Over the past few years I have observed a steadily growing trend around minimalism and the rejection of owning huge collections of personal belongings. And this is a trend I actually really like… It’s very “me”. Don’t get me wrong I love stuff, especially beautiful, expensive, endearing, shiny, sparkly stuff, stuff that makes me feel good. However they key here is on how it makes me FEEL. I strongly dislike clutter and waste. I would even use the word hate here.
To be completely honest, I don’t agree with using the term minimalism but people often feel the need to label things in order to understand them so we will just go with that for now, won’t we! To me it’s more of a lifestyle choice, something that makes sense to me…..it’s part of my personal journey and it makes me feel good to have a handle on how much stuff I have and aspire to own. Minimalism is also one of the core concepts of Buddhism (but they don’t call it that, clearly!).
What I am seeing now is that we are the new generation of consumers who recognise the value of experiences and information over material possessions. We want to feel something, experience something, remember something from the purchases we make rather than just have a pile of plastic with made in china printed down the side to show for the hours that we work and the money that we earn. We see the value in life to be greater than the value in things. We recognise that our sense of self is not built through the ownership of grand collections of things but rather by the exotic collections of memories, stories and experiences that we take with us through our lives.
Have we perhaps learnt this from the forbearing generations of mass consumers and waste-makers that have died with the regret of not spending enough time with loved ones and fully enjoying their life while they had it? Or perhaps has it been the global financial crisis that has shocked us into acknowledging the disparity between having stuff and enjoying the simple things in life?
I would say that the inclination towards a simpler life it is a culmination of both these factors plus many more, engulfed in our natural progression and evolution into a better, greater, happier life and world.
How much stuff is a lot or a little is also very individual and perspective based. My younger sister thinks that I hardly own anything. A friend of mine who visited me recently said I had lots of stuff.
According to me – I have just the right amount – enough to comfortably cover all my first-world needs and wants but not too much. I am the opposite of a hoarder. Is there a word for that? Sometimes to my own detriment, when I regret throwing something out, but mostly to my benefit. I consistently de-clutter my life and give away as much as I can to friends or charity shops when I have no need or use for it any longer, because I deeply dislike the sense of having too much stuff filling my life. I need white space to think + breathe + create. I spend all my money on rent, good food, music, books, learning, gigs, technology, travel and clothes. On knowledge, joy and memories. In my mind clothes equate to being an experience as they colour and flavour the events I attend in my mind and help create special memories. As in “remember that time I wore those sparkly silver leggings to dinner and the magician who did those amazing card tricks was really hot?” (true story).
The minimalist trend is lead by people like the fascinatingly talented writer Ev Bogue who wrote about his experiences of living with as few physical possessions as possible which bottomed out at 47 in May 2010. He shared his journey of living his life simply, joyfully, abundantly without having a huge collection of attachments to cart around, with millions of readers and has inspired many to join him on this path. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits continuously shares his vision on living simply, minimalistic with scores of hints, tips and insights from his own practices to fuel the fire of why less is more. He recognises that focusing on happiness and creating an amazing life through experiences is less about the things that you own and more about the moments of joy you create.
The Guardian in the UK recently printed a story on the falling rates of consumerism which is fascinating and in my opinion very exciting. We’re all on the same path with recognising that having stuff doesn’t make is any happier and in fact can add stress in our lives.
This movement towards “less is more” has spread into other areas of our lives: smaller homes, more white spaces in design and visual output, websites, simplifying businesses, jobs, offices and obviously our trend setters of technology such as Apple. We value our time + relationships + lifestyles over working ourselves to the bone until we crash and burn just to keep up with the Joneses of the world (which by the way is also called conspicuous consumption). We also consider the greater impacts of our actions: environmentally having less means creating less of a carbon footprint, it creates more freedom, more time and saves more money.
On that note, I love spending my money. On high quality, expensive things and experiences. But perhaps fewer of them. For me life is more about process rather than content. I really treasure and care for the things that I own. I’m not wasteful. And I know that for me, out of sight is out of mind. If I can’t see it, I probably won’t remember to use it…..so I make everything as visually accessible as possible while also making my home look lovely. I live in what some would call a tiny studio apartment. It is basically a bedroom with a bathroom and tiny kitchenette. I love, adore and cherish it. It has everything I need. It is my very own sacred space. And I have a million dollar view of Rushcutters Bay with the boats sailing across the glittering Sydney Harbour and even a corner of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Do I need more? No. Thank you. I am deeply content and happy with what I have.
As Graham Hill says in his TED talk below “let’s make room for the good stuff”.