Yesterday, I watched a documentary on Netflix titled Minimalism which looked at how a growing number of people in America have decided to break away from the ‘American dream’ which largely equates success to possessions—without any real evaluation of what really makes an individual happy. Many of the people in the documentary had left their 6 figure paying jobs which made them miserable to live the ‘minimalist lifestyle’–having found content in that.
Personally, I’ve been on a slow journey to becoming a full blown minimalist—some friends think I am already there but I believe I can do more when it comes to minimising how much I have and the sort of importance I place on materialistic possessions.
Currently, I own just two pairs of Topman jeans (I bought two of the same kind so you cannot even see the difference), about 15 white-long sleeve shirts, a few T-shirts and about 5 coloured long-sleeve shirts. I have about 3 pairs of shoes and a lot of boxer shorts.
I mean, the above is my entire wardrobe—if you add my 3 blazers and 3 suits. Even this, I feel they are too many for one person and I will use the next few weeks to get rid of as many as possible. I want to be able to live on 33 items all together.
A few years ago, I used to be a complete IDIOT, just like many people who harbour an unquenchable desire to buy and own more things—with the market continuously ensuring that they are never satisfied with what they already have.
It’s everywhere around us in a form of advertisement: you may have the latest iPhone but within 6 months, another will be on the market, making yours old. As human beings, we have a sickening desire for goods and services—and this insatiable desire is what’s being exploited by the markets around us, which has given birth to consumerism.
For many years, we’ve equated human success and happiness to material things when it’s clear around us that, this is not true and a person’s happiness level does not increase proportionately with an increase in money or material things.
Buying into consumerism does not just end at just purchasing and purchasing more things which do not really add any real value to our lives—it also creates the burden of having to work more and more, so to make more money to keep buying the latest things or clutter your surrounding with material things.
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Let’s look at fashion for instance. Being fashionable is wearing what the market and the profit making experts tell you is in fashion. Therefore, if you own an expensive clothe, it doesn’t matter anymore if it’s out of fashion. Many of us do not stop wearing clothes because they’ve been damaged or have worn out, but because the market tells us those clothes are no more important—out of fashion.
If you examine the above, it’s totally absurd but that’s the sort of lifestyle majority of us admire. The advertisement is everywhere—from Music Videos to Billboards, they tell us what life ought to be and what we ought to have if we want to be regarded as important.
The truth is, no one derives any real or lasting satisfaction from consumerism. When it comes to satisfaction and material things, we are like children who will be content with a toy for only a few days—and then, they get bored with it, in want for the next.
I’ve always considered the idea of minimalism and its accompanying satisfaction as something to do with philosophy, but the documentary I watched which featured prominent neuroscientists like Sam Harris indicated that it’s not just a matter of philosophy; it also borders on science and economics.
Since there’s no direct relationship between happiness or satisfaction and material things, the less of material things will be argued as not having any effect on a person’s happiness or satisfaction. What you need to understand is that, less material things or less desire to acquire material things liberates you from the unending hustle to acquire more, thereby according you with more time, peace of mind and sometimes a healthy lifestyle. Ultimately, you will become happier.
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom” says The Minimalists.
I have friends who work 12 hours a day for 7 days a week and they drive expensive BM’s which they have to pay for them each month as they are on hire purchase. Ask yourself this; what sort of meaningful life would such a person working 12 hours a day for 7 days a week have, all because he wants to drive in the latest car? If such a person gave up on the BMW and got a cheaper car like Toyota, he may have to work 4 or 5 days a week—and be able to sleep more, spend time with his family or do the things which matter to him most with the available two days.
Perhaps, re-echoing what the Dalai Lama is widely reported to have said when he was asked what surprises him the most about humanity would give you an idea as to why minimalism is more plausible and satisfying compared to the unending consumption lives of many people.
He said: “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
There’s a lingering discontent, no matter how many possessions you acquire or material things you buy. You will always want more and it’s when you are busily chasing the more that you miss the most important thing—your LIFE.
Life is not supposed to be this chaotic: you are never meant to have no time for yourself, friends or family. It’s so because you’ve been conscientized through multiple channels to keep chasing material things, even to the detriment of your own health and purpose in life.
While I believe we come into this world without any purpose, I also believe we are here to find a purpose and fulfil it. Therefore, no one can validly argue that his or her own purpose in life is to trade his or her time for the acquisition of a pile of material things which do not actually make him or her content at the end of it.
As The Minimalists put it:
“At first glance, people might think the point of minimalism is only to get rid of material possessions: Eliminating. Jettisoning. Extracting. Detaching. Decluttering. Paring down. Letting go. But that’s a mistake.
True, removing the excess is an important part of the recipe—but it’s just one ingredient. If we’re concerned solely with the stuff, then we’re missing the larger point.
Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less; rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment. More freedom. Clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.
Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which actually aren’t things at all.”
Don’t get it twisted, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong about owning material things, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus who run The Minimalist blog and were featured in the documentary perfectly explained that, the problem “seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.”
Don’t continue to be an IDIOT–a person who’s confused as to what’s really going to make him or her happy. The confusion as to what’s going to make us happy exists because we keep chasing things that wouldn’t ever make us happy—no matter how much more of them we acquire.
Have you ever wondered why rich men and women commit suicide all the time? Life’s beautiful and more meaningful when you make deliberate decisions on what to own and what not to—uninfluenced by society, advertisement or the skewed mentality that happiness and satisfaction dwell somewhere among the lot.
Don’t hold onto things you do not need even if they are just lying around. What’s the point?
Through the concept of minimalism, I worry less about material things today—and I have a lot of freedom to do the things that really matter to me.
Of course, I am still an idiot on so many levels and my girlfriend can write an essay on that, but I’ve become less of an idiot to the market–and through my redefinition of what really matters to me in life and I’ve become happier and content.