If you are constantly on the internet, you are bound to have crossed paths with this lifestyle. The advocates of this movement have their homes empty of most belongings; Walls are white, with shelves clear of anything that would make it look like someone actually lived there. Unfortunately, the sea of information makes it easy to wander away from the true meaning of minimalism; And because of this, it is often approached as a trend.
But, the real question is: Could minimalism be more than just the black and white closet or sizing down your possessions?
To answer that question, we have to go back to the beginning; The circumstances that climaxed into this great movement and how it has evolved.
Its philosophy dates back about 2500 years ago.
According to William Stephens, a professor of philosophy at Creighton University in the US, a man named Diogenes was the original minimalist.
Also believed to be the godfather of stoicism, he refused to conform to society’s values of accumulating possessions and social status.
He instead discovered happiness through self-mastery and self-sufficiency.
later in the 3rd century BC, the Hellenistic philosophy of Stoicism had a new perspective on the minimalistic lifestyle. It focused on self and community rather than possessions.
THE INTRODUCTION OF SIMPLE LIVING
‘Simple living’ did not exist until the the1800s when it was introduced in America by the likes of Ralph Waldo and Henry David Thoreau.
Their ideology was that insight and enlightenment could be gained through solitude and simplicity. This gave new meaning to minimalism.
And, this approach is something we would continue to see evolve.
MINIMALISM AS AN ART MOVEMENT
In the 1920s, the elevated design era ushered in a new idea of balancing beauty with utility in product design.
Heavily inspired by the Bauhaus school, this era offered an alternative to uninspiring manufactured products.
Re-imagining the role art played in society.
Creativity and thoughtfulness were used to fabricate elevated designs for everyday use.
Minimalism itself was coined and gained popularity in the 1960s when a group of artists led by Frank Stella, Donald Judd, and Agnes Martin resisted constraining conventions of fine art.
It started being used casually in writing and design.
Art was focusing on white space, industrial materials that were geometric, cold/sleek, simplistic in nature as opposed to the abstract expressionism of the previous years.
These works were quite controversial because they were not centered around decorations, storytelling, and metaphors that people were used to.
They demanded that we ought to look at single objects for and in themselves.
Important Figures in the Minimalist Art Movement
An American artist, painter, and sculptor. His use of geometric forms and simplistic design made a great contribution to this art movement.
He introduced grid structures and a linear approach to form. With simple visual elements in his approach to sculpture, he helped to further the new, more modern art genre that we know as minimal art today
Also, a New York sculptor moved from abstract expressionism to a new style of art experience. The unique use of fluorescent lights in structures led to his art being looked at today as a leader in the history of this art movement.
Read related post: MINIMALIST INTERIOR DESIGN: Simplify your space in 5 steps.
THE SLOW MOVEMENT
In the 1980s, there was an adaptation of simple living through the initiation of the slow food movement that protested the opening of McDonald’s in Rome.
There was a shift in the culture of categories like fashion and travel. Preferring quality over quantity. The supporters of this movement believed that adjusting your life to a more deliberate pace will help you get the most out of it.
THE MINIMALIST LIFESTYLE
From the 2000s to the present day, blogging became mainstream and a means to advocate for simple living, good design, and the different slow movements.
Suddenly minimalism became a common term used across all communities.
The generation of blogging sparked a heightened interest in applying” less is more” as a lifestyle philosophy.
Marie Kondo, Joshua Fields Milburn, and Ryan Nicodemus have marched onto its popular stage in the past decade.
Advocating the vast benefits of decluttering our lives from possessions and how that can make life significantly more content and happier.
However, the term has become rather common. Pausing without much relevance.
This unfortunately has led to confusion and conflict that overshadow its positive connotations.
Here we intend to demystify the complexities of ‘LESS IS MORE
THE MEANING OF MINIMALISM
The term is now linked to innumerable philosophies, products, or the ultimate monk-like lifestyle.
The definitions are broad. One is left wondering whether it is a profound philosophy or is it just about objects; What we own and what we discard.
Below are guiding principles that attempt to clarify and define the complex idea.
TBEAUTY IN THE SIMPLE UN EXPECTED THINGS
According to Kyle Chayka, the author of The Longing for Less; The idea of living with less has a much deeper meaning and history than is generally recognized.
