Striving for Personal Independence: A Unique Celebration of the 4th

Happy Independence Day, all!

I want to take a special turn of perspective on this 4th of July, using the inspiration of our forefathers to find a little inspiration myself. Now, we know that Independence Day is based on the decision of the colonies to remove themselves from the authority of England, when they staked…well, their independence. The simple gist is that there was too much conflict being brought into the colonies because of their relationship with England. When they had enough of that conflict, they had to take action to make things better.

When I consider one of the central reasons for the colonies’ decision—conflict—I find myself considering if there are elements in my life that bring any type of consistent conflict. If there are, would removing them make my life better? It stands to reason that any separation from conflict will make life better.

I realize the answer is pretty simple for me. As long-time readers know, I have been embracing minimalism in my life in small stages for a while now. In fact, while I don’t think I can say I’ve made great strides in the area of minimalism, I know I have made a lot of important small strides. That really is something.

“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.” –Ryan Nicodemus & Joshua Fields Millburn, The Minimalists

In that vein, there is an element in my life that fuels consistent conflict. There is something that I need to stake my independence from, or remove myself from. If I can’t succeed entirely (which I likely won’t ever succeed 100% all the time), then I can at least make an effort, and that effort will improve my life immensely.

Superfluous spending brings consistent conflict into my life.

It is obvious the central conflict of superfluous spending is financial. Any unnecessary purchase I make robs my family of our hard-earned money. Often, the purchases I make bring a wealth of value to my life. More often, the purchases are either poor ones, impulse buys, or unnecessary at best. Purchasing an item just because I’m stressed, dissatisfied, or impulsive is a situation I’d be wise to remove myself from if possible. There is no doubt that when financial troubles rear their ugly head, simultaneously introducing conflict into my life, that some of that conflict could have been avoided had I made just a few less superfluous purchases in the last week, month, or year, whatever the case may be.

“I sacrificed to make money, and then I sacrificed more to make more money, and then I sacrificed even more to make even more money, working too many hours, forsaking my health, forsaking the people closest to me, forsaking everything important in pursuit of the almighty dollar.” –Joshua Fields MillburnThe Minimalists

Superfluous spending may introduce financial problems as a central conflict, but it has that old-fashioned ripple effect, also.

Spending money I don’t need to spend means I have to work harder to make more money to replace the money I’ve blown. I can buy that book I’m interested in the week before rent is due knowing full well I have dozens of other books at home I still haven’t read. As a result, I may find myself staying late at work every night that week in an effort to gain two or three more hours to cover the purchase I shouldn’t have made to begin with. I’m working harder to pay for the book, and as a result, I’m losing time.

Which brings me to the next ripple of consistent conflict superfluous spending introduces—it robs me of my time. Nevermind the time making the purchase takes, but consider the time I’ll have to invest to work off the purchases I didn’t need to make. This is time I could be spending with my wife or my daughter. This is time I could use to host a family dinner, cooking and laughing and experiencing others. This is time I could use to meet up with friends for coffee (a purchase that would actually add value to my life). I won’t have that time, though, because I’ll be working harder to cover all the superfluous spending.

“One principal I live by is questioning all my purchases. It takes time to earn money, and my time is my freedom, so by giving up my money I’m giving up small pieces of my freedom. Is this coffee worth $2 of my freedom? Is this shirt worth $30 of my freedom? Is this car worth $30,000 of my freedom?” –Joshua Fields MillburnThe Minimalists

That’s where the big ripple comes in—I’m worried. Not only am I working harder and eating up my precious time as the foundation of my family’s finances groans under new pressures, but I’m worried about it almost every minute of every day. Worry eats my joy, and when my joy vanishes, stress takes its place. Stress is one of the largest ignitors of conflict, and consistent worry means consistent conflict.

“I’m the pack of lies that keeps you “safe.”

I’m the thoughts you’re too ashamed to share.

I’m the crushing feeling you feel inside.

I’m the memory you can’t get out of your head.

I’m the lust, the empty desire.

I’m the fear, the greed.

I’m the Black Friday.

I’m the impulse, the hurry-up-and-buy, the just-one-more.

I’m the cocaine-high that doesn’t last past the checkout line.

I’m the sound of money washing down the drain.

I am consumerism. Give me a chance. I promise you won’t be satisfied.”

Ryan Nicodemus & Joshua Fields MillburnThe Minimalists

What do I have to show for my superfluous spending? Consistent conflict of the financial, physical, time, and worry variety. Yet, despite this recognition, this unnecessary spending is still one of my biggest weaknesses. In fact, it is also a large hurdle in my efforts to embrace minimalism as well. I can declutter and remove material possessions all day long, but my strides are limited when new spending means new material possessions are often walking through the door.

How is superfluous spending any different than England? It’s not, really. I am the colonies and superfluous spending is England. Superfluous spending is bringing consistent conflict to my life much in the way England was bringing consistent conflict to the colonies. They took appropriate action to remove that conflict from their lives. Why can’t I? Why can’t you?

I want to commit to gaining my independence from superfluous spending. I want to make that commitment right now, on this 4th of July, in an effort to better my life. If I can make even a small dent in my spending habits, I can reap the rewards of doing so. I can make gains in my finances, physical self, time, and level of worry. I can seize freedom from consistent conflict in my life.

“Freedom. It feels great to have the freedom to choose how to make money, freedom to live where I choose to live, freedom from debt, freedom from worrying about the expectations of society, freedom from unnecessary obligations. Plus, the less stuff I have, the lighter I feel. Not only that, but freedom from consumerism is liberating.” –Ryan NicodemusThe Minimalists

As we celebrate Independence Day, it’s good to recognize the patriotic side of things. However, it may benefit you to consider your personal independence as well. Is there something in your life that you could dub your England? Are you a struggling set of colonies that wants to make your life better? If you take the time to recognize those elements that introduce conflict into your life and you consider them honestly, you can make your life better. You can claim your independence.

“These days, I know that every dollar I spend adds immense value to my life. There is a roof over my head at night, the books or the music I purchase add unspeakable value to my life, the few clothes I own keep me warm, the experiences I share with others at a movie or a concert add value to my life and theirs, and a cup of tea with my best friend becomes far more meaningful than a trip to the mall ever could. I no longer waste my money, and thus it’s far less important to pursue it endlessly.” –Joshua Fields MillburnThe Minimalists


Like the quotes throughout the post? Here are the links to The Minimalists’ full essays from which these quotes were pulled:

A Rich Life with Less Stuff


A Minimalist’s Thoughts on Money

Let Freedom Ring with Minimalism

Minimalism: An Elevator Pitch

Minimalist Finances and Budgeting

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