5 Observations of a Recovering “Max-imalist”

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Kristoffer Carter of This Epic Life.

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I’ve spent the last 18 months in radical introspection. Notice my choice of the word “radical.” I’ll get to that in a minute.

Last January I committed to an at-home course of study in Kriya Yoga, an ancient science of Self-Realization through meditation. The following month, I was accepted into an immersion program led by Jonathan Fields called The Good Life Project.

The sheer volume of time I needed to spend either in reflection, direct practice, or masterminding with others was staggering. I can see now how I’ll look back at this year as pivotal, and profound. It rewired my approach to life.

Themes would emerge in the daily dance between study, reflection, and application. The Big Three that I continue to practice are 1) Mindfulness, 2) Sobriety, and 3) Minimalism.

All 3 are interconnected. Someday when this site releases its minimalist Greatest Hits package, I picture Track 3 being Clutter Busting Routines For Any Family. This simple “Where do we even begin?!” roadmap arrived via so many channels I couldn’t avoid it. My wife printed it. Facebook friends shared it, and talked about it constantly. Like any advice we really (really) should heed, the drum beat got louder until it rattled me awake.

Practicing, and now pursuing minimalism became another way of “waking up.” I file minimalism as “mindful consuming” or “sobriety from stuff.”

While we’re on the waking up tip, I really had no plans to retire at the pinnacle of my long, and distinguished drinking career. The meditation forced me to. It squeezed it out. Sobriety, as my wonderful teacher and friend Susan Piver defines it, is simply: “Pared down. Sharp eyed. Awake.”

It took me another 6 months of no drinks to realize sobriety isn’t some lame alternative to enjoying beers… it was its own Virtue! In our society, that tiny truth is buried beneath billions spent on beer marketing, or our long fight back from the oppression of prohibition.

Truths should be simple, and well-lit: like the radical notion of owning less stuff.

I began wondering how many opportunities or avenues for improvement had been squeezed out by Too Much: too much stuff, too many distractions, too many beers, or too many grains of minutiae filling every conceivable gap.

My life leading up to the radical introspection felt clogged, and overly complex. I had become the Black Spidey to Joshua Becker’s Peter Parker. I was Becoming Maximalist.

I couldn’t just be a husband and Father. I had to crash every hard drive with the Big Data of my kids growing up in HD. I couldn’t just be a musician. I needed to lug my 1-man looping rig around the country with 3 instruments. More was more. At work, I couldn’t stomach the idea of wearing only 1 hat, so I’d rock 6. Jogging become marathoning, meditating became Kriya practice, and meanwhile my career as a regional sales director was barely staying on the tracks.

I needed more open space to create the life I envisioned. The day this hit me was the day I stopped rationalizing my need for more. I’ll take better. I’ll take enough. I’ll take seeing the miracle of my circumstances.

I’ll take pared-down, sharp-eyed, and awake.

Minimalism and sobriety began working in tandem, while mindfulness became a lens that magnified a realm of new possibilities. I made it my mission to fill every garbage can (#7 Clutter Busting Routine). Our yard sales would rival area flea markets. I’d drive my wife insane with the “does Ellie really need THIS unicorn hoodie?” cross-examinations.

As with any worthwhile practice, I’ve only begun. My office would freak out the average mnmlst, however my designs for the new space would make this community proud. I am committed to the practice, and have started seeing progress.

Here are 5 Observations of this Recovering Maximalist.

1. When you pare down your life to its primary, sacred essentials, much of the stuff you need to support it naturally falls away. I refer to my sacred life ingredients as “non-negotiables.” These include my soul-practice, vitality, family, art, and work. None of these things should require a ton of gear. (OK, still need tips on the 3-kids thing!) When you’re committed to the practice of expanding capability of your non-negotiables, it becomes less about gear and more about leveraging your time through Right Action. We all know that less stuff = more time.

2. As my inner cup fills, my outer does as well. Meditation has filled so many gaps of longing, envy, or comparison. God forbid our house burned down, but just give me my people. Meditation would process the ordeal, and re-manifest anything else we truly needed.

