Saturday, January 31, 2015

I love minimalist living

After a lot of fiddling around with politics and other topics, here is a classical minimalism post.

Pick up every single item you own and ask yourself: Can I be happy without it? If the answer is yes and you want to be happy, then why do you own it? Remember that happiness is not a destination. You can travel to Rome by plane, but you might as well go there by foot (if you live in Europe). There is no reason not to take a vehicle that gets you there faster. But with happiness it's an entirely different situation. It's not a goal. Certain things don't get you "closer" to happiness. So if you don't need them to be happy, then owning them is completely irrelevant in this regard.

So what it comes down to is clothing, food and a roof over one's head. Sorry, it's as simple as that.We may need special items to carry out our work, which in turn provides the above. But all the fancy stuff we keep in our houses are basically toys. It's not wrong to have them per se. Yet we should keep in mind that we don't need them.

The reason for doing this is that you create space (in your mind and in your place) for what truly makes you happy. Among a lot of virtues that differ from person to person, it's essentially just one: Love.

Friday, January 30, 2015


We breathe in, we breathe out.
We eat, we digest.
We take, we give.
We spawn, we lessen.
We hold on, we let go.
We move, we rest.

In a world that tries to ignore one side of the coin, striving for balance seems radical. They call it minimalism.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Property and justice

Exploitation can be avoided by not buying stuff that was produced under exploitative conditions. But what about stuff that you have bought already? If it has been unfairly traded that just means that you paid less money then you should have paid. Or you got more stuff than you should have gotten for a certain amount of money. Whatever angle you view it from, protecting your possessions is like reaffirming the justifiableness of their trading. The social gap widens as the poor are underpaid and the rich achieve returns. If my bike gets stolen by somebody who works on low wages, why bother? It's poetic justice in a way.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Don't consume, invest!

Thinking in black and white keeps us from gaining an accurate model of reality. There is no good or bad. We can only draw conclusions based on what we regard as virtues. For example you might say that health is good. But what about the health of vermin? A better definition doesn't help here. You will always find good and bad aspects about a situation. And then you'll find that calling them good or bad is the same mistake again.

Thinking in black and white includes to say that one thing is better than another one. When talking about progress we often assume that the situation today is better than yesterday. We've got running water, medical care and smartphones. And all these things seem to make life better than it was before. But as we all know deep inside, it's not. Not only from an environmental perspective.

So what has this got to do with minimalism? It leads to a new definition of progress. Or more precisely; a new function of progress, which is to explore possibilities. New inventions are not being made to improve conditions, they are merely toys in a playground of our imagination. And this insight has fundamental impact on our consumption behavior.

We don't consume because we have to as it makes life better or easier or less painful. Nor does it make us happy. Every purchase is simply an investment into the further development of a product or service.

From this perspective it seems rather odd how most people invest into fashion, entertainment and fast food.

If you don't know what endeavors to further, just let it be. That's frugality. You will find that living that way leads to real happiness.

But maybe you discover that you want to spend money on music or literature. Or charity. Whatever you think of as good. Although you should be aware that this is the pitfall.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The stingy and anonymous are bound to fail

Let me explain my thoughts from yesterday a little more and start with this question:

Have you ever been second best or worse?

I bet we all have. But how do we deal with second best achievers in life when it comes to money? Do we buy the second best product once in a while to honor their efforts? Do we pick the second best employee to give him or her a chance, too?

Of course we don't do that, and it's for two reasons. Firstly, we have to pay for it with cash. The price is a number that tells you what to do and it rules out any emotions of human kindness. Secondly, caring about weaker members of society (and compared to "the best" we're all weak) is social behavior. But it is made impossible by anonymity with global markets and seven billion people. We will unlikely spend more money to support a person we've never seen before.

The good news is that both of these reasons can be fought. On the one hand we can fight the power of money by being generous. That may seem like a joke, but once you've started you'll find that sharing, bartering and helping others without charging money is fun. In Germany we have a brilliant clothes exchange service called Kleiderkreisel that enables users to exchange and sell second hand clothing. You can also give away stuff for free, but this option is rarely used. Imagine all the people giving away what they don't need. What a tremendous rise in wealth it would be for everyone!

And on the other hand anonymity can be fought by online forums who enable us to vouch for someone. Furthermore I think that considering the power of trust (and the loss of it) could shed a whole new light on the debate about data privacy.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Times are tough...

