Minimalism is something that I’ve recently committed myself to. After years of struggling with anxiety and depression at various intensities (with therapy and medication helping only a little), I came across a documentary called “Minimalism” – made by The Minimalists, who run a website of the same name and have written several books on the subject – and realised that perhaps it was the things in my life, and what was absent from it, that was stopping me from making progress and moving forward.
Am I spending too much time worrying about my possessions, my outfits and what people thought of me? Am I spending too much money on material goods, when I could be spending it on experiences? These are the kinds of questions minimalism virgins (yes, I did just make that name up) ask themselves. It’s quite a daunting concept at first, but it’s actually super simple.
Minimalism is an alien concept to our society, where more is more and you must have more. According to recent research, in the UK we see an average of over 250-3500 daily advertising messages. That’s a wide range I know, but it’s actually incredibly difficult to figure out the exact figure when taking into account fleeting moments, where we live, logos, sponsored YouTube videos, magazine advertorials and the like. Anyway, I probably see more because I work right next to Oxford Street. If you were to tell someone in 1950 those numbers, they would be shocked and would not believe you. I wouldn’t probably believe you if I hadn’t look it up myself.
Nowadays we don’t even notice when we’re being bombarded with advertising. Almost every waking minute we are smacked in the face (metaphorically, of course – I hope) with advertising messages. “Look at me! You know you want to buy me! You need me! If you don’t buy me you won’t be happy!” those adverts scream, hoping to grab our attention for longer than a millisecond and coax us inside the shop or their website to buy said very-very-important-thing-that-we-must-have.
These advertisements are all loud, brash and invasive, desperately vying for our attention, attempting to sell the us dream of what could happen if we owned something we didn’t need.
Imagine a world where we possess only what were truly need and value, where advertising didn’t exist, and where we spent our time with people we really love and doing things we really like to do, rather than attending to our stuff that we don’t actually want and working in jobs we don’t like so we can afford this stuff. That’s what I think the ultimate minimalist dream is.
To be a minimalist you don’t have to get rid of everything in your life, you just keep the things that add value to your life. It’s that easy. It’s not about owning nothing, it’s about owning and using things that you enjoy and find a purpose for.
As The Minimalists say, “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.” That’s something I really like the sound of.
As minimalism requires a lifestyle overhaul for some people – including me – you can’t expect yourself to get there within a week. It takes time to adjust your thinking and your lifestyle. I’ve started by getting rid of clothes that I didn’t even know I had. I just got up one morning, sifted through my wardrobe and dumped everything I didn’t even remember buying into a bin bag to give to charity. I’m starting small, and taking it one step at a time.
It’s tough when we live in a world where advertising is coming at us all day, every day, and when our material positions identify and assign us our worth. We’re told we need a bigger house, a bigger car and more stuff to make us happy. It’s the American Dream (I know I live in the UK, but we’ve adopted our own British Dream and it’s identical). And yet, once we have these things, we still want more. We’re being coaxed towards a happiness that we’re told we can buy, but that we never reach. When you realise that this stuff is just that – stuff – all of the shiny glimmers fade away and the items themselves become meaningless unless it has a value or a purpose.
Minimalism has endless benefits, but from my research there are a few things that are true for everyone; it allows you to eliminate discontent, focus on the positives, reclaim time, live in the moment, experience real freedom, create more and consume less, get rid of excess stuff and discover purpose in life.
The purpose of minimalism is finding out what really matters, and what is really important to us. Stuff isn’t important – people, places and experiences are.
Below, I’ve linked a couple of YouTube videos that I found really informative and inspiring:
You can also read TheMinimalists.com for a lot more in depth information – their blog/essay archives are linked here.