In a society dominated by consumerism, Matthew Lu discusses the positives of leading a minimalist lifestyle for both mental wellbeing and the environment.
One of the growing trends in terms of wellbeing and lifestyle recently has been the school of thought known as minimalism.
It is about assessing what exactly is essential to yourself living the best possible life
Minimalism is misconstrued the majority of the time by those that don’t fully understand what it means or mock the lifestyle based on false beliefs. Thus, it is important to address the question, what is a minimalist lifestyle and what does living a minimalist life help to accomplish?
The lifestyle is defined by Minimalists as 'a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.' Therefore, leading a minimalist lifestyle isn’t about living with less than 100 things, not owning a car, not owning a home or a television, or being a young white male from a privileged household.
It is about assessing what exactly is essential to yourself living the best possible life. It’s about getting rid of the excess things that you don’t necessarily need in favour of being able to focus on exactly what is important in your life and maximizing on what you have.
Essentially, the lifestyle is about ridding yourself of the traditional societal outlook that success and happiness is found through material items. Minimalism looks different for everyone and isn’t the exact same from person to person. Finding how extreme you decide to live by minimalist rules is part of the journey.
Slowly trying to transition to a minimalist lifestyle but I a such a hoarder & consumer— LV (@lindaviveross) February 9, 2018
Skepticism is the first thing to come to a lot of people’s minds when discussing radical life changes and this is a good thing. I would be very worried if people didn’t ask questions or fully understand what they’re trying to do.
So, why do such people subscribe to this kind of lifestyle? Well, the answer to that question can be broken down into two factors. The first one being the mental health and wellbeing aspect it helps to promote and the other one being the environmental/socio-economic aspect.
Firstly, it is important to address what exactly material items do to the brain. Fumio Sasaki gave some interesting reasoning for his own choice to become a minimalist in an interview with The Guardian: 'I was always comparing myself with other people who had more or better things, which often made me miserable. I couldn’t focus on anything, and I was always wasting time. Alcohol was my escape, and I didn’t treat women fairly'.
It’s really important to think of how exactly material items have subconsciously changed the way that people view not just themselves but, others around them. Material items have created this culture of comparison that wreaks havoc in terms of mental health.
Comparison is a dangerous tool that has the power to cause serious damage whether that be inflated ego or immense worry and suffering. Comparison creates complexes for people and makes them feel inferior.
By buying less one is helping to create less waste. Less waste means less detrimental effects for the environment
Another aspect that impacts mental health is that material items get in the way. They are so time-consuming that they don't allow people the time to think about the important things in life. It’s too easy to just plop down on a comfy bed with a billion pillows and binge a Netflix series.
Items have clouded people’s objectives and not allowed them to think about the deep questions in life such as, what is my true passion? Am I really doing all I can with my life so that I can be happy?
By having less items, and subscribing to the minimalist lifestyle, people are able to do exactly this and more. 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.'
If the mental aspects aren’t enough to help convince people of the pros of a minimalist lifestyle, there are also environmental concerns and socio-economic impacts that are addressed through the minimalism.
Buy less. Consume less. Use less. Waste less.— nickgerbino (@nickgerbino) February 13, 2018
Firstly, by following the simple principle that if one is buying less and participating less in the consumerist culture of modern day society then they’re bound to be spending less money to live. So, minimalist living also helps those that may not have as much wiggle room when it comes to finances.
Secondly, it helps the environment to live a minimalist lifestyle! By buying less one is helping to create less waste. Less waste means less detrimental effects for the environment. By buying less and assessing exactly what is a necessity versus something that you may not need helps in numerous ways.
It is really important that society doesn’t brush off something that could potentially help not just themselves but, also the environment and the world
For example, everything has a carbon footprint and a water footprint. By buying less products a person is effectively cutting down on their footprints and the overall negative impacts on the environment. It’s simple economics, the less demand the less supply that will be generated. Being a minimalist brings down the supply that businesses need and therefore reduce the amount of destruction they cause to the environment in creating their products.
There are a lot of pros to a minimalist lifestyle. It is really important that society doesn’t brush off something that could potentially help not just themselves but, also the environment and the world.
Minimalism is something that has been twisted and misconstrued to by the media to the point that people aren’t educated as to what it means or the positive impacts it can have given the chance. Minimalism is a viable tool for mental health and the environment and it’s important that people are made aware.
Featured image: Unsplash / Scott Webb