In August 2010, Andrew Hyde gave away nearly everything he owned. When I first read about the self-proclaimed vagabond-minimalist, he owned just 15 things. According to his blog, he currently owns 39 things – evidence of his continued choice to live simply.
Since Andrew’s decision to give corporate norms a big “F U” and take a massive metaphorical dump on consumerism, he’s learned something profound: “Debt is cash, things and fear.” According to Andrew, “I do some pretty interesting and amazing things everyday, and not once in the last month did I really want anything more. It has turned my life from stuff centric to relationship centric.”
This idea also happens to be one of the central tenets of Collaborative Consumption – a movement TIME recently named as one of the 10 Ideas That Will Change The World. Collaborative Consumption describes the rapidly evolving shift from an ownership society to one that’s rooted in renting, lending and sharing goods and services. It’s hard not to like the idea, especially given the economic mess of the past few years. If we were to take only one thing from the Great Recession and mortgage crisis, I’d argue the following: a race to own the most things will lead to a finish line of discontent, regret and obligations.
As said by TIME, a sharing society allows us to make meaningful connections. Rachel Botsman, co-author of What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, explains how peer-to- peer sharing “involves the re-emergence of community. This works because people can trust each other.” How amazing could this be? If Collaborative Consumption continues to gain momentum and become the mainstream, people might feel less compelled to keep up with the Joneses. We could shift our focus from more owning to more living. Reconnecting with people and community and living on purpose could become the new normal.
As noted in the beginning, Andrew Hyde is doing some extraordinary things these days. A recent tweet tells us he’s diving at the Great Barrier Reef. If you dig deeper into his blog, you’ll notice that he has lived in Oregon, Rhode Island, Colorado and most recently NYC. In addition to having traveled extensively, Andrew organized and started Ignite Boulder, TEDxBoulder and is the founder of Startup Weekend.
Catching my drift yet?
This guy owns just 39 things and he’s already experienced and accomplished more than most people twice his age. He is wandering the world, building meaningful things and inspiring us to rethink our priorities. He’s the reason I didn’t buy that bottled water the other day and opted to head for the drinking fountain instead. When I first heard Andrew’s story in early January, it even motivated me to turn off all technology for an hour each night to eat dinner with and focus on the people I see everyday that make getting out of bed so damn exciting.
While I’m no minimalist expert, I’ve been making a conscious effort to embrace Andrew’s philosophy whenever possible. And it’s taught me something extraordinary: when you make less time for material things, you realize even more so that you can live without them. And when you make more time for the people you love, you realize even more so that you can’t live without them. This is insight I’ll take with we everywhere I go. And it will outlive any material thing I currently own.
That said and with Collaborative Consumption still top of mind, I’m going to propose a challenge.
The next time you feel the need to go out and buy something, just refrain. Reject the urge, ask yourself if it’s something you can borrow from your neighbor and go do something meaningful instead. Spend your time and energy doing something free. And spend it with the one’s that make you feel alive.
Illustration by Al Luke