Lately, we have been asked to custom build a few pieces of furniture in a minimalist style. The pared down style has become very popular and it has been influencing our lifestyle trends for some time. It can be seen in our new housing developments that offer home decor in white, grey and black or soft natural monotones and in our simplified landscaping with a lot of stones and pavings and textured plants, and in our city’s furniture stores. It is interesting to look at why our people are embracing this style.
People often believe minimalism comes directly from Buddhist and Feng Shui teachings, but actually, many other historical figures lived simply as a means to an end. Socrates was a minimalist as was Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, Paul the Apostle, St Francis of Assisi and all those who lived in monasteries and convents. More recently, famous minimalists include Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, and Steve Jobs.
In modern times, the sixties hippies called for simplicity, however, this was followed by a blow out in greed in the eighties and nineties that has cost the next generation. It is our young that are developing a much stronger moral conscience about the planet in light of what has happened before them.
In marches the minimalist trend, as an antidote to consumerism and a wonderful way to take a stand against huge corporations. Hundreds of blogs have been started solely devoted to helping us to simplify our lives and the best of them have millions of readers. Usually, the blogs contain a central theme such as financial freedom, healthy habits, volunteering, tiny homes, travel, or home management. And while the philosophy has many forms, proponents more or less agree on the benefits as they are fairly logical cause and effect relationship.
LESS STUFF MEANS…
1. Less cleaning. Less stuff means less stuff to clean and organize and then cleaning itself is easier because you don’t have to lift things before you clean.
2. Less decisions. There are endless applications for this, but one example is if you reduce your wardrobe size, you will have means less outfits to choose from. This is an argument for uniform but many voluntarily simplify their wardrobes; Barack Obama wore the same blue or grey jacket every day while in office and Mark Zuckerberg wears a simple grey t-shirt.
3. Less waste. Again, this has applications in most areas of our lives. Let’s take cooking for example. Cooking simpler recipes alone means cutting back on the number of ingredients that need to be bought which means there is a smaller grocery bill and less packaging to be thrown out.
4. Less tidying. Some home managers with children will testify to the fact that they just seem to be putting things away all day which is a frustrating way to spend our lives. Less stuff means less tidying and more time for going to the park, the bush or the beach.
5. Less distractions. Less choices in what to do means we can focus on our priorities with less temptations. Minimalists advocate doing one thing at a time because constant considerations leads to restlessness and anxiousness.
6. More focus. Many simple life experts suggest picking three major goals instead of many. Others say no more than two projects at a time. Simplifying goals leads to efficiency and streamlines your life to achieve them more quickly.
7. More savings. American minimalists have often begun their journey because of financial problems where credit card debt got out of control and then they begin to figure out methods to help them get ahead. Once debt is cleared, the same methods are used to save money, which in turn buys freedom.
8. More room. There is the obvious physical component of having less frustration because there is less stuff in our environment to work around but also in a scheduling sense we have more room for leisure.
9. More charity. As we begin to declutter and discover what is a new level of ‘enough’ we begin to think about those around us who don’t have enough. Our hearts become softer and we are kinder and more disposed to helping those with less. Furthermore, as we are not focused on purely material goals as much we will begin to think about what we can do to help our society more.
10. More peace. With less distractions and a less cluttered schedule, we have the energy and efficiency to build a life that allows us more time for rest and solitude creating inner harmony, balance and peace. And as we consider those around us more, we have more peace as a result of a clearer conscience that comes from living a life of purpose.
As they say, minimalism is for the elite; for people who live in countries that have their material needs and greeds met. However, it is our greed that is making us sick and unhappy. Last year, a guest speaker from India came to speak in Christchurch. She was very grateful for the work a group of Christchurch families are doing in Kolkata, one of the poorest spots in the world. Looking out to the audience, she said “We don’t have much as you, but do you know what we have that you don’t? We have COMMUNITY.” While here, she was witnessing our walled in housing subdivisions and our elderly residential homes and impersonal shopping malls and sensed with a compassionate burden what we are lacking.