Minimalism: As a Military Member

Minimalism

As a military member, you are by default a nomad.  You’re going to move more times than you really want to.  Change is good and it’s important to grow professionally in our careers.  Each place we move to I dread the unpacking.  So much stuff!  In our most recent move, July 2016, we still have boxes packed!  Which means nothing in those boxes we’ve needed in the last 11 months.  

Sure, there may be some sentimental items in there, but for the most part I’m sure the ‘things’ in there we can afford to throw away or donate.  Every now and then I’ll rumble through trying to find something tiny like my tie clip.  I was attending a formal event recently and couldn’t find my tie clip.  Could I have done without it?  Yes.  I knew where it was, though so I went digging.  The point is the things we think we need are some things we’ll never use. 

Image how much easier moving would be if you owned less than you actually purposefully needed.  We spent four years at our first assignment.  In those four years we still had boxes packed.  At least three.  During the Summer of 2014 my wife and I took time off work to finally get to the last few boxes unpacked.  That morning I made a comment on Facebook, “Now that our last box is unpacked watch us get a new assignment.”  Later that day I got an email with notification of a new assignment.  Go figure.  It was now time to move again.  The crazy thing is we could have kept the box packed because for four years in one spot we never needed it opened, which means we could have got rid of everything in them, but instead we insisted on ‘thinking’ we ‘have’ to keep things.  Perhaps we have the mentality that if we bought it we need to keep it as long as we can.  It might be the case in some instances, but not all. 

Think of all the uniforms you have as a military member.  Your utility set, your services set and your physical training set.  That’s 12 sets of clothes given to you once you start basic training.  I never owned 12 shirts at one time in my life.  And now I have that plus my normal civilian clothes.  Over the years I’ve replaced old uniforms and bought new ones.  I recently donated all of my older uniforms that were serviceable for reuse.  The others I threw away.  My closet got smaller.  I did the same with the few civilian clothes I had.  I now only have 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of blue jeans, 2 pairs of cargo pants(my favorite) and 6 shirts, all black.  Other than furniture I will be able to fit everything I own in my trunk. 

Just a few days ago I saw a moving truck down the street.  The next day I saw a curb full of things that I guess the family didn’t need or want to take with them.  It was a lot of stuff.  We did the same during our first move back on 2014.  We left a curbside full of random things that we just didn’t need or wanted to take to our new home.  

I’ve come to realize that all that stuff that we think we need is not really necessary after all.  It’s okay to live with less especially when you know you’re going to be moving again.  For any military member out there, if you dread the move, think about minimalism as a way to make moving simple.  I am certain our next move will be a piece of cake.  

As a challenge for your next move, if you can’t fit everything that you essentially need in one vehicle, then perhaps you really don’t need it.  I know for a fact that for my next move I’ll be able to fit everything I need in the trunk of my Toyota Corolla and that is quite refreshing to know.  

Why Minimalism?

Minimalism

Many people have asked me why I’m becoming a minimalist.  My main answer to that is that I’m not becoming one, I’m going back to being one.  I used to live minimal when I was college.  I just didn’t know it was called minimalism.  I didn’t buy anything I didn’t need or anything that didn’t provide a purpose and I could carry everything I owned in both my hands.  I enjoyed having less.  It made mobility much simpler and I feel life wasn’t cluttered by things.

After understanding a bit more about minimalism I’ve concluded that the things I have in my life don’t provide the value that I thought.  All the DVDs, the clothes, etc…the possessions don’t give me happiness as I’ve been led to believe.  

The people in my life give me happiness.  The moments we spend together give me happiness.  I value their time and their company.  For the items that I am keeping have a value in them.  I love books because I love knowledge.  I reference them and I like being able to hold them in my hands versus digital copy.  I can find purpose in every item I have and not just because the items can be used in a basic way, but they provide a value to my passions.  Everything I own leads back to my passions. 

Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of everything I own.  It’s about getting rid of things that I believe don’t provide value to my way of living or my passions.  Just because you use something doesn’t mean it’s valuable.  It just means you use it.  Some things help your daily life, but not everything needs to be kept.  There are things like a lawn mower, fire extinguisher, cleaning supplies that you will need to keep because well, they’re pretty important items when you have a house or apartment(except maybe not the mower).  Many people become minimalists for different reasons.  Here is why I want to go back to being one. 

Things should serve a need for what’s most important to you.  I feel a lot of the things I have bought serve no purpose in my daily routine.  I want every item that I own to serve a need and purpose to the things I do.  My guitar serves a purpose.  I love songwriting so that is something I will keep because it’s one of my passions.  I have journals that are unused.  I use them as needed and the serve my need to write things down.  I like writing versus taking digital notes so it adds value to my life.  The funkopops (bobble heads) that I have serve no purpose other than a collectable item so I will get rid of them.  These are just a few examples.  Minimalism wakes you up the things that are most important. 

Mobility is so much better when you own less.  This is our 2nd move in under 3 years and it’s a pain unpacking boxes of things that really have no need to be unpacked.  After 4 years in our first house we still had boxes unpacked.  How crazy is that?  Four years and we didn’t need anything in the boxes so why did we have them in the first place?  Like I’ve mentioned before we have a room full of boxes that we haven’t needed after nine months of being in our new house.  For our next move we should be able to move ourselves rather than have movers move us.  We will move again within the next 2 years.  The less we have the easier the move.  We’re only in temporary houses until I get closer to retirement.  What’s the point of accumulating so many ‘things’ when we’re not even really ‘home,’ yet?

Imagine if you only bought things that served a permanent need rather than a temporary use?  How much money do you think you’d save?  If I were to add up all of the things I didn’t need or use in our house I’m sure the price value would be higher than I’d like.  Which means all of that money is sitting around for no reason.  That sort of blows my mind.  Why would I put money into something and not really use it?  If I continue to live on the philosophy of only buying needful items I will save money.  It’s a certainty.  It would be nice to save up and actually be able to buy a house later or take an awesome vacation.  Think of it as an investment.  Saving money is always an investment. This allows me to do so with strategic spending in mind. 

Don’t you just love having space in your house?  Getting rid of the excess items will help increase space.  The less you have the easier it is to clean and also keep it clean.  Think about the items you have in your living room.  How often do you use them?  Do you just use them a few times a month?  Daily?  Think about how you could go without them and see if it changes the value of you having them.  We had to specifically make a DVD rack just to hold DVDs.  Or we could have just got rid of them and saved the corner space in our living room.  I would make the room look bigger and probably a bit neater too.  I keep a lot of old track medals and awards and although they are an important time in my life they don’t really do anything for me now.  They sit in a box collecting dust.  Some people may like having side tables, coffee tables, more chairs than people and that’s fine.  If they provide value to you daily life then keep them.  If not, ask yourself if your happiness would change if you got rid of them.  

I hope this gave you an idea on why I’m choosing to go back to being a minimalist.  You may see it differently than I do and I hope you see the value in it.  I hope you are able to increase the value in the things that matter most to you.