3. Sobriety & Minimalism are an opportunity to see what matters in its proper light.

4. All our habits can be rewired. We can tune out the marketers, and their Illusions of Scarcity.

5. Abundance arrives in infinite forms, but it’s up to us to assign value. Over and over we learn that it’s only our people, relationships, and some wide-open spaces that create The Good Life. Jonathan Fields sums this up beautifully in his Good Life Creed: “Presence, not presents.”

***

Kristoffer Carter (“kc”) blogs regularly at This Epic Life where he inspires others to integrate their “sacred life ingredients.” You can also find him on Twitter.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    KC – thanks for the great read this am and for introducing me to becomingminimalist.com. Really appreciate your journey and your willingness to share it with those of us who are on our own path. Keep up the clarity!

    • says

      Hey Mark! Thought I recognized that beaming, debonair smile. :) Awesome, glad I could hip you to Joshua’s (amazing) site. Yesterday was a big day, being able to contribute something to a community I respect so much. Interesting how all these things are interconnected… that we want the sun and moon, but a lot of the complexity that comes with achieving grand desires leaves us exhausted, or worse, unfulfilled. Gotta keep it stealth, and s-i-m-p-l-e. See you around, bro. -kc

  2. Shauna says

    KC and Mark…glad to see some finance guys here. My husband is a bank wholesaler and we have 6 children. We are a year into our minimalist journey and are very much enjoying being able to breath deeply and separate our home life into a peaceful refuge from the craziness of his work. I was intrigued that financial/math types could apply this to work as well. I hope my husband learns to round that corner for his focus sake! Kc your article was so encouraging to me. I will share it with my husband. Mark, I initially thought YOU wrote this… so I looked you up and came across your Tedx talk. This mornings coffee time turned out to be a really great start to my day! Thanks to you both.

    • says

      Hey Shauna, thanks for the note and I’m glad you found the article encouraging. WOW. 6 children! More power to you, that’s amazing. Coming from a monster Brady Bunch fan growing up. Whenever our 3 overwhelm me I think about Stephen Covey (7 Habits) who had NINE kids.

      I think you nailed it with turning your home life into a refuge. That’s really what it needs to be when you think about it. Too often it becomes yet another job: moving junk around, maintaining and fixing more stuff that always seems to be breaking.

      My journey into simplicity was really about recognizing that life is fairly complex in, and of itself. (Especially the more family humans you add to the mix :). We need to be relentless with creating space to take on more and more.

      Taking on less is cool, too. Much love,

      kc

    • says

      Shauna – thanks for the shout out on my TED video! :) Glad you enjoyed it!

      Being in finance and yet not money/stuff motivated is an interesting situation. I’m a former English major turned consultant so it’s a bit easier feeling like I was an interloper the whole time! :) We all need things to run toward and things to run away from, usually the latter starts the journey and the other brings it home.

      Best wishes on your journey! – z

      • Mari Burton says

        Just watched your TED video really connected with what you said. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, so glad you said yes to doing it.
        Love Mari.

  3. says

    You are a constant source of inspiration. I have the 29 yrs of sobriety to bolster me, but oh my… I am dedicated to being creative as a textile artist, and I ache for minimalism. Not sure yet how to shake that down into a manageable level. lol

    • says

      Hey Crystal, thanks for the comment. I can only assume you meant our friend Joshua being a constant source of inspirado… which of course I completely AGREE. Minimalism and simplicity can jive with any and all careers, if you’re determined. By day I oversee education & development for 80 or so digital media salespeople. That’s a complex gig, with lots of insanity (constant change, different attitudes, media complexity). However the crazier it gets the more determined I get about creating space for myself to create the life I envision. Much love, and thanks for reading. -kc

  4. says

    Thank you for this excellent article. I particularly like the “study, reflect, application” as I recognise that is what I am doing. I have also decided on sobriety and It’s amazing how much better I feel during events, not just the after affects that are avoided. Thanks again, Steven

    • says

      Hey Steven, love that you picked up on that line “study, reflect, application”. The application piece is SO key, which usually means its the one step that’s most commonly avoided. It’s hard work. Sobriety, minimalism, meditation/mindfulness.

