Minimalism: An Introduction, and How to Think About the Problem of All the Unnecessary Stuff.
What is all this stuff for? This is a question one ought to ask themselves a lot. When I think about this question, it leads me to even more substantial questions about how and why I needed to accumulate all these things in the first place. I am talking about materialistic things. Your extra fifteen pairs of shoes, all the clothes you have and don’t wear, the mountains of books you have but won’t read, all the cutlery you have in your house (as if it’s a restaurant), and every other thing you own in your life that is cluttering your mental and physical space.
But perhaps you love the smell of books and having a collection of books in your study gives you an immense feeling of satisfaction. In that case it is okay to keep your books. This applies to all those things that ‘actually’ add value to your life, but don’t deceive yourself about things that you think are valuable to you when they’re simply clutter.
We need to acknowledge, however, that this capitalistic society is manipulating our interests and is deceiving us into buying a lot of things that we don’t need. Various companies are investing hefty sums of financial resources into researching the exploitable human vulnerabilities aimed at more consumerism.
Some people buy things they don’t need because they’re trying to fill a certain emotional gap. One leaves work on Friday evening all stressed out and tired. On their way home, they decide to pass by a boutique and buy 2 pairs of shoes and proceed to feel good for the rest of the evening. Then they spend the entire Sunday dreading the coming week before they realize it’s the same feeling from Friday evening. The cycle repeats itself over again.
We are now living in the most advertised-to culture in the history of the world. Everywhere you go there is something being sold to you. The billboards on your way to and from work, the ads on Twitter and Facebook, even on hospital websites are persuading you to buy the latest HD TV at a discount. The predictive ads are intelligently designed to precisely know us better than we even know ourselves with the sole goal of getting us to buy more things. Things we don’t need.
In a technologically advanced age where you can purchase something and have it delivered to you in less than thirty minutes, there is no running away from the problem, not when we are still contaminated with the disease of instant gratification. To solve the problem, we need to first understand its source.
The society we live in has found a way of defining success in a materialist way that continues to indulge us into more and more consuming. To most people today, success and achievement means having a lot of stuff. A big house, another car, then another house in the country, or at the beach, and so on. The more stuff one has, the more successful they are perceived to be by society. And since these things require money, money that many of us don’t usually have, we have to work more for these things. As humans, we are conditioned to seek superiority among our peers and so we end up accumulating a lot of stuff that is continuously adding to our discontent by taking the place of things that would give us true happiness and meaning.
We are living in world of updates where every other month an updated version of the product you bought a few months ago is being sold to you (sometimes forcefully), because if you don’t update your device it won’t function as intended any longer. Technology is getting better and better and no one wants to be left behind. The result - we consume even more. As a result, people go into debt and are living hand to mouth, trying to look rich and successful before people they don’t actually love or even care about.
Companies are investing a lot of money into deficit advertisement which is designed to make the consumer feel inadequate if they don’t own a particular product. Most people can’t afford this sort of lifestyle but are worried, “What will people think of me if I drive just this old car and live in this tiny house?” And so we get entangled into the endless maze of more stuff; bigger house, another expensive car, and on, and on.
Most of us are living like that, consuming and buying things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. But there is an alternative way of living life and still be successful, fulfilled, content and happy. It’s a lifestyle some call Minimalism.
Minimalism is about choosing the essential things. The philosophy seeks to find fulfillment of the desire to be enough (and successful) through community, having a purpose and in living a simple, less materialistic and emotionally uncluttered world.
Minimalism is about putting our values in the right things. If we seek to fill our lives with more material things, that is where we place our value. But with things, we always want more and more and can never be satiated. History has taught us the lesson but we never seem to learn from history anyway.
The more important things are family, community, and finding and fulfilling a certain purpose. Having ascertained that there is no fulfillment to be found in materialism, the reader now has a background to base on to answer the question of what gives them fulfillment. There is more on the subject of minimalism at theminimalists.com.