We find out more about the Minimalism movement and the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle. By Katherine Pham
The Rise of Minimalism
In a world where buying the latest gadgets, fashion, entertainment, holidays, and technology is available literally at our fingertips, we as a society are buying more than ever before. However, while there has been an increase in buying, another trend is on the rise that is doing precisely the opposite. Minimalism is a lifestyle where its followers have ditched consumerist ways and prefer to live with much fewer material belongings.
What is Minimalism?
The basis of minimalism is the belief that owning more does not make you happier but adds stress and suffering to your life.
The minimalist lifestyle requires scaling back only to absolute necessities and not indulging in material belongings. We’re talking about owning seven pairs of undies to get you through to your next washing day, one pair of jeans, the one plate and mug that you wash daily and one set of bedsheets that are washed and dried before returning to the bed. That, of course, is on the extreme end of it, but it paints the picture.
What are the origins of Minimalism?
The minimalist lifestyle very much echoes the Eastern philosophies of Buddhism, which teaches that material possessions create suffering. According to Buddhism, everything is temporary, meaning that something that once created happiness in your life, be it a new watch, job, relationship, or a holiday can just as quickly and easily become a source of suffering. For example, your new watch breaks, the new job isn’t what you expected, or your relationships start to break down. Therefore, in not clinging to things in the material world, we can rid ourselves of the impending and unnecessary pain.
How does Minimalism enhance your life?
Aside from the philosophical lessons, though, having less clutter and belongings can absolutely reduce the amount of stress in your life.
I’m sure many people can relate to looking into a wardrobe full of clothes and trying to team up the perfect combination for an outfit only to be unsatisfied with it. So you go back to the wardrobe to repeat this process multiple times before finally being satisfied. Low-level stress has already crept in and you haven’t even really started your day!
On the other hand, a minimalist will only own a few items of clothes, and with fewer options, the process is quicker and, therefore, less stressful.
Minimalism is about scaling back the material things in our lives, which can take up too much mental energy, freeing up more mental space for more important things in our lives. The important things in our life are often not found in material belongings.
Numerous studies also confirm why less is more.
Humans have a finite amount of decision-making ability within a day. So any way that we can do to reduce choice and decision making, we can direct it towards more productive or important things. So, as an example, in choosing from an extensive selection of clothes what we would like to wear for the day, we are using up the finite decision-making ability available to us and will therefore have less energy or willpower available for the more important things in life.
A study also found that a cluttered and chaotic environment also results in a cluttered and chaotic mind, while another study has found that those who own less and adopt simplifying behaviours experience higher levels of life satisfaction.
In my personal experience, having gone through a big purge myself by slashing my wardrobe and shoe collection, the other weight that was lifted for me was no longer caring about what people thought about what I wore. My self-imposed pressure was in ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and the latest trends and mod-cons. When I committed to a minimalist lifestyle, I unhooked myself from the pressure to impress and realised afterwards what an unnecessary burden that was in my life.
Another reason that minimalism appeals to many is reducing the amount of waste you produce and your impact on the environment. With increasing globalisation, there has been an increase in cheaply made goods, meaning the cost and quality of the items are significantly lower. Fast fashion, as an example, is how you can buy a fashion item for a few dollars, but it won’t last very long and is thus thrown away after a few wears. So by owning less, you contribute far less to the growing waste epidemic.
How to introduce Minimalism into your life
The absolute best way to experience a less stressful minimalist lifestyle is, of course, to go all-in and clear your house of all unnecessary and over-indulgent belongings. Take your cues from Zen Buddhists with only a mattress on the ground, two pairs of robes and two pairs of socks which they alternate while the other is being washed. Empty your kitchen to just one fork, knife, spoon, cup and bowl per person.
If that is too extreme for you, there are plenty of more reasonable and accessible step changes that can inspire you to be more minimalistic in your life. Each of these popular minimalism trends can help to reset your mindset and habits of buying more than you need
Reduce your closet to a Capsule Wardrobe
The Capsule Wardrobe is about scaling your wardrobe down to only a few items in your closet that can be easily mixed and matched with all other items. In making sure all items can be easily teamed up with others, you can get more wear out of a few items.
One of the most popular Capsule Wardrobe influencers is Caroline Joy, who runs the site Un-Fancy. She encourages people to select only up to 40 items to keep in their wardrobe and getting rid of the rest. To make this work, Caroline recommends that your items should easily mix and match with each other and owning good staple items.
Don’t buy anything brand new for a year
Can you challenge yourself not to buy anything brand new for a year? This will challenge you to think about whether you truly need something. For example, do you absolutely need new sneakers? Do you really need that new kitchen appliance? Or can you make do with the ones you have?
To really challenge yourself, you can also include not buying gifts as well. Instead, focus on gifts that are about experiences rather than material things.
Apply the KonMari tidying method
In case you missed the viral sensation that was Marie Kondo’s tidying method, the KonMari method entails an anti-cluttering and scaling back of your personal belongings to only the items that bring you joy. This means going room to room and asking yourself of every item you own whether or not it ‘sparks joy’. If not, thank the item for its contribution to your life and then let it go.
Although the KonMari cleaning method is not entirely about minimalism because you can keep anything so long as it brings you joy, it still requires you to apply some conscious thinking around whether or not you really need something.
Live zero waste
It has its own honourable agenda, however, living zero waste has many overlapping ideologies with minimalism. Zero waste in its simplest form is not sending anything to landfills. This lifestyle means cutting out any single-use plastics, buying items that last, thrifting, recycling and upcycling.
A huge influencer and inspiration in this area is Lauren Singer, founder of The Simply Co. Lauren was made famous by being able to store all the trash she had produced in 4 years in a single mason jar. Lauren, an Environmental Studies student, realised that she could not claim to care about the environment while sending plastic and other trash to landfills. So she decided to live by her values and stop producing any garbage. Lauren’s manifesto is:
‘Zero Waste means that I do not produce any garbage. No sending anything to landfill, no throwing anything in a trash can, nothing. However, I do recycle and I do compost.’
Being mindful of buying items that won’t end up in landfill will challenge you to think twice before buying anything that isn’t made to last or will have anything end up in the trash, so you will buy less while also being kinder to the environment.
The Minimalist mind shift
The ease of buying things today means that we can be very mindless about our purchasing. “1-click” purchases, saved credit card details, free shipping and other sales and marketing tactics make it all too easy to continue to accumulate and add more things to our lives, potentially to the detriment of our happiness.
Minimalism requires a mental shift in the value we place on material belongings, but those who live minimalistic lives can attest to the improvement in wellbeing on their lives. This is the true less is more lifestyle for those open to trying it.