You likely have your own preconceived ideas of minimalism. You likely imagine a spartan, Japanese inspired living space, decorated in neutral tones. There’s likely a modest sofa, a tidy rig, an armchair or perhaps just a beanbag… And little else. Perhaps there are some incense sticks filling the room with a smoky yet mellow fragrance or perhaps there’s just a small bowl of essential oils slowly diffusing their scent around the room. This may appeal to you on a visual level, or it may not. But even if this mode of decoration isn’t your cup of soothing oolong tea, it’s hard to discount the serenity of that mental image. That’s because minimalism is so much more than a design trend. It’s a philosophy and a panacea to the stressful and fundamentally unfulfilling life that consumer capitalism can push us towards if we’re not careful.
Take yourself out for a walk down the high street of any major conurbation and what do you see? You’ll see people scurrying from store to store loading up on clothes, shoes, consumer electronics, blu ray discs and homewares. It’s all cool stuff… But just how happy do they look?
Full disclosure: This is not a blog on the evils of consumer capitalism
Don’t get me wrong. Nice things are nice. Shopping can be fun. Sometimes buying something new is fun and rewarding… If it’s something we actually need. Shopping appeals to our deeply seated hunter / gatherer instinct, we’re psychologically predisposed to respond positively to the acquisition of things that could have a positive impact on our lives. That’s why you see people get so competitive (sometimes with horrible consequences) around the Black Friday sales. The act of shopping brings out something primal in us, and provides a base satisfaction and a fleeting high. The trouble is that the fleeting high is just that… fleeting. It’s astonishing how quickly our new things feel old. Their novelty wears off and before we know it we’re stuffing them into a drawer or cupboard somewhere before stepping out to chase that elusive high once again.
Shopping is not a leisure activity
I’m not sure when shopping became a leisure activity, something that people do for its own sake whether you actually need anything or not. It can seem like the act of buying itself has replaced other leisure activities like going to the movies or the theatre, meeting friends for lunch or a coffee date or simply going for a nice long walk. Sure, there’s an argument that shopping is good because it stimulates economic growth (in theory, it depends who you buy from and their attitude to tax), but shopping for its own sake has numerous negative consequences.
For starters shopping can be addictive. It can cause us to hop out day after day and amass stuff that doesn’t enrich our lives in any way simply for the thrill of the hunt. This can lead us to use up our disposable income, max out credit cards and dig ourselves deeper and deeper into debt. Before we know it we have a home full of stuff that we can hardly bear to look at because of the enslavement to debt that it represents.
The things you own end up owning you
Thus, the things you own can, rather than enriching your life, wind up stifling it. Firstly, the acquisition of possessions as a recreational activity inevitably leads to clutter. It’s easy to underestimate the psychological impact that clutter has but even though it’s fairly innocuous as a concept, it can take its toll on our psyche when we see it in our home day after day. We can feel beholden to or even enslaved by the things we own. We have a cookcase groaning with books that we never have time to read, a DVD cabinet stuffed with movies that we never have time to watch (especially when there’s so much good stuff on Netflix), and a wardrobe full of clothes that we can’t bring ourselves to part with.
All of those items of clothing that we convince ourselves that we still need because maybe we’ll fit into it someday or maybe fashion will swing around so that it’ll be cool again, all those books that we’ll definitely get around to reading at some point, it takes a toll on us whether we’re aware of it or not. Every unnecessary product in the home invites a tiny little bit of stress into our lives. It’s time to rid ourselves of this stress by embracing minimalism.
You don’t need to throw out everything you own to feel enlightened. As William Morris once said you should keep only that which you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Not only will you whittle down your possessions so that your home only contains things that bring you pleasure, you’ll also help yourself out by bringing some money in, too! There are lots of ways to make money on everything from your unwatched movies to textbooks from your college years that have long since ceased to be useful to you. Head on over to Buybackexpress.com to learn more about selling your old college textbooks. If you’re looking to unload a lot of your books, DVDs etc. in bulk, this can be a great way to de-clutter your home fast, or if you have a little more patience there’s always eBay, Amazon and even Facebook marketplace if you want to sell your stuff locally.
Not only will this give you the peace of mind and serenity that come with a clutter free home, you’ll make back some of the money that you’ve spent enabling you to either pay back a sizeable portion of your debts or take your family for a day out doing anything but shopping.
Quantity vs value
If you have a penchant for hoarding, it can be hard to know what to keep and what to lose. You need to be ruthless and honest with yourself. Be honest with yourself in terms of the value of each object. This will encourage you to think of material possessions in terms of the value that they bring to your life rather than treating them all as indispensable merely because they exist.