...and it's because we've chosen so. Bitter competition feeds on the comstumer's ruthless eye on the price tag. We want it cheaper, faster and always available. We dictate enterprises to work that way. In consequence their employees have to throw themselves into it totally. Demands are rising. But eventually it's us who suffer. We send our children to the best schools for them to be the best. 100% of parents like to see their sons and daughters among the top 5%. That's madness. They need to try harder, save more money. They want it even cheaper, even faster. It's a vicious circle. Only we can stop it.

"We just want to make the world dance.
Forget about the price tag."

Jessie J

Sunday, January 25, 2015


For my Zero-Thing-Challenge I borrowed clothes and some basic items from friends this week. It was accompanied by an incredible feeling of gratefulness and joy. But not just for me it was a great experience. They all told me that they are actually happy because their stuff is now being used again. It feels good to give. And it feels good to discard egoism to help somebody else instead.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Think global, act local

You don't have to invent the one app that enables people all over the world to share their stuff. Apps like these exist and they're not really popular yet as far as I know. Not enough people want to take part in such a system and a critical mass is required for it to work.

One reason might be that sharing useful items doesn't need an app. Yet the internet helps. You can easily find people who might be interested in sharing tools like a drilling machine for example. There are various forums, but why not use facebook? I think it's horrible when it comes to gathering private data, but to use such an excellent infrastructure for a noble purpose can't be bad. Even if facebook should turn out to be the place where bartering, sharing and other forms of exchange happen in the future - it's better than not seeing it happen at all. Furthermore I believe that every online community with a great number of users would collect data once it's grown big enough. We need to accept that and focus on how to use it for the benefit of mankind. It's being used anyway.

Still a better way is to use another kind of social network - your friends. What about having a clothes exchange party at your place? It's one of the coolest events I can think of. Everybody gets new clothes and rid of the old ones. But their not thrown away, but actually reused. And it's all for free.

You're not going to get rich by doing that. You're not going to be famous and win the Nobel Peace Prize. But you're having fun and acting sustainably. That's it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Beauty is a sum of beautiful parts

Do you want a fast life or a beautiful life? This is a tricky question when applied to the small decisions in our everyday lives. Is it beautiful to take the bus instead of walking? Today I chose to walk and don't regret it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Society struggles to organize itself. Division of labor and competition are inevitable, but what about the losers? How should we deal with people who are forced to do minor tasks? Back when we used to live in small tribes leaders had to have responsibility for their subjects. It was an interdependent system that relied on every component. In other words, the powerful required the support of every clansman.

In large groups like cities or nations, this doesn't work anymore. On the one hand unemployed nonworkers can be neglected without much consequence. On the other hand people can afford to refuse contribution without social pressure. The reason is that trust has been replaced by money in its function. You get paid more for solving crucial problems, but that doesn't mean that rich people are being respected by the lower class. In turn, companies have no qualms to exploit low income costumers.

For the first time in history, the internet offers the possibility to replace money with trust again. Through reviews and ratings online, we can empower trustworthy people independent from our financial resources. And we can pillory them when acting unethically.

The market power used to lie in the buyers' hands - the more money, the more power. Trusting or not trusting can be done by everybody. This will level out most inequalities. All we need to do is raise our (virtual) voices.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What's wrong with us and who can change it

Two thoughts from conversations with other people and my conclusion:

1. Debating in a group is inefficient. Consider a parliament with 300 people, which means than one can talk and 299 should listen. With one minute per speech it takes 5 hours until all opinions have been stated, but not yet discussed. A useful discussion is almost impossible under these conditions. This is why companies don't work that way - they'd long be bankrupt. Furthermore the deputies are busy taking notes in order to comment on everything that's been said before. So they don't really listen to understand, but to prepare their answer. The original issue gets lost and the debate just takes up even more time.

Alternatively they could gather in pairs and communicate with focus on understanding each other. Until everybody has spoken to everyone, one would then need 10 hours (one minute per partner in each dialog). But that would be a discussion where they'd really come to a conclusion. Even better: A small committee discusses the issue in this manner(!) and other interested members of the parliament are invited to inform themselves and state their opinion in face-to-face interactions.

These times demand a lot of decisions to be made fast from politicians. A system of endless feedback has become outdated and should be drastically reformed - or rather revolutionized.

2. Statistically, revolutions happen after three days in row with no bread in the grocery shops. It's plain to see that the most influential governments of the world won't be toppled by their people. At least not by people from their countries.

