What is It?
Along with all of the cat memes and political topics that pervade our modern world, you’ve probably heard of minimalism. Trust me when I say it’s more than a hip buzz-word, or the latest trend. It’s more than the belief that everything in the world is evil and perverse and the only way to live a happy life is to be an ascetic living separated from everyone you know.
Minimalism is the concept of value. It’s accepting things into your life that enhance your experience in a positive way and rejecting the things that don’t. That simple.
Although, it’s often associated with physical goods and consumerism (and that’s definitely a big part), it’s more a law that guides you to focus on what adds value to your life. And with so many things that seem to take from our wells rather than replenish, minimalism is a welcome concept for many.
Clear Your Cache
So, what exactly falls under the umbrella of minimalism? Well, anything really. People, places, things, jobs, relationships, etc. The purpose of minimalism is to clear away all the extraneous things in your life that keep you from being as happy as you could be.
As human beings, we’re natural hoarders. Hoarders of what we think will make us happy or what we feel we must keep in our lives. We hold on to guilt, pain, toxic relationships, meaningless items and other things that serve to clutter our lives.
When we reach the point where we can let go, then we realize how we didn’t need those things all along. We see how much happier we are without them. Let’s use the example of material goods, since it’s an easy scapegoat.
When Every Day is Black Friday
It’s easy to get wrapped up in consumerism and not see it for the damaging principle it is. Our lives have become so full of stuff that we can’t fathom not having the things we do.
Every year, tech companies release updates to their products, making the current one obsolete. Mind you, not obsolete in a valid sense, but obsolete in the sense of social utility. Having last year’s phone or smartwatch means you’re out of date. And this may not seem like a big deal until you see someone with the new gadget and everyone is ogling at the thing. There’s always a little piece of us that says, “It’d be nice to have that. My phone is fine, but that one does such-and-such a thing.”
It’s gotten to the point where our lives revolve around stuff, whether we realize it or not. We want a better job so we can make more money so we can get the better house, or the better car, or the house boat, or the trailer and on and on it goes. It’s this cycle of wanting more and more that leaves us fundamentally unsatisfied. A lot of people can relate to this unsatisfaction, but it’s hard to place it when all we see around us in advertising is how we should be consuming more.
It Ain’t Good for Anyone
If it’s not enough that our compulsive consumption habits are making us deeply unhappy, then let’s take into account what effect our consumption has on the environment. It’s simply not sustainable.
We are leveling more forests than ever before, releasing more CO2 and methane than ever before and producing more waste than ever before. And all this with no sign of slowing down.
I have to check myself on a regular basis and remind myself that the things I consume come from somewhere. Someone had to gather the raw materials and refine them before the product ends up on a shelf in colorful packaging. It’s easy for me to forget the cost of my consumption when my only interaction with the product is buying it. It’s an amazing result of our modern world, that we can buy something without taking any part in its production or without knowing where it came from; but much of it is a fallacy.
For all the economists out there, you’ll know the term, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything has a cost. Everything.
Downsize Your Life
The good news is, there’s a solution to all this: consume less and consume more responsibly. Becoming a minimalist doesn’t mean renouncing the world and living in a cave, but it does mean living a happier, more fulfilling life with less. Less clutter, less stuff, less negativity, less harm to the environment.
It can be as simple as going through your closet and donating all the clothes you never wear. Maybe it’s deciding that you don’t actually need that new gadget. Or it can be as drastic as downsizing your life, deciding to make less money at a job you enjoy more so you can live in a smaller home and have more time for your family.
Basically, minimalism is a personal decision that will look different for everyone. Keep what you really value in your life and expel anything that’s extraneous. As long as it makes you happier, then you’re doing it right.