Chapter II: Why is Minimalism so Popular?
“The movement is growing … almost every day.” ~ Joshua Becker
The essence of minimalism is detachment. Detachment from physical stuff, ideas, thoughts and damaging emotions. It is not about having less or decluttering or even downsizing. These are the results of minimalism but are not the heart of it. To understand more about what minimalism is, look to the internet or your local bookstore.
New books, blogs, and forums are appearing almost every day concerning simplistic and minimalist living. More and more people are attracted to the lifestyle and adopting certain principles of a minimalist lifestyle. Why minimalism is growing so popular can be summarized in these ten different reasons:
Worldwide financial turmoil includes rising unemployment low wages and falling stock prices. These problems are bringing families and individuals to the realization that they need to evaluate what possessions they hold and what items they need to purchase. Tighter budgets are the result of worldwide financial chaos and families are seeking ways to cut their budgets and expenditures. They sell their excess goods to have money for primary existence.
Environmental concerns are part of the minimalist life. Using less equals less of earth’s natural resources being destroyed. More and more people are standing up for the right of the environment to remain viable and breathing. Commercialism means digging into the earth for resources to make useless goods. The earth is being destroyed because of commercialism.
People are becoming less impressed by the new things your friends have. Since you can’t afford them, you tend to claim that you don’t want them. You quickly develop the habit of not caring what others have, and you let them know that you do not care.
Personal debt or living beyond your means brings you to the realization that you need to stop purchasing “stuff” on credit. Debt is definitely a growing trend. Listen to Dave Ramsey, he advocates a cash based rather than a credit based life. An awesome thought, but what does it have to do with minimalism? You just spend cash rather than plastic for the things you want.
Minimalism needs to convince people that buying less is a worthwhile trend. Think about what you need before you make that next purchase. Consider, is it a want or a need?
The realization that there is more to life than just possessions. Consumerism is alive and well, and advertisers continue to bring new and better products to the market claiming each item is a step towards fulfillment and happiness. There is a growing trend of people, however, who are tired of trying to “keep up with the Jones’” and are finding happiness through relationships, social causes, and life’s significance.
Technology is making the world smaller and bringing on a desire to live a simpler life. People turn to minimalism as they realize the poverty in the world. The question is, are you really giving away your excess to those in poverty? Is the money you saved by becoming a minimalist money helping these people live better lives? One can only hope.
Personal computing advances make minimalism easier to live than ever before. Computers have replaced the need for paper files, photo albums, calendars, and calculators. Computers, smartphones, and tablets have taken away books, phone books, magazines, and newspapers. Paper no longer clutters up your counter tops and furniture. How sad that the feel of tangible paper books and magazines is going away. If you love paper, you might have to go to the public library.
Minimalists can indoctrinate more and more people to their lifestyle via electronic and internet social media. Extreme minimalists make the lifestyle sound almost like nirvana; a happy place; and an exceptional existence. Just Google the word “minimalism” and you will find millions of articles on how to live simpler. It almost gets confusing.
Consumerism is still alive and well. Advertisers tell us that we need the next and best purchase, and this will bring us satisfaction. There is a growing trend of people who are seeing through the advertising hype and challenging this climate. They want to be different and get rid of possessions that are not making them happy. Minimalism is well and good, but what if you want a particular item? Will your minimalist conscience make you feel guilty, cause stress, and eventually bring on a nervous breakdown if you choose to acquire this item? Something to ponder.
Is Minimalism for You?
As noted in a previous chapter, simplicity and minimalism are different sides of the same coin. It is good to realize that minimalism is not the equivalent of living in a cave and eating berries by a fire, but it is a lifestyle when lived in moderation that can be helpful. Simple living is gentle and resourceful. It is not getting rid of clutter for de-cluttering’s sake, simple living is real and internal.
Do you have stuff that you rarely use? Unnecessary clutter sends negative impacts on your life. Box up your duplicates and unused stuff. Be simple.
Do you have excessive debt? Try not purchasing more stuff until you have reduced your debt. Getting out of debt is practicality.
Do you long to own a nicer car, house or other stuff? If your car always breaks down, or you are envious of the neighbors, you need to sit back and think about where you are going. Materialism is the name of this “disease.”
Are you busy, but your life lacks meaning? Everyone has days filled with activity and can end with feelings of emptiness. You might want to look into minimalism to remove excess to make room for meaningful activates. Pare down and live simply.