3. If people in poor countries knew about their power as a majority, they could use it effectively. We should help them become aware of who rules the world and how to have an impact. I can envision a global revolution led by the poor to change the politics of the rich. It's not that we don't want it, but we're not struggling to survive. But we can empower those who are. In fact, we don't have to, because their sheer number makes them powerful. Let's induce a peaceful revolution.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

After watching Erwin Wagenhofer's "ALPHABET"

The graving for more is a hidden fear of having not enough. Not enough to be happy, not enough to cope with the fundamental challenges of life. It's a tragedy that we impose this fear upon our children through the educational system. Believing that their own interests and talents are not sufficient motivators is a fatal mistake that destroys the power of imagination in them. The apparent need for pressure instead of enthusiasm begins in school and eventually leads to unscrupulous enterprises. Those then are fed by the ever-growing greed of consumers. We'd be able to build a harmonious system, but we fail to recognize where all efforts are being foiled: in the way we raise our offspring.

Frugality and unselfishness are inherent human traits. Minimalism is not a trend, it's an unwrapping of our true nature.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The next level of generosity

I've written about this before, but it can't be overemphasized: People can only be as generous as you allow them to be. When you gently ask for something, it will be given to you in most cases. If you refuse to accept help, it is impossible to lend a hand. So on our way towards a generous society we need to become comfortable with demanding more. If it's simply too much we should accept "no" and also be able to say "no" when being asked for something we don't want to do.

Take this odd example: You're out of money, hungry and some stranger in the city's got a pizza. There is nothing wrong in saying the truth: "I'm extremely hungry, but I forgot my purse at home. Would you mind giving me one slice of your pizza?". If the stranger doesn't want to share, it's totally fine. But how can somebody know that you need his or her help if you don't say it? I think it's not bold to be honest. This requires an openness from both players, but it's up to you to make the first step.

If you think I'm exaggerating, imagine a society where you're not allowed to ask for a direction. That's the same principle, just on another level. Let's take it to the next one.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Comfort or laziness?

Managers who travel a lot prefer hotel rooms over couchsurfing. Why? The reason is that conversations take an effort. And they don't get paid for talking. But this is what the monetary system got us to believe: The more you work for money, the lazier you can be in your free time. You can pay a taxi instead of walking. You can eat out instead of cooking. You can watch TV in a hotel room instead of having an interesting conversation with someone who lets you sleep on his or her couch.

But that's not comfort. That's missing the point in life.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Undivided attention

Those that are interested in jewelry are not necessarily interested in an individual jewel. Those that are interested in meeting new people are not necessarily interested in building long-term relationships. Those that are interested in growing their CD collection are not necessarily interested in exploring the details of a great album by listening to it over and over again.

But having less means caring more.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The end of laissez-faire

When somebody says, it's his goal to earn money, he mistakes a symbol for that which it stands for. Making money "happens" to people who create value and contribute to society. Of course you can contribute without getting paid and vice versa, but as a general rule good work is being rewarded accordingly.

It's a fatal error to look up to rich people and not see the true reason why they are being admired. Instead of following the path of giving and becoming wealthy in return, some then try to just take. This is sad for society, but first of all it is sad for the individual that falls into this trap. When that person realizes that he's been chasing a ghost, it's often too late and he's all alone, surrounded by meaningless luxury.

Just as we'd prevent a friend or family member from taking drugs, we should tell them our honest opinion when they are about to pursue a career that doesn't suit them. Being driven by financial motives and casting all passion aside is a guarantee for unhappiness or even depression. We need to take care of our loved ones by not letting them run into a dead end.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

On why sharing is caring

Some people like to keep precious things for themselves, because they're precious.

Some people like to share precious things, because they're precious.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Don't be lazy

Happiness takes a little effort, but it's certainly not complicated. Do one of the following things and experience how easy it is to feel good:
Take a cold shower
Go for a walk
Work out
Do nothing for 10 minutes
Visit a friend
Go to bed early and get plenty of sleep

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Worldwide, the average human life expectancy is about 600000 hours. How do you spend your time? It's up to you to be either stingy or generous.

Monday, January 12, 2015

If time is money...

...then why are people willing to spend money on certain things, although they don't want to spend time on them?

I know people who are paying members at a gym, but they never find time to actually work out. Yet they refuse to quit their contract - and admit doing nothing for their physical health. Being honest about it doesn't change the situation, but it saves you a lot of money. And it frees your mind from bad conscience.

