A mid-20th Century artistic movement has inspired design and architecture and is also a lifestyle philosophy adopted by many. The concept of minimalism can be traced right back through to Catholic nuns and Buddhist monks, taking on a variety of forms across different periods and cultures.
At A Good Company, we’re committed to buying less stuff and helping to save the planet through conscious consumerism. Some could call it a kind of minimalism.
As our Swedish readership will be aware, there’s a Swedish term, lagom, which roughly translates to English as “in moderation”.
In today’s world that could also represent a kind of minimalism.
The image conjured when one thinks of minimalism is probably white or neutral colour palettes, empty spaces and an absence of possessions.
To some extent that’s true. But, it goes beyond that, and not all minimalists live in tiny houses (they’re pretty cool though) or reduce themselves to 100 worldly possessions.
We thought it would be fun to explore the concept and examine how it can lead to a happier life for us and the planet.
In a culture in which excessive materialism is admired in many quarters as a measure of success and happiness, assisted by a relentless media and advertising industry, it can be easy to over-consume.
It’s thought that the average American owns 120 items of clothing, yet only wears 20% of them. You may have those clothes hanging unworn with the tags still on (guilty).
In worst-case scenarios people will live beyond their means, racking up large amounts of debt in order to keep on the consumer treadmill. As well as financial and psychological harm, all this consumption has dire environmental consequences.
Taking fashion as an example, the rise of fast fashion means that today the industry contributes to 10% of global CO2 emissions and is the second-largest consumer of water. To think that the majority of it goes unworn or ends up in a landfill.
As a counter to all this, the main tenet of minimalism is to reduce consumerism and seek happiness elsewhere.
Many are fortunate enough to choose how to live their lives, what to buy and how much of it. Rather than trying to constantly accumulate more stuff, minimalists aim to declutter their lives and keep only the things they really need and cherish.
“Embracing minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess. It steps off the treadmill of consumerism and dares to seek happiness elsewhere.”
– Joshua Becker
Proponents of this, such as Joshua Becker quoted above, say it results in a simpler life, creating more room for happiness from other sources, for example in family and relationships.
Minimalism can come in a variety of flavours. Recently we interviewed a couple who’d chosen to build themselves a tiny house to live in.
The reason: a simpler, more sustainable life (the house will be made from predominantly recycled materials) with less debt and the added benefit of being able to live closer to nature.
Perhaps it’s not feasible for most of us to go quite as far as that, but it is easy to see the benefits of this way of thinking from a psychological, financial and environmental perspective.
Psychological as you’re no longer equating material possessions with happiness (so you’re kind of already rich in a way).
Financial because you’re buying less (actually richer).
Certainly environmental because by consuming less you’re reducing your impact on the planet (which could actually save us all money in the long run).
A framework for change
Minimalism doesn’t have to be about giving up your worldly possessions and living like a monk. Joshua Becker still has a house and car, as do many famous minimalists.
Yes, reducing consumption is part of it, but it’s also about living to your means, taking a considered or ‘intentional’ approach to life, cherishing what you already have and being conscious of how your actions impact the world around you.
There are a number of frameworks for living a more minimal life for yourself and the planet, but how you choose to approach it depends on your personal situation and what you’re setting out to achieve. As a philosophy, it’s certainly useful.
Some inspiration for a minimalist lifestyle:
1. Becoming minimalist by Joshua Becker (mentioned above)
2. The Minimalists - two friends who produce regular blog articles and podcasts about minimalist lifestyle
3. The KonMari Method - a way to declutter your life on a number of levels
4. @minimalismlife - a popular Instagram account that provides daily inspiration
5. The Longing for Less - a practical guide to living with minimal and the “minimialism of ideas of things”