I’ve always been sceptical of self-help schemes which seem to come out of nowhere and instantly become the new, must-try trend. I must admit, the avocado fad has kind of passed me by and so has this idea of making your home more cosy by introducing some Danish hygge into the mix. So, when I heard about the idea of throwing the majority of my things in the trash in order to become happier, I naturally decided to ignore this new craze.
The people who do choose to do this are called minimalists however, and although you may initially recoil at the idea of losing all of your possessions, this brand of escapism is gaining momentum, with hard core believers claiming it has saved their lives from monotony and brought them more happiness than the things they’ve bought ever could.
It’s plain to see that our lives have become increasingly consumerist and our world has become commercialised. I am literally writing this article on behalf of a company. The Olympic Games are sponsored by McDonalds and even more ‘Black Mirror-ish’ is the fact that individually tailored ads now bombard our daily lives through technology. It’s a theme that has characterised western life since the 50s and it’s no wonder that people are rejecting consumerism and trying to get back to basics.
Don’t worry, no one is going to force you to quit reality and sign up to a never-ending series of Bear Grylls The Island. My scepticism is common because we all enjoy the conveniences of modern life. However, what minimalism is mostly about is ditching the unnecessary clutter and only living with what you need. Removing the crap from under your bed and the stupid kitchen utensils you bought but don’t actually know how to use. It’s not just healthy but better for your bank balance too (sorry JML Kitchenware).
Minimalism’s image hasn’t been helped by the fact that it used to be called ‘voluntary poverty’ by wealthy Victorians who sought happiness through material gain. It is in fact a historic practice with roots in Asian society. Gandhi referred to his minimalist lifestyle as simple living.
So, what is in it for me then? Where’s my sceptical outlook gone? The clearest representation of Minimalism benefits are discussed in a Netflix documentary unsurprisingly called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. Netflix has a funny way of changing my opinions on things. In the show there are times when minimalists find themselves without items which many of us would describe as almost essential. For example, they have shed all of the clothes they would wear to weddings, because how often do you really go to them, and sometimes they don’t have a specialised piece of equipment to cook a particular meal they want – but simple living can be simply solved by merely borrowing what you need from friends, rather than holding on to everything in anticipation that eventually, one day, you may need it again.
The homes of minimalists aren’t empty, they’re just not cluttered. They do less tidying because they have less stuff and they feel happier and healthier only owning things they truly get enjoyment or practical use out of. Some live their lives out of one suitcase, travelling the world with all that they own right by their side. Some don’t have the stress of what to wear each day because their wardrobe is only filled with clothes that they love.
One style doesn’t fit all and this ancient way of living probably still sounds unconvincing to many (which means you’ve not been paying attention to all the benefits I’ve just been explaining) but for people living in cramped inner-city flats or crap-filled student houses, there are clearly things to learn from the minimalist lifestyle. A happy medium between enjoying the conveniences of modern life but avoiding the hoarder’s lifestyle is a much more humble and economical way to live. More and more it seems that the consumerist age has only benefitted big businesses and marketing men.
Call it voluntary poverty if you want but it’s making some people feel a lot richer despite them owning less and less.