This self-acceptance is part of the minimalist lifestyle. It enriches us, not only with regard to our bank account. We know what's ranked high on our priority list and we're capable of doing. On the flipside we know what's beyond our capacities. And this gives us a boost of energy for all other activities.

Yes, time is money. But only for minimalists.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Minimalist living is the middle way

The true value of things is only revealed in their absence. Be it food, health or a friend who passed away. There cannot exist anything positive without its negative. There cannot exist anything negative without its positive.

When was the last time you were grateful for the air you breathe? We can remind ourselves of its necessity, but we can only experience what it means when we feel like suffocating.

A rather funny example is the urge to urinate. One time I happened to be on an overland bus without a toilet. I had drunk a lot of water and it was getting really uncomfortable. I asked the driver to stop, but there was no parking place until our destination and he told me we'd arrive in 15 minutes. Well, I had known that before, but waited to ask until it was already getting ticklish. I was in trouble - I didn't want to insist on stopping at a layby, but it felt as if this was not going to turn out alright. After the most nasty 15 minutes of my life we finally reached our destination and I ran straight to the rest room. Later that day I wrote on gratitudelog: "I am grateful for not being on public transport without a toilet having drunk insane amounts of water."

In Buddhism the middle way describes an approach to life which is neither driven by hedonism nor asceticism. The purpose is neither seeking pleasure nor avoiding it to depreciate its importance. The middle way is a philosophy that accepts the duality of nature (Yin and Yang).

When talking about minimalism I see many people discarding it as extreme. But it's not about refraining the good. It's just about refraining from ever wanting more of it. By doing that you become aware of how lucky you are to be in the place you're in.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Minimalism is efficiency

I'm into books. But sometimes I find myself browsing recommendation lists or reading summaries (German speakers check out Blinkist) instead of actually picking up a book.

Such behavior is a symptom of our constant striving for more. We are busy planning the future and miss the present moment. But how do we get out of this? By trusting our intuition. And that's not fatuous, because even when you think about the future - the thoughts come to you intuitively. It means that the subconscious mind knows what's going on and what to do.

Especially for the things we ought to enjoy - reading, sports, meeting friends - it seems wise to not make it an object of obsessive planning. Because planning takes up more time than you might notice. When you begin to observe your thoughts on a regular basis, you'll find that you are potentially occupied with planning all along!

The minimalist approach (to content oneself with what's already there) is an efficient way to spend your time after all. And when you've finished all the books on your shelf, there is still enough time left to forage for the the next one. Just one, and then you read it. One at a time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

It's so simple

Minimalist living is what I've found to be an answer to many problems the world faces today. But thinking about all that trouble, I sometimes forget that lust for life comes naturally. It need not be intended or reflected upon. Watch how it's being done: Brown Skin - Indie Arie and John Legend

Thursday, January 8, 2015


When I started to reduce what's in my life, it was because I felt overwhelmed. Not the sense that I couldn't deal with everyday tasks, but I was unable to experience and enjoy single aspects to the fullest.

One consequence of our culture's fast pace is constant distraction. There is always someone trying to gain your attention, be it advertising or private messages. Strictly speaking even a book on the shelf is an author's attempt to be noticed.

Through this permanent stimulation our mind is used to handle changing issues at high frequency. But we need rest sometimes and it is hard to relax under these circumstances. For me personally it still takes about ten minutes of doing nothing until I start to calm down - which is an alarm signal.

When I meditated for the first time, I discovered how silent my room actually is. The chattering of my thoughts became less and less until it almost completely vanished. I was scared having to confess that all the noise had been only in my head.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Minimalist cooking

Last night I had penne with pesto for dinner at home. When I cook I'm usually busy throughout the process - cooking rice, washing and chopping vegetables, braising this, seasoning that...

Yesterday I had nothing to do when waiting for the pasta to be done. After some pondering I decided to really "do nothing". Most people think they need occupation all the time and would have cleaned the kitchen, written a message on the phone or at least drunk a glass of water. Just doing nothing rarely occurs in their lives.

So I stood there and just listened to the sound of the boiling water, some noise from outside and my breath. A great sense of relief started to emerge and just when I was thinking how easy it is to be happy, my girlfriend called me. She was waiting at a bus stop and coincidentally thought of me. We had a short conversation until her bus arrived and my meal was ready. It's funny, how what I write sometimes turns out to be incredibly true.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

We don't know what we want

Please watch the first 35 seconds of this video:
Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music

You should check out the whole talk later, it's simply fantastic.