Taken from his interview with BBC culture, He says, “Where minimalism started in the art world was about finding beauty in unexpected things, such as in industrial materials, something that was previously ignored, and finding worth in them – not creating something that was totally blank and empty”
He does not hide the fact that he is quite unhappy about the style some people have embraced of having just nothing but white walls and floors.
Calling it a new orthodoxy of total emptiness.
“Throwing out all your stuff and earning less might seem to be a rebellion against consumerism, but it also becomes an orthodoxy again [when you have to] buy the right new things and follow the right austere aesthetic.”
To him, it signifies new beginnings and simplistic beauty not necessarily a void for less.
MINIMALISM IS A MINDSET
It is the principle of living life with an intentional mindset.
Actively living your life in line with your beliefs and values, decluttering it from distractions.
It challenges consumer habits and encourages purchasing essential products we enjoy and that add value to our lives.
According to Kayti Christian of the good trade, minimalism is a mindset and not a movement “We find it helpful when we de-clutter our brains we discover spareness and room to breathe.”
She urges that for minimalism to be inclusive and accessible, materialism should not be the main focus. “As much as it’s a good idea to slow down on consumption, we are also encouraged to take good care of what we already own and move away from a disposable mindset.”
It’s not that less is more; it’s that what we currently have is enough.
Adversely consumerism acts as a distraction and barrier to development.
Minimalism as a way of thinking eliminates that.
This one is not an aesthetic or the action of sizing down our closets; Rather it is an individual journey that encourages us to look internally for our values and what truly matters, then choosing to live intentionally.
Prioritizing our time, money and energy to our passions; the things that support our purpose, our beliefs together with our relationships.
The simple abundant things.
The key is in cutting down our desires as well as possessions.
Using our values as a filter so we can live in the freedom of abundance.
IT IS ABUNDANCE
This assumption is probably the one that resonates with me the most. Because it gives true meaning to minimalism; Which is focusing on eternal things.
Those things that are abundant for all, yet can not be possessed. You can not own time, people, nature, or life itself.
No one ever says look how much life I have in the bank!…. Yet most of us would give everything for it.
Setting our minds and happiness on these abundant things gives life a deeper meaning.
You see, the most important/valuable things are the ones we can not hold.
I truly believe we were only meant to experience life, not possess it…we are not our own.
Our focus should be on experiences other than possessions; Creating a life of peace and fulfillment.
THE LESS YOU WANT ; THE MORE YOU HAVE
Simply put, the less you want, the easier it is for you to be satisfied.
Although I do not agree with a lot of their views and teachings, Einzelganger dives deep into explaining this theory in their video MINIMALIST PHILOSOPHY FOR SIMPLE LIVING.
Siting philosophers like Epicurus that believed that the quickest way to reach abundance is by downgrading our needs.
When we have plenty we care less about gain and loss we are less stressed about missing out and less fearful of change.
We can experience this through a minimalist mindset.
IT IS SATISFACTION
Focusing our happiness on things that are more abundant than those that are scarce brings joy and satisfaction.
For instance, if our happiness depends on one million dollars in our bank account and without it we are unhappy; Then it can only mean that happiness is in short supply since only the world’s 1% can achieve this.
When we make our happiness depend on outside circumstances that are challenging to obtain, even the smallest changes threaten the foundations of our wellbeing.
Letting our life’s satisfaction depend on these things can set us up for stress, discontent and insecurity.
Our fulfillment should be found in the abundant things like God, family, community, purpose, and nature that are easy to obtain.
This makes it tough to harm our contentment because what is abundant will always be readily available contrary to what is scarce.
If we have no shortage in getting our needs met, we will quickly achieve a state of contentment.
TWHAT WE HAVE IS ENOUGH
Minimalism implies that we have more than enough.
‘What is enough’ is subjective, for some, it’s never enough for others very little is enough.
Also, this idea tends to change over time.
The good news is our perception of ‘enough’ can change.
In no way does this mean we are to be without desire entirely, having needs is part of being human.
Never the less we can manage our desires so we dwell less frequently in a realm of scarcity and lack but predominantly in abundance.
Einzelganger go ahead to suggest these steps from great philosophers to transforming our minds to abundance.
