Minimalism Life

Since moving to a new city, my wife and I spend a lot of time wandering around undiscovered suburbs, getting to know the area, and admiring the eclectic mix of domiciles. We live in a green and affluent suburb of Kuala Lumpur, and every street accommodates expensive mansions with white pillars framing the entrance, sitting alongside aesthetically minimalist apartments, nestled between more traditional Malaysian houses.

Our home is an approximately 900-square-foot two-bedroom apartment, the second bedroom functioning as our office. It’s the biggest place I’ve ever lived. With our minimal possessions—we came here with one suitcase and carry-on bag each—there is a noticeable echo in the apartment. But it’s also the cheapest place I’ve ever lived and very well-priced for the area. One of the reasons being that it hasn’t been decorated since the nineties.

So, when we take walks around our neighborhood, I find myself comparing our home to the fancier and more modern buildings surrounding us. I rarely compare our home to the smaller, older, and more neglected ones. Recently, I even saw a newly decorated apartment in our condo. It has exactly the same floor plan as ours, but everything is new, shiny, and gorgeously minimalist (that might just be because the owner hasn’t moved in yet). It gave me a taste of “what could be.”

Drawing this comparison made me feel dissatisfied with our home even though it’s easily the nicest place I’ve ever lived, with a shared swimming pool just outside our front door and a large balcony with a lovely view. Yes, it’s a little rough around the edges, but six months ago I would have never believed we’d live somewhere so nice. But now that we do, I’ve already noticed myself on the hedonic treadmill of wanting more.

To turn off the treadmill and crawl out of the comparison trap, I remind myself that we already have enough. We have enough space. We have enough comfort. We have enough money left after paying our rent and bills. We have enough greenery around us. We have enough access to shared facilities. Our lives are rich in enough. In fact, if we were to have more than enough, we’d start experiencing drawbacks.

More than enough space would mean more time spent cleaning. It would mean higher air conditioning and electricity bills. The apartment is up together enough that it’s a pleasant abode but isn’t so fancy that we have to worry about the odd bit of chipped paint. If we really wanted, we could move to a more modern building, but we’d have to pay more rent, and we’d rather spend that money on experiences. After all, we moved to Malaysia so we could explore South East Asia.

It’s much harder to feel dissatisfied with life when you realise you have enough. It fills you with gratitude and appreciation for what you do have, and it makes you more conscious of those who genuinely don’t have enough. When you realize you have enough, you realize you are in fact as rich as you’ll ever need to be.