      Everyone would LOVE the benefits, but few are able to stick with the work. Too often we get stuck in acquiring… more junk, more knowledge, more information… while never taking the (critical) time to reflect, and apply, and LEARN. Happy for your sobriety brother. More power to you. -kc

  5. Julie Lawrence says

    Oh wow, thanks for the line

    I file minimalism as “mindful consuming” or “sobriety from stuff.”

    Being 2.5 years into the sobriety journey, and desperately trying to tackle the clutter one, this is really helpful to me! Thank you!

    • says

      Wow, you’re a year further down sobriety road than I am Julie. That’s great, and encouraging.

      The only way I’ve found to REMEMBER all of these powerful lessons, is to integrate them together. That’s really the core of my own personal/spiritual development model: “full life integration”. I need to file minimalism alongside mindfulness, alongside sobriety because otherwise I fear I’d put myself in a place of needing to choose between them.

      To me, they’re all really the same thing… An awareness of what we truly have, without all the hustle to improve it, or ratchet it up to insane levels. Like beers, or shiny things.

      The clutter falls away when you first shine the light on it. You have to hold what you’re fixing in the white-hot beam of your focused attention. Just a little bit each day helps make progress. And that’s what it’s all about anyway: Progress, not perfection (which is another non-sober affliction).

      Much love to you and your journey. I’m inspired now. -kc

  6. says

    I hate that in the workplace people have to be a Max-imalist. Be the best, break all the records, exceed expectations. No wonder so many people are off work for stress and burnout. Sometimes I think it’s okay not to be a rock star and to be good and reliable at your job.

    • says

      Hey Jo, thanks for the comment. I agree that it takes all kinds, and reliable and stress-free are certainly preferable to unreliable and stressed-out.

      However I think that if there’s something worth being Maximalist about, it’s in being proactive in reducing stress in our lives. It’s a natural byproduct of life on earth, and needs to be processed at every level. A stress-free existence would not necessarily be a fulfilled, or happy one.

      My experience is that we owe it to ourselves and others to contribute as much creativity and FIRE that we can to this place while we’re here. That looks different for everybody. The over-achievers can drive me nuts too, if their constantly campaigning for recognition, more money, whatever. Much love! -kc

  7. says

    Really great post Kristoffer!

    I love the quote, “I’ll take better. I’ll take enough. I’ll take seeing the miracle of my circumstances.”

    And I personally think that points #1 When you pare down your life to its primary, sacred essentials, much of the stuff you need to support it naturally falls away. and #5 Abundance arrives in infinite forms, but it’s up to us to assign value are both particularly relevant to a simple, happy and SMART life. ~Kathy

    • says

      Hey Kathy! Thanks for the kind words. “The miracle of my circumstances” thing has been so HUGE for me this past year… just reflecting on everything I’ve built with my wife, including my career. It’s all interconnected. That’s been a big recurring theme in my work. Much love, and I can’t wait to peep your site! THANKS. -kc

  8. Mari Burton says

    Just watched your TED video really connected with what you said. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, so glad you said yes to doing it.
    Love Mari.

  9. says

    A little help with your three kids! Make like the French Each kid has four outfits. Each kid chooses one toy from the toy box each day.(they also have one favorite toy to keep with them at all times).I learnt this doing au pair in France. Hope it helps. Makes life simple.

  10. says

    Hey Moya! Sorry for the delayed response. I love that suggestion! We sent my wife to France for a much needed break earlier this year and she really resonated with their parenting methods and the overall family atmosphere. There’s so much we can learn from other cultures. Thanks.

  11. Katie says

    Hey thanks for the great read! I am very inspired. I have been trying to begin my minimalist journey for some time now but dont feel like I have gooten far at all. Everything to be sentimental, useful, or necessary. I feel like being at home is still a job with all this stuff. I have gotten rid of a lot but idk what else i even can get rid of. My 2 kids have a lot of stuff, i rescue animals and its amazing how much stuff animals need. Then theres all my camping supplies that we avidly use every summer. And my kitchen is full of cooking supplies that idk how to cook without! I feel like i must have a lot more to learn. I got rid of all my clothes that dont fit, but i have so many that still do! Its mind boggling to me. I am inspired by reading this but also overwhelmed at figuring out how to get to the point of being able to call myself a minimalist.

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