’t afford it don’t buy it. Sing that little song to yourself as you go about your day.

Another way to think of this, live simply and strictly separate your wants from your needs. Needs are the basics, like food, clothing and shelter. Other needs may include insurance of various types or school costs or licenses necessary to perform work.

But the division between your wants and your needs has to be clear. A cup of coffee in a shop is NOT a need. Coffee might be a “need” for you but you can brew it at home, for a fraction of the cost of coffee brewed for you in a shop. Similarly, a car may be a necessity but the type is a want. (Actually, transportation may be the real need, not a car. So a bike or the bus or good shoes might be all that you require.) Basic transportation may be what you need and can afford. Anything beyond that is a want. Decide accordingly.

I live simply and love it. In a community noted for it’s lavish lifestyle and million dollar homes I decided on an almost-tiny house. It’s a modular home, 880 square feet, well-designed and well-built with two bedrooms and two baths in a great part of town. I can live here for next to nothing and would actually make money or at least break even if I rented out my second bedroom. It’s what I need, and because of the life style I’ve chosen, it’s what I want. Perfect. Everything it has to be and no more.

Prior to moving here I lived in another awesome neighborhood. I could never have afforded a home there, and didn’t even think to try, but was able to get in by “home sharing.” An older woman with a big house overlooking the ocean needed some additional income each month. I rented a room in a wing of the house. I had my own bathroom and full run of the house … kitchen, laundry, living room, patio, deck, you name it. We were both delighted. My expenses, next to nothing. Her delight, priceless.

Be creative with your choices. Don’t make decisions based on wants. Stick to needs. Don’t do the common things just because everyone else seems to be doing them. This applies to home purchases as well as daily expensive cups of coffee, and EVERYTHING else in between.

Decide to live simply. Your good choices and simple life will be everything you need to be happy, you’ll see.

In the end, needs and wants will merge. You’ll want what you need and nothing more. This will occur once you begin living simply and see how satisfying that is.

Don’t Shop

We live in a consumerism-driven society. Everywhere you look, you’re urged, commanded, enticed to buy, buy, buy.

Don’t do it. There’s no value in that and no happiness either.

If you need something (there’s that word “need” again) buy it. That is, if you can afford it. Otherwise, do not shop simply to shop. That will only encourage bad behavior and waste. You’ll come home with baskets of “wants,” piles of bills and less happiness than you set out with.

Live Happy

Watch this film.

This well-researched and game-changing gem focuses on what really leads to happiness in life. Not surprisingly, piles of money and lots of things are not part of the equation. Instead, relationships and having one’s basic human needs met make the biggest contributions to human happiness. The film explores all this and more in a most engaging manner.

Incidentally, the film’s shooting budget, $700,000, a fraction of the usual Hollywood blockbuster cost.

If you watch the film and its message helps change your life for the better, it may be the best movie you’ve ever seen. I was so impressed with it that I violated my own wants/needs rule and bought a copy. But, after owning it for years and only watching it once in all that time, I gave it away to someone who actually NEEDED it. I had internalized its message already and didn’t need to own it to remember its lessons.

Bottom line, do the things that bring you joy. Live happy. As with most things in life, it’s easier than you think. Focus on the experiences that produce real sustainable joy, forget the rest. Happiness will be the result

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

I could go on and on, and may return to this theme in another story. But for now I’ll just reiterate this core message.

Learn to live simply, happily and joyfully. Buy only what you need, not what you think you want. Wants and needs will merge over time. Your life will improve.

As far as my “jet setting” life style, that will be the focus of another story. As you can imagine, I’ve figured out how to make that self-sustaining, extremely inexpensive and joyous. More good stuff to come (for all of us) in 2021.

Open up a conversation, I’m always happy to chat.

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San Luis Obispo, CA

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