Minimalism: the new lifestyle changing our daily lives
Living with less but having a better lifestyle, this is the philosophy behind minimalism. But, how do you become a minimalist? What are the different steps to attain a minimalist lifestyle and a minimalist household? What are the advantages and benefits of following a minimalist lifestyle? Read on to find out the answers, and more!
Minimalism: Meaning and definition
Minimalism can be defined in many ways, but at its core is one simple idea and philosophy: removing anything that is superfluous or distracting. The term has been used not just in the design world, but also in the arts and music sectors in which paintings, pictures and pieces of music are best described as deliberately containing the most basic and simplest features to avoid distracting the audience.
The basic foundations of minimalism are a reduction in consumption. Being a minimalist is, therefore, to opt to consume less and concentrate only on the essentials.
Although our consumer-driven society has improved the lives of Britons, this lifestyle has also had negative effects on the environment, such as food waste, depletion of natural resources, pollution and the accumulation of waste. For this reason, minimalism challenges this economic model and proposes a more sustainable approach to consumption.
What is a digital minimalism?Coined by the author Cal Newport in his book of the same name, "digital minimalism" refers to an emerging philosophy in which people, either individuals or groups, are able to leave behind the noise and distractions that technology creates today. Examples include the ability to go for a night out with friends and not look at your phone throughout an entire meal, or not having a fear of missing out if you are not constantly connected to social media. An example of large groups of people turning their backs on digital technology is Amish farmers in the US.
In the UK, and indeed across the world, as we become more aware of the impact of climate change and the contribution of humans towards it, we are witnessing a change in consumer habits where consumers seek a more reasonable and sustainable model of consumption to live a better life and limit their impact on the environment. This is the reason behind the appearance of a sharing economy.
What is a sharing economy?A sharing economy is based on the exchange, sharing and collaboration between individuals of goods, services, resources, time or knowledge, with or without monetary exchange, through dedicated platforms. As well as saving money, this reduces the environmental impact of individuals by allowing them to fight against waste and excessive consumption.
In addition to the evident gain in space, being a minimalist also means saving money, as this lifestyle encourages lower spending habits.
Created in Japan, minimalism is a movement which has revolutionised the lifestyle of many, including Fumio Sasaki.
Considered one of the leaders of the minimalist movement in Japan, Fumio Sasaki is a man in his 40s who decided to change his life by getting rid of all that was not strictly essential to him. He currently lives in Tokyo in a very sombre, small apartment and thanks to this minimalist lifestyle, would only take a few minutes to move house.
In 2017, he published a practical guide "Goodbye, things: on minimalist living" in which he describes his experiences and encourages readers to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. According to him, minimalism is “a lifestyle in which you limit what you possess to the absolute minimum of what you require to live.”
Marie Kondo, famous among other things for her method of folding clothes, has also appeared in this area. Her folding method consists of folding clothes in a way that considerably reduces their volume and allows for space-saving in closets.
Minimalism art movement
A new trend of contemporary art came about as a result of this lifestyle at the start of the 60s, also called minimalism, which used simple and pure shapes and forms. Originating in New York, the minimalist art movement removed dramatic aspects from their work, for example overt symbolism or emotional content. Famous minimalism artists include Frank Stella, Robert Morris and Agnes Martin.
Minimalism in music
Also emerging from the US around the same time was minimal music, a subgenre of classic music. Similar to the art movement, the idea behind it was to simplify the music. Some of the key elements of minimal music, therefore, include repetition, very subtle rhythmic changes, and steady pulses. Famous composers and musicians include British composers Gavin Bryars and Michael Nyman, as well as American musicians Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley.
How to be a minimalist
Becoming a minimalist implies adopting a new lifestyle, a new way of living and consuming. It starts with clearing and organising one’s house and then focusing on one’s free time and relationships. There are many advantages to adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Some of the main benefits include:
- Improved mental health, mindfulness and wellbeing: Having fewer items allows you to focus on the most important aspects of your life. Going through the process of getting rid of material belongings, perhaps to recycle them, is also a rewarding exercise in itself and helps free the mind;
- Save money: You’ll buy less stuff to fill your home, which means saving more money! And should you wish to spend it, you can do so on things you deem more worthwhile such as experiences with family and friends;
- Good for the environment: A minimalist lifestyle means creating less waste, using fewer of the world’s natural resources, and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - all positives for the health of our planet.
6 steps to attain a minimalist lifestyle
6 steps to become a minimalist and stick with it:
- Becoming aware and knowledgeable about minimalism;
- Reviewing one’s life: What kind of a consumer are we?;
- Being conscious of your attachments to things: What place do these objects have in our lives? Do they make us happy? Are all those we possess essential?;
- Clearing your house and organising it;
- Lightening your calendar and taking time for one’s self;
- Living and adopting a minimalist lifestyle and resisting the urge to buy.
Minimalism tips: How to decorate your home?
Minimalist design and decor is a style which is characterized by simplifying to the maximum, ridding oneself of the superfluous and reducing decor to the essentials.
If you don’t know where to begin, here are some ideas to decorate like a minimalist:
- Few objects and pieces of furniture;
- Simple furniture;
- Hidden storage;
- Open spaces which flow;
- Eliminating walls;
- Textures such as wood, stone, ceramic or wicker;
- Neutral and monochromatic colours;
- Basic shapes such as squares and rectangles, and using horizontal, vertical diagonal, zig zag and curved lines.
As the years go by, we tend to accumulate things. In order to have a minimalist house, it is necessary to empty one’s house and be able to maintain an organised and tidy interior. With a minimalist house, cleaning is simpler and the space brings calm and serenity.
What is a tiny house?The "tiny house" movement initially took off in the US, Australia, and New Zealand in the financial crisis of 2008, but has since spread across the world. According to a report by the Financial Times, in the UK, there is a 6,000 strong community of people living in tiny houses. They are “mini" environmentally-friendly houses made of wood that are usually mounted on a trailer to be transportable. Due to their simplicity, they offer a minimalist and environmentally-friendly way of life to their owners.
“Minimalism: Less is now”, the Netflix documentary
Would we be willing to get rid of our memories to live with less but better? This is the question posed by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus in their documentary produced by Netflix.
In this documentary, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, followers of the minimalist movement, founders of the website theminimalists.com, and authors of the book "Minimalism: Live a meaningful life", show through different interviews the benefits of living above consumerism.
Consumerism and minimalismMinimalism arose as a movement against excessive consumerism. In fact, the current society of consumerism pushes us to consume more and more, up until the point that we buy things we don’t need. This is called consumerism, a lifestyle based on consumption.
Businesspeople, scientists, psychologists, journalists, sociologists and designers alike intervene in this documentary describing their experiences and confirming that unbridled consumerism does not generate anything other than feelings of dissatisfaction.
In the end, the message of this documentary is that consumerism is an addiction and one can be happy with what one needs.
Less is more.