4 STEPS TO CHANNEL OUR DESIRES SO WE CAN SHIFT FROM SCARCITY TO ABUNDANCE.
The power of moderation
The philosophy of Epicurus distinguishes three types of desires.
- Natural and necessary desires like food, shelter, rest.
- Natural and unnecessary desires like luxurious food, expensive clothing.
- Vain desires; power, extreme wealth and fame.
In short, Epicurus believed that we should focus on the first which are necessary and easy to satisfy and avoid the latter which are unnecessary and impossible to satisfy.
However, this also leaves a vast grey area of needs that in a modern world are not necessary for happiness but still abundant.
Thus easy to obtain like the internet and social media.
Though these pleasures are abundant we tend to overindulge in them.
Often overindulgence leads to dissatisfaction…Because to feel satisfied we need more as our senses become less sensitive and need more stimulation.
This defeats the purpose since the more we need, the less abundance we will experience.
We ought to choose our needs wisely and not engage in ways that disempower us.
This is where moderation as a virtue is helpful, we can use it to curb our desires so that they do not rule us.
It includes modesty and self-control.
If we master these then pleasures in abundant supply will not conquer us but serve us only when we choose.
They can maintain their quality of being plentiful yet enjoyable.
we tend to focus on what we want rather than what we have.
This sometimes leads us to exchange potential sources of contentment for unfulfilled desires and the pain that comes with it. The things we have formed are a very accessible source of joy.
There is nothing easier to obtain than what we already have or there is nothing more acutely available than what is in our possession.
if we turn away from what we do not have and we start focusing on what we do have, happiness will be a bargain. Being grateful increases the value of our life and could also save us money in the long run.
Contemplating the price of our needs
Our needs come with a price, in general, what is abundant is cheap and what is scarce is expensive.
Whenever we desire something this question can be our guide: What amount of life will I exchange for this? things that need a large amount of life can be considered expensive and vice versa.
However this is relative from person to person for example a wealthy person may not view the cost of a Lamborghini as lavish; Because he has the resources available to purchase one as opposed to an average or poor person.
Keeping this in mind, we should not sacrifice our health and rest to obtain any desire or lifestyle because the price will far outweigh the benefit.
If we focus on the needs that are easy to fulfill, we experience abundance.
This abundance is either based on having plenty of resources or the minor requirement of life that it takes to attain it.
Staying out of long term debt;
Although we associate debt with money, our desires also generate debt in our minds.
Our mind becomes our creditor every time we notice that a desire arouses within us. We move from the debt-free experience of contentment in which we owe ourselves nothing.
Short-time desires such as food and rest are easy to pay off.
The challenge comes in when we immerse ourselves in long-term desires that we must fulfill to feel satisfied.
By doing this we burden ourselves with long-term debt and this can leave us feeling incomplete for a very long time.
Enjoying the immediate doesn’t mean that we should not have goals.
But that we appreciate the small things.Readily available things, not letting our fulfillment solely depend on realizing the big. We can generate satisfaction with very little, with what is abundant.
This often means that instead of conquering the world, we need to conquer our desire for the world.
Ultimately there are two ways of creating abundance, the first one is accumulating more of what we desire but by doing so we become much more dependent on outside circumstances that we can not control.
The second one is by putting a limitation on our desires so that we make the things that are already here in the present more satisfying to us. The less we want from the world the more abundant the world appears leading to a more fulfilled life.
4 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE MEANING OF MINIMALISM
You can also read 13 truths about minimalism I remind myself often.
MINIMALISM IS BORING
The misconception is that to be a minimalist you have to wear the same color of T-shirt every single day, only have essentials, and live a boring life of emptiness.
This could not be further from the truth. Minimalism is not a set of rules to follow rather it embraces the complexities of life today and celebrates originality.
MINIMALISM IS RESTRICTING
The idea that you have to buy into a certain color scheme or lifestyle to be a minimalist or your out is not true.
there is nothing inherently good or bad about how much stuff someone has.
Its the concern about the danger of excess possessions; the garbage in the landfills because people consume more than they need.
Minimalism brings freedom from consumerism. Setting us on a journey to self-discovery and individuality. We discover our own passions and purpose to not live an orthodoxy life that is not ours.
It lets us see all that we already have and reminds us to be grateful, in doing so we find more abundant life.