These realizations do not necessarily mean you are ready to become a minimalist, but that you are human and concerned with your lifestyle. Perhaps you do need to declutter and make your life simpler. You can organize and declutter your life without subscribing to the minimalist philosophy that demands you live with less.
House, Car, Cellphone and Jewelry
If you want to learn to detach yourself from your stuff, try this technique. Think of one item in your life that you love. It might be your car or computer, your television, or your wardrobe. Take that item and break it down to its core purpose. Your car is for transportation, the television is for entertainment, and clothes are for wearing. Think about the downsides of your one item. Your car is expensive, your television encourages laziness, and your clothes make you anxious.
Consider what your life would be like if you don’t possess that expensive item. Would your life be noticeably different? Write down the item, think about it, and draw a picture of how you would be without that item. If you are truly dedicated to a minimalist lifestyle, you will draw a picture of you being happy. If you have no desire to minimize, then draw a picture of you being sad. At this point, don’t get rid of your stuff. There is no reason to be sad over getting rid of your possessions.
In today’s modern culture, it is emphasized that the good life is found in possessions – and as many as possible. Happiness is shopping at the mall and filling your home with useless, but awesome accessories. To some people, this is the ultimate happiness. The joy of finding a bargain or just something that makes you giddy is happiness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this type of lifestyle. Do not let your minimalist friends thumb their noses at you as you ride off on your ATV’s, camper or boat. You are making memories with your stuff, and that is the best thing in the world.
Commercialism and materialism are the driving force behind manufacturing, jobs, and the economy. The stuff that comes from productivity is the stuff of dreams. Keep dreaming and consuming.
Minimalism as a Tool for Happiness
Minimalism should be used as a tool or a guide to a happier and simpler life, but it can be harmful to you, your family, your ambition, and your business. Minimalism is the emerging philosophy of having less physically, emotionally and intellectually. “Freeing yourself from commercialism and getting rid of passions and the drive to work hard, will lead you to becoming supremely happy,” so claims proponents of minimalism.
Minimalism is a trend. It is today’s “less is more” mantra. The days of opulence and semi-opulence in fashion, homes styles and arts are no longer in vogue. Minimalism in makeup, naked eyes, and hair that looks slept in, and clothing that is comfortable, interchangeable, and wrinkled is the new modern. Minimalism is clean lines, shoes and dresses with no fluff. It is a color palette that subscribes mainly to neutrals. It is the inclination is to develop a capsule wardrobe and pare down stuffed closets.
Minimalism is trying to live a more intentional life. By focusing less on the material goods, there is more time to focus on the meaningful – experiences, travel, play time, and relaxation. Possessions, so it is said, weigh you down. When you have less clutter in your life, you have room for experiences. Forget purchasing that handbag, use the money for something else that will bring interest to your life. Break away from your job and head off to the mountains; you can finish projects later or better yet find a new job. Sub-lease your apartment, rent out your home. There is nothing in your home or apartment that anyone can steal or break. You have gotten rid of everything. By not purchasing stuff on credit, your credit card limit is high and you can take off on a road trip. Run up the credit card gathering experiences and memories. Take off on a road trip. By having less; you live more.
Seems a bit of an oxymoron. How do you get these fun pleasures if you have a laisse faire attitude about your job and just take off whenever you want? Sounds delightful and highly irresponsible. Spontaneity is wonderful, but the business world and the economy does not work in that manner. Most people need to plan, save and be responsible.
Minimalists use this philosophy to justify becoming obsessed with hunting down every double or unneeded object in their home. They go from room to room looking for items that are unnecessary. Items are swept out from under family members, roommates and users by the minimalist saying, “You don’t need this.” Minimalists continually deny themselves and become crazy in their new found philosophy of “less is more.” They urge everyone they meet to become as obsessed as they are.
Minimalism is not the goal. It should be a tool to learn how to declutter, organize, and clean-up. The true minimalist has learned how to push down emotions that came on when you throw out items that are keepsakes. One young man was cleaning out his home on his trip to becoming a minimalist and threw his grandmother’s Japanese vase from WWII in the trash. It was found by an antique dealer who valued the vase at $10,000.
If you regret tossing out your stuff, minimalists say, “so what, tamp down the emotions.” Your decluttering is a way to happiness, and your spending ban is leading you to nirvana. If you lost valuable items in your frenzy to clean out your home, it doesn’t matter. Your clutter is gone, and you are happy.
