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Our guide to less is more happiness

Alex Butler returns to a life of less is more.

On the way back from a very interesting meeting today, I walked through some of my old stamping grounds in London.  Cue wibbly wobbly visuals as the time machine transported me back to previous lives.

Throughout my early career, I can distinctly remember my top ten aspirations, which were something like this.

  1. Get promoted
  2. Have a permanent overdraft facility.
  3. Live in a nice apartment with more than one bedroom.
  4. Get soft top convertible-type company car
  5. Always have good champagne/wine in the fridge
  6. Get promoted again
  7. Have a personal assistant work for me (just for me)
  8. A bookshelf full of books I would never read.
  9. Get promoted again
  10. Buy another house.

You will have detected the circularity of my ambitions, and that they were – well – limited.  And embarrassingly selfish.  (In my defence, this was the early 90s).

The fact is that I did manage to get to have some of the things on that list.  None of those things contributed to any sense of happiness that I have now, and in fact, some of them actively made me unhappy.

Most of the items on that list were really about impressing others.  Symbols of perceived success.

These days, the symbols we use might have changed, but we are still caught up in a world where it’s important to keep impressing.  Take Klout for example. For those of you who aren’t aware, Klout measures your social reputation.  By the way, it does so without your explicit permission too, the onus being on you to turn it off.  Advocates of social reputation tools are convinced that employers are using these to check whether you really are seen as an expert in your field.

We’re searching for Likes on Facebook (actually, while you are here…) and we are measured by the number of followers that we have on Twitter.  It’s relentless.

Research says that our ambitions these days are way simpler and less about obvious possessions.  They tend to be focussed on being happy and contented with our lives.

And yet online, we are still chasing the kudos and acceptance of people in our social networks. According to Mashable, social media may do more harm than good when it comes to personal well-being, a small study from the University of Salford in the UK indicates.

About half of the survey’s 298 participants, all of whom identified themselves as social media users, said that their use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter makes their lives worse. Basically, participants noted that their self-esteem suffered when they compared their own accomplishments to those of their online friends.

But there is a growing movement towards less.  Less of everything.  A simpler lifestyle.  Minimalism.  Hurrah.

Are you ready to go back to basics?  Here are some of our favourite resources for a simpler, less is more, happier lifestyle.

1.  The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life
and Zen Habits.

We introduced you to Zen habits last week, but wanted to plug Leo again.  The blog is great, but there’s a Kindle version of the book too, if you want to be minimalist.

2.  The Minimalists

A truly cool blog from Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus who write about minimalist lifestyle and leading a more meaningful life.  They’d hate that I described it as cool.  Somehow, they have made a rather worthy subject utterly compelling in this cult blog.

3.  Lifehacker

If you’ve already been to the site then you will know exactly what we mean when we say that this is a life saver.  It’s packed with fantastic work arounds and tips for getting more out of less.  We challenge you not to bookmark it.

4.  The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin has developed an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. In this popular blog she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness.  And there is a fantastic book too.

5.  Slow food movement.

Now practically establishment, The Slow Food Movement links the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment.  So you can eat well and be good to the environment.  Double happiness whammy.

6. Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life

Todd Kashdan is a Professor in Positive Psychology and he’s keen to point out that his work is founded on scientific principles.  We love Curious which argues that curiousity is the missing ingredient in leading fulfilled lives.  Great book and we thoroughly recommend it.

7.  Money Saving Expert.

In the UK, this is a long standing and really useful website that aims to help consumers get a lot more for their money.  It’s in this list because we believe that sometimes you need the practical help too.

8.  The Everyday Minimalist.

A blog by a 20 year girl whose view on minimalism is that you should still enjoy the best – just less of it.  Great reading.

9.  Miss Minimalist’s The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life

Francine Jay has written a book to accompany her popular blog about how to declutter your life.  It’s fun and lighthearted and you don’t get the sense that she takes herself too seriously.

10.  At the other end of the spectrum, here’s Exile Lifestyle, written by a 27 year old guy who moves to a new country every 4 months (voted for by his readers) with very little in the way of possessions.  He writes about Humanism, Minimalism and Entrepreneurship.

So, time to put down your smartphone and throw away all those books?  Not necessarily.  Todd Kashdan, in his book Curious argues that we start to feel better about ourselves not when we’re searching for happiness, certainty and safety, but when we are open to new experiences and when we are curious about the unknown.

The fact is that our economic environment and our constant state of flux mean that many of us are drifting towards a more minimalist lifestyle and we’re liking it.  Hence the huge popularity of blogs like The Minimalists and others on our list.

So we’re off to the book swop at our local café and we’re selling some of our old books on our Amazon seller account.  It will be a while before we achieve the ultimate minimal lifestyle, but we’re enjoying the journey.

Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.

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