MINIMALISM IS A ONE SIZE FITS ALL
Not at all! It is not the black T-shirt black jeans uniform living in an all-white eco-home.
It is a personal journey one has to discover on their own.
We can share and apply ideas if the shoe fits but it ultimately comes down to the individual. What lifestyle decisions they choose to make, what attachments they choose to have our best on what is most important to them.
THE MINIMALIST LABEL BRINGS YOU HAPPINESS
Portraying minimalism in a way that makes it sound like a solution to our happiness can be deceptive.
It gives the impression that taking on the minimalist label will somehow make you happy. joining the stereotype of people in search of a peaceful minimalist nirvana.
Minimalism in itself will not bring you fulfillment. Like CS Lewis said “human history is the long terrible story of a man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
OTHER FORMS OF MINIMALISM
Sustainable minimalism also known as eco minimalism was first used in the architectural space.
The term was first coined by architect Howard Liddell and energy consultant Nick Grant.
The architects used it to refer to houses with minimal impact on the environment.
Today the term has been redefined to mean eco-consciousness and minimalism to create a lifestyle that is both simple and good for the planet.
Sustainable minimalism simply put is approaching minimalism with an environmentally conscious mindset, embracing sustainability through simplification.
Minimalism on its own is inherently sustainable.
When we live simply, focusing on experiences rather than material stuff, making more conscious decisions on what we spend we reject consumerism.
Sustainable minimalism takes the basics of minimalism and transforms them through the lens of being environmentally conscious. It focuses on transformation rather than just minimizing the clutter in your life.
Learn more on simple steps you can take to a more sustainable, simple life.
This was a rather weird term when I came across it.
But yet when considered, it makes a lot of sense.
In this video, Nate explains how digital evolution has stolen a little bit of our creativity and happiness. it opens your mind to the negative side of being too attached to your phone, spending more time in the digital world other than the real world. giving practical steps you can take to de-clutter your digital world.
It’s quite clear that minimalism is not conclusive because there is no point or defining element to having less. There is no right or wrong approach.
Rather each reader ought to discover what this lifestyle uniquely means to them and the benefits of living with less.
Personally, Minimalism means;
LIVING WELL FIRST
My search led to an understanding that at the core of minimalism is really the choice to live well with less.
It is to live well first!
Appreciating the simple things; Going through life knowing we already have enough and we are enough.
Understanding our values and the things that bring us joy, happiness, and fulfillment. Then focusing our time and energy on living out our purpose.
Decluttering our lives from all distractions including vain desires so we can live with purpose
Making sure we don’t fall back into the trap of mindless consumerist habits; Being careful about any purchases or consumptions moving forward.
Being good stewards; Showing gratitude for what we already have. Taking good care of what is already in our possession.
Living a life of clarity, purpose, and intentionality.
It is not an exclusive club; It is for us to explore the idea.
Whether it is a tiny house or mansion, capsule or full wardrobe, we can all embrace the idea of simple living.
A COMPLETE MIND TRANSFORMATION
I believe that Minimalism as a supplementary way of thinking is actually really useful.
The quality of your life does start with an abundant attitude; Knowing that life was created for you to experience and experience it abundantly.
Minimalism can be a lens from which you view the abundance in life so you can start living for eternity.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2 (NIV)
A LIFE TOOL
Just like financial independence and productivity, it’s just a tool and way of thinking that doesn’t necessarily need a label.
It’s an umbrella term, with no point in itself. Its only role is to act as an aid in doing the very things which do have a purpose.
Like any other tool, there is only so far you can go with minimalism before it reaches a point of diminishing returns; Beyond that, it seems like it either becomes obsession or religion.
I would not recommend anyone diving into minimalism, it is something you ease into.
You can start with a declutter challenge like the 30-day challenge to make the process more fun.
Try out different things and see what feels right to you.
There is often an assumption that to make an impact, you must be all in which sets the bar really high.
There is no failure or perfection to minimalism and sustainable living.
Rather we are encouraged to be open to the idea.
Considering that maybe good stewardship of the planet and our environments through consuming less could make this world a much better place; Which in return will serve us better.
Minimalism is not the latest fad, a label or a short-lived craze.
It’s a complete mind transformation and if understood, has the potential to change someone’s life forever…at least it did mine.
DOLORESE .M. MAKHOLO