Letting Go

This year I stumbled upon minimalism, because of The Minimalists, appropriately enough. I think it’s interesting that I discovered their book (Everything That Remains) during this experimental year-of-sobriety, as it has been a great ideology to accompany me on my journey.

At my favorite coffee shop with The Minimalists.

At my favorite coffee shop with The Minimalists.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, I have already learned a lot this year. But I’ve also learned some things that have really surprised me along the way that I may not have encountered if I hadn’t also made the decision to cut out booze. Let me explain…

My coffee maker (that I’ve had for the past 15-ish years now) finally broke.

Let me clarify – the pot broke, and I can’t seem to find a pot that fits it properly to make the coffee actually brew. Instead of buying a replacement I stopped and thought: do I really NEED a coffee maker? I’m not a coffee-addict, and it has never felt like a must-have appliance. So I let it go to see how I’d do without it. I learned two things:

  1. I figured out a way to make what I call a "MacGyver-pour-over" where I balance my re-useable coffee filter into a large glass measuring cup, and pour hot water over coffee grounds. I let it sit for about 5 minutes, and it works great!
  2. I can still get coffee at work, or if I really want something fancy, I’ll treat myself at a local coffee shop.

My next door neighbor moved out.

Now, this doesn’t seem very life-changing of a situation. But this neighbor of mine also took away my internet connection. No, I wasn’t stealing his internet! I paid him $25 / month to share his high-speed connection, and it worked swimmingly.

Anyhoodle, this meant that my Netflix subscription was going to waste, so I canceled it. It was a sad moment when I realized I’d be missing new episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Peaky Blinders, but I figured I’d get over it.

And – surprise, surprise – I totally did.

I know that I can get internet if I really need it, but I don’t work from home, and no new neighbor has moved in over the past month and a half so I haven’t been tempted to ask about sharing. Oh, and I don’t need TV.

It’s amazing how much time I’ve spent watching Netflix! Correction – not spent – WASTED. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think having Netflix / HBO Go / Hulu (or what have you) is inherently bad. But there’s something very wrong with the ease of letting it auto-play to the next episode, and the way that spending an hour watching your favorite show can easily turn into 6 hours of sitting on your couch and letting time (and your life) flicker away.

The more I read about minimalism and about living more deliberately, I've learned that it's about removing distractions in order to gain more from life. I’ve also realized that our time is SO VALUABLE as it’s the one thing we can never get back. It can absolutely be valuable to spend an hour or two watching a show that makes you laugh, or inspires you, or taps into your emotional core. Movies, television, and books are wonderful for those things. But as with everything in life (including health, drinking, etc.), it’s important to find balance.

Sometimes it’s not until we let go that we realize we had an imbalance in the first place.

Letting go of my coffee maker and having internet at home has helped me realize that I can not only make do without certain things, but that I can find other ways to live more mindfully and more deliberately.

If I go to the coffee shop (instead of making coffee at home), I may bump into a friend. I may share a nice conversation with a stranger. I may bring my computer and get some writing done, that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Sure, I might spend a little money – but I like spending time at coffee shops, supporting local businesses, and being around the people in my community. I’m also not spending money on booze, so there’s that.

If I avoid television, I read more books. I find ways to spend more time with my friends, rather than sitting at home on my couch. I find inspiration to work on projects, create art, go for walks, write stories, go to shows, or learn something new about myself. I find it much easier to leave my couch and go out, rather than be tempted to just “stay in and chill” – an excuse I’ve made numerous times in the past when I’ve just wanted to let the fantasy worlds of my favorite shows sweep me away so that I don’t have to “deal” with real life.

Everyone is different, and it’s important to find your own balance. But these are all really good things for me. I am glad that I’ve discovered this – all because I have allowed myself to be open to the idea of letting go. By letting go we can learn things about ourselves that we may not have before. We might even realize we can’t live without certain things – and that’s a lesson in itself.

The important thing is that this has been a lesson in mindfulness for me. I don't want to just blindly replace the coffee maker or install new internet because it’s just something to be done, because people “should” have those things.

It’s important to take that moment to stop and think: Is this still important to me? Could I see what it’s like to go without?