The concept of minimalism might sound like a negative case of just losing your precious stuff… However, when I carried out an exercise, courtesy of Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus (the minimalist guys), I found that a huge percentage of my stuff was not adding value to my life… I have some clothes I love, I mean like a jacket I wear every other day in the winter, for walks or trips to the pub, I think it looks good and it now has sentimental and historical value, so I’m keeping it. I also have three other winter jackets that never get worn, and have proven, unquestionably, to be a waste of money… so the idea is not, according to Fields-Milburn and Nicodemus, to simply do without material possessions but rather to really assess the value possessions bring and keep only the truly life-enhancing ones, to appreciate them probably even more than we do currently and both slough off the waste at the same time as consuming much more thoughtfully.
How much of the stuff that we buy truly adds value to our lives? A book you read and keep reading? (I have a copy of 101 Dalmatians published in 1937 and owned by my mum and I’m keeping it), a few other books I revisit and will keep, but there are hundreds I can pass on to someone else. It’s not just books, it’s possessions, see minimalizing as a way of connecting what really adds value to your life. If you use the treadmill in your garage (rowing machine under the stairs) consistently/regularly and it helps you keep fit great! But does it? When do you use it? Do you ever use it?
On the same note when I buy things I sometimes do so impulsively (because sometimes I can) but what for? What hole in the soul am I filling with stuff? What purpose is it fulfilling or what purpose am I fulfilling by buying it? I think it probably works in the same way as a chocolate binge… a salve to help me feel a little better when times are down. Indeed research (Kang et al, 2021) tends to support this notion, that initially we may feel some elation from purchases; in a situation that is similar to the elation from eating a whole packet of chocolate biscuits, but in both cases, there are often accompanying feelings of anxiety and guilt and quite possibly an increased risk of depression. Disposing of un-needed items, however, may well be accompanied by feelings of elation, from either shedding yourself of the burden of ‘needing’ to have or else the altruism which results from doing good because we either give stuff to others or just behave in a more socially responsible manner.
Minimalism, by the way, should not be an attempt to tell someone who has nothing, that they don’t need much… poverty is a cripling, damaging cause of physical and mental ill-health. Poverty is not a lifestyle choice. Minimalism, by contrast, really is a rallying cry to those people who are the over-consumers (me for example) and of course maximalism is a cause of major psychological distress…
Fields Millburn J and Nicodemus R (2021) Love People Use Things Because the Opposite Never Works Hachette Australia.
Kang, J., Martinez, C. M. J., & Johnson, C. (2021). Minimalism as a sustainable lifestyle: Its behavioral representations and contributions to emotional well-being. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 27, 802-813.