What Mr. Zander describes is the phenomenon of an untapped market. It means that you have something to sell that people don't have yet - or don't even know of. From a business point of view this is something that makes your heart jump. But I see two difficulties:

1. By introducing western products to countries that have no expertise in manufacturing them themselves, we lead them into dependence. Although I'm not well informed about the history of Africa, I bet that a lot of self-sufficient economies have been destroyed there by our interruption. What I know for sure is how Monsanto works to achieve just that.

2. New products have often led to complications retrospectively, although they seemed to be beneficial at first. The truth lies somewhere in between. Did you know that with the advent of the toilet bowl all kinds of digestive disorders began to arise? How about shoes that negatively effect the foot's natural functionality in the example from the TED talk.

I'm not pleading against progress, but in today's time we need to closely observe where we're going. Just because people want to buy something, it doesn't mean it's good for them - not to speak of the environment.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A case for part-time jobs

When people ask me what I've been doing since I finished university almost one year ago, I usually tell them how I make a living as a freelance marketer and guitar teacher, and that I educate myself around music and business. It's not a lie, but what I really do is thinking about life. I ask myself what I want to achieve during my time here on earth, how to live sustainably and contribute the survival of mankind, and what the meaning of this all might be.

It is impossible to change directions when you give full speed ahead.

When a famous person, a spiritual head or a political leader urges for us to think about solutions for the problems we are facing today, everybody nods. But how come that really doing so (and taking time for it instead of working full time) is being eyed with suspicion?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The origin of happiness

Those who seek happiness anywhere else but inside do not have a clue. Even if somebody says that a brand new Porsche makes him happy, it is actually hormones in the brain that create this wonderful feeling. They may have been released because of an event that happened in the outer world, but that doesn't change the facts.

Of course we need certain things to happen in order to feel good. But once you've understood the dynamics behind it, the trigger becomes secondary. Then you begin to be grateful for the hormones instead of the Porsche. You start to see the beauty in how the body works and rewards you with pleasant emotions sometimes. And finally you understand that buying stuff is by far less rewarding than exercising, meditating or just being around loved ones. This is the magic of minimalism.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Two new habits for 2015

Today I did two things that I had never done before. They happened by chance, but I am so glad about it, that I just decided to implement them as new habits.

Firstly, I sorted out old socks with holes in them. In the past I used to keep them, hoping somebody would patch them someday. They have also been a backup when I was too lazy to do the laundry in time. A mixture of frugality and indifference held me back from disposing them, although the holes got bigger and bigger over time.

On a whim I disposed them this morning. Thinking about it later, I realized that time was more than ripe. These old socks had been bugging me for much too long, and I refused to acknowledge it because they were a symbol for my protest against finickiness. With this in mind, from now on I will either sort out or repair broken socks right away.

Secondly, I put a lot of chocolate into the trash. People seem to enjoy bombarding each other with sweets on Christmas, and it was once more impossible for me to stop them - even though they know what I think of sugar. In general I am against throwing away food, but eating something that harms me is no help to anyone. I am glad having become aware of this, so that I can react upon these kind of presents with integrity.

"Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best." - John C. Maxwell

Friday, January 2, 2015

Social minimalism

The number of your facebook friends says nothing about your social life. What I've found out is that focusing on your most important relationships is much more satisfying than seeing dozens of different people now and then. Being selective about who you stay in touch with shows that you know what matters to you. It's not a sign of scarcity, but of clear values.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

An inviting home

Put your home to a test: Does it correspond to the things you like to do? Does it represent your values? Consider the stuff that you want to spend half of your time with - is it taking up half of the space?

Your place invites you to do certain things. In an ordinary house you'll find a living room that makes you want to sit down and watch TV. There will probably be a kitchen for cooking and a table to sit down and eat. In the bedroom you can lie down to sleep or for intimate togetherness.

It's no wonder that people spend most of their free time eating and sitting on the couch. If you intend to read more, do sports and have conversations - arrange the rooms accordingly. Throw out that big sofa and replace it with a hammock and a reading lamp. Buy a smaller TV or just let go and stop watching it altogether. Create space to roll out a yoga mat and do body weight exercises. Make the only place to sit down one that lets you face each other and talk instead of staring at a screen.

This is just an example. Think about what's important to you.

Your home will look quite minimalist - but not because you planned it that way. It's just because you dissociated yourself from the couch potato lifestyle. And whenever you step through the entrance a voice seems to say: welcome to the good life.