Is it Popular to be Happy through Minimalism?
Happiness is thought of as the good life and freedom from suffering. It is flourishing, having joy, prosperity, well-being, and contentment. It is the pursuit of trying to find what makes us happy. Researchers have made the study of happiness an entire sub-culture. There is still little definitive definitions about happiness. Defining happiness is elusive, but psychologists say that it is necessary to study strengths and what makes us happy. By better understanding human tendencies we can learn how to prevent disorders, learn to become happier, and develop the ultimate lifestyle for happiness.
Happiness is intangible. If you want to be happy, you must learn to thrive in whatever lifestyle you choose. Strengths, positive emotions, and resilience equal happiness. The more we understand what makes us happy, the better we can understand the need to live a simple life of minimalism or a life full of possessions and stuff.
A study conducted in the 1970s attempted to determine the level of happiness in people who thought their lives were perfect. Psychologists discovered that those who had won lotteries and had tons of money were no happier those who just meet their basic needs. It was determined that money and possessions can buy short term happiness.
Social experts also state that once you have a level of happiness due to financial gain, you are now in a materialistic cycle. You try stay happy through the constant purchase material items.
This cycle may be true for some but there are also countless other people who have good jobs, high incomes, possessions, and know when their belongings make them happy. A nice home, good car, money to travel, and giving their family advantages can make them happy. Do they strive for more? Possibly, but that striving for more makes them happy.
This same study discovered that participants who spend money on others experienced great happiness. They had feelings of euphoria, contentment, and altruism. Money made them happy; possessions were awesome.
Minimalists who have little money to spend on others, tend to be on the selfish side. They are thinking only about their minimalist lifestyle, their own well-being, and achieving simplicity in their lives. They may physically help others, but giving material wealth is out of the question.
Trying to determine what lifestyle will bring you the most happiness can leave you in a very interesting situation. Do I declutter and give everything away, or do I work hard, earn money, and help others with my wealth? What will give me the greatest sense of happiness?
What will lead to happiness and fulfillment?
Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, stated that 80% of happiness comes from 20% of lifestyle activities. To follow Pareto’s experiment, pinpoint what brings you fulfillment and happiness. Maximize your time and resources to that 20%. Break down what makes you happy and follow what lifestyle makes you happiest.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that we need to find a way to become motivated to make a difference. Is minimalism this answer or can you help others with the possessions you have. One extraordinary family built a large cabin. They filled it with all the things they loved and enjoyed. Their philosophy? We will allow others to use this cabin and enjoy our possessions. We open up our home to underprivileged children, friends who need a place to “get away from it all”, and those who cannot afford to have an experience in a cabin. Getting rid of their possessions would not give this family the opportunity to serve others.
“You are unique because of your individual traits, skills, experiences, aptitudes, interests and attitudes. You are not the sum of your possessions, but those possessions can give you joy if you share them with others” (Jolibois, 2015).
Wealth does not necessarily provide any guarantee of a good life. What matters is how you spend it. Giving money away might make you happier than just spending it on yourself. If you have money and possessions, you are happier when you use them for experiences. If you are a minimalist, you do not have the financial ability to provide different and happy experiences. It is awesome to walk through the park or breathe in nature, but what if your happiness is having a Minecraft tournament, or a swimming expedition, or even a trip to a sunny island. How can you live and enjoy extraordinary experiences without planning, saving, and involving stuff?
Studies over the past ten years have shown that life experiences do give us lasting pleasure, but many people believe that material possessions offer better value than simple experiences. Happenings without props are fleeting. Material goods last longer and provide meaningful experiences and emotions. You can provide significant experiences if you have possessions to share and enjoy.
On a camping trip last summer, a neighbor cleaned out their garage and found old inner tubes. They had the tubes repaired, filled with air and took them on their camping expedition to the river. Three little boys had the time of their life tubing down the river, racing and splashing one another and eating steaks around the campfire after their river experience. What experience would they have had if the inner tubes had been de-cluttered from the garage and their father said, “Hey we don’t need these old inner tubes. Let’s get rid of them in the landfill.”
The trick is not to live for your possessions. Use them to make you happy, but also foster appreciation and gratitude for what you have. You can be equally happy as a consumer by using and taking care of your possessions. Keep a daily journal of happy experiences and express your gratitude. Minimalism does not guarantee that you will maintain this attitude. Minimalism could, in fact, make you angry, unsatisfied, and very unhappy.