Sick of consumerism?
Not into trashing the planet and buying stuff that you don’t need which immediately falls apart at discount stores?
Hate the idea of sweatshops and junk food and cruelty?
You might just be a minimalist!
I first heard about minimalism when I read a book years ago called Affluenza. At the time, I was living in a big city and spending every cent I had buying more stuff, but I didn’t know why. I was unhappy too but I didn’t know why.
I was trying to create my life in the image of something perfect – something other that what I was and what I had. Buying more stuff – which was supposed to be the solution – just resulted in more clutter and less happiness.
Oh, and more debt.
Affluenza is described in the book of that name as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more“. I had a bad, bad case of it, and felt the need to get away.
I sold most of what I had and moved countries, yet the clutter followed me, along with the unhappiness. I learned you can’t run away from your problems. I also learned that different stuff wasn’t the solution to my unhappiness.
I concluded that the problem had to be me.
It was only years later that I finally recognised the real lesson within the pages of the book: that more stuff won’t ever make anyone happy. I started a serious move towards minimalism three years ago and shifted away from my addiction to accumulating stuff, finally beginning to make peace with who I am.
Consumerism and minimalism
Our society is trapped in a spiral of consumerism, debt and misery. How far each person is trapped differs, but it is certain that worldwide levels of depression and debt have never been higher, despite affluence being higher than ever.
In short, our stuff isn’t making us happy.
General happiness levels were higher during the two world wars. Just think about that for a minute. That’s how bad a spot we’re in right now. Something is seriously wrong.
Our lifestyle of overload in overdrive is making us obese, sick, stressed, overworked, debt-ridden and miserable.
So here’s what I discovered, after trying to live the perfect life, with the perfect stuff, at the perfect weight, with the perfect home and perfect clothes: Perfect doesn’t exist.
“Perfect” is a mirage. Just when you reach out to touch it, it shifts and changes, moves further away. As long as we try to base our happiness on stuff, and on our image, we’ll fail.
Even the celebrities don’t feel perfect. They’re rushing towards the next best thing, even faster and more crazily than the rest of us. They’re stuck on the mouse wheel, going nowhere for no purpose ten times faster.
That’s the trick of consumerism. Up to date right now? Give a month or so and the next trend will be in, or the next iPhone, or the next bigger flat screen TV, and we will be out of date, rushing like a mad thing to catch up.
More credit, more debt, the spiral downwards continues…
Minimalism changes everything. It’s the green flashing EXIT sign, the way out, if we want it to be.
The only way to win the consumerist game is to stop being a consumerist. Because there is no way to keep up-to-date without keeping up-to-debt.
So sit down and take a breath. Think about the type of person you want to be. Think about the things you want to do with your life – about the footprints you wish to leave behind for the world.
Do you really want to leave behind piles of sweatshop clothing that fell apart after a few wears and caused untold misery? Is that what you want for your epitaph?
Do you really want to leave behind piles of electronic waste because everything you bought was built with planned obsolescence?
Do you want to live on McJunk food that pays good people poor wages, and supports an obesity and diabetes epidemic in our population?
Who do you want to be?
When we buy less, we can be choosy. Instead of buying ten cheap t-shirts that will fall apart in weeks and were made in shocking conditions overseas, we can buy two or three good ones that last longer, and are made locally and sustainably.
Instead of buying that latest flat screen TV, maybe we can be happy with the old box TV we still have which is perfectly fine.
Maybe instead of buying junk jewellery, we can wear an inherited vintage piece that has a history with pride.
Minimalism starts with questioning what we actually need, and ends with finding an answer to suit ourselves, not society, or fashion, or anyone else. There’s no one right way to do minimalism – it’s whatever works for you. Some minimalists travel the world with just 51 items to their name, while others live in Dunedin with kids (*waves*), and are a work in progress, still finding their own level of belongings.
Do what works for you. Find your own path. Find the amount of belongings that work for you. The one thing all minimalists have in common is, they’re setting their own rules. They’re in charge. They’re finding their happiness in life, not in stuff. That’s what matters.
So do you think you might be minimalist? Take a look at your life, examine it. Find out. But if you think you’d like your life to be a journey with less stuff and more meaning, you just might be!