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I think that before we get into this topic it’s important to define what minimalism actually is instead of letting ourselves succumb to misinformation or an easily morphed definition.
1. 1 : a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity
I think it’s imperative to note that the definition of minimalism itself is just as sparse as the philosophy behind it, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In this day and age, we have transformed the definition from primarily working in favour of art to becoming a template we live our lives by. The minimalism I have been exposed to in a world of Instagram and Pinterest seems somewhat artificial to me—pandering to an audience that still wants to consume but put on airs of carelessness. What’s worse than the physical manifestation of “I woke up like this”, but clearly didn’t? I get it; no one wants to look like they try too hard, but some effort still needs to be made to look good. This is where I think the disconnect lies between the various definitions of minimalism and how they influence us on a daily basis.
The reason I’ve suddenly become aware of this fairly contemporary philosophy is because I watched the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things where two friends discuss their journey to owning less but making life mean more. I watched this documentary on my brand new Smart TV. Should I pop in the definition of irony or just leave it at that? I guess a definition isn’t really needed because I’m sure all of us experience juxtapositions like that every day.
This documentary brings light the notion that money does not bring you happiness despite how many advertisements or sales people tell you otherwise. However, the notion of consumerism is not necessarily a bad thing. Only when it’s used for bad purposes can it cause damage, like advertising to young children and creating a generation that wants more but is in need of less. Less food, less clothes, less mindless observing of screens and scrolling through apps. Now that Christmas has just passed, this all seems that much more real to me and the visions of all the stupid things I’ve spent money on just to provide me a quick fix of happiness or satisfaction plague my mind like when you randomly remember and awkward encounter from 5th grade and involuntarily cringe.
Famous Instagram stars or Youtubers will spit out the word minimalism not like a philosophy, but rather a new aesthetic or fad to be used up until it is no longer relevant. Just because everything in your apartment is black and white does not mean you live a minimalist life. Just because you buy vintage or used clothes every other week does not mean you’re not a consumer. We are bred to be consumers and there’s nothing wrong with that unless it’s taken to the extreme where what we own is more important than who we have in our lives. I’m going to be honest and say that I’m one of those people. I didn’t use to be, though. And this is where my anger lies—in the fact that I’ve been changed by a society much different than the one I grew up in. Half my life I only had my imagination to keep me interested and now I can’t seem to move for stimulants. Flashing screens, new pictures, rapidly changing trends.
I hope not to be like this in 2017, which is why I’ve decided to outline a few of the reasons that have stopped me from living a more minimalistic life. Perhaps writing out my insecurities will help me realize them fully, or help anyone else struggling with the same moral dilemma.
Why I can’t achieve minimalism(...yet):
1) I attribute meaning to material objects. They are not who I am, but rather what I like and my tastes are always changing.
2) I feel comfort in being surrounded by objects, perhaps because I fear I will be bored or boring without them. Or that I will lose a piece of myself if they are thrown out.
3) I was raised by the “American Dream” mentality (buying more to make more, spending as a status symbol, happiness in material goods)
4) FOMO. This is probably the most relatable as smart phones are constantly keeping us in the loop. What if I miss the trend of a new meme because I haven’t looked at my phone in 2 hours?!
5) I worry about running out of what I need so I tend to buy too much to compensate.
One of my goals for 2017 is to practice being a bit more deliberate and purposeful when it comes to what I own or what I let into my life. This includes people and work opportunities. There’s no point working an unsatisfying job if all we get out of it is money.
How do you feel about minimalism?