Minimalism: Owning Less to Have More Contentment, Freedom

Keoni Cabral

As humans living in a society inundated by technology, social media, news briefs, advertising and stress, no wonder our rates of consumption — physically and digitally — are so high.

Every day, we make purchases or use items we previously purchased. Some of those purchases are made for necessities, but many are merely made for materialistic desires.

We grew up watching our predecessors embark on the “pursuit of happiness,” whatever that might be, and that incessant search has been instilled in our generation.

Embedded in our minds is the idea that we must do well in school to land well-paying jobs that will help us buy products, which will supposedly bring us happiness.

The truth is, those purchased items won’t bring you happiness — at least not for long.

Once a company releases a trendier, sleeker, newer version, the product that once brought you happiness feels like a source of dissatisfaction.

Emotions, experiences, memories and people are priceless. They cannot be replaced, updated, remodeled or made faster at processing more information. You won’t see them plastered on mannequins with a sign reading, “Hottest summer trends now!”

Humans have evolved as creatures of habit, and as creatures hoping to continuously improve ourselves and our societal, familial, financial and psychological circumstances.

Over time, we have been taught to consume whatever will supposedly help improve our circumstances, and as a result, we spend little time reflecting on what that consumption actually means.

A majority of the objects we have in our homes, bags and closets are merely wants, not needs.

Owning 30 pairs of shoes doesn’t make much sense when you can only wear one pair at a time. The same concept applies for socks, jeans and shirts.

We impulsively buy a material good because our best friend convinced us to do so, or an advertisement in a magazine promised us that buying it would make us feel cooler and, ultimately, more likeable.

With 300,000 items in the average American home, the size of the American household has nearly tripled over the past 50 years, according to Clear Path, a Los Angeles-based company founded by Dr. Regina Lark, who is also a Certified Professional Organizer.

We are at the point where households have more television sets than they have people.

We have become humans of maximization, not minimalism. We are materialistic, but the farthest thing from practicing materialism, which is the practice of actually valuing an item’s material composition, according to psychologist and sociologist Juliet Schor.

Most of the time, we want and buy products based on their perceived value, not their actual quality.

A study conducted by the U.S. Commerce Department indicated that in 2017, consumers will spend $1.2 trillion on nonessential items.

If your goals in life are to travel the world, make everlasting memories with the ones you love and avoid spending hours at work to pay for objects you don’t truly need, then you should consider living a minimalist lifestyle.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, coauthors and public speakers known as “The Minimalists,” explained that, “Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself; thus, it’s up to you to determine what is necessary and what is superfluous in your life.”

Both Millburn and Nicodemus, along with nearly 4 million of their newly converted “minimalistic followers,” agree that living minimalistically has helped them live in the moment, discover purpose in their lives, experience real freedom and go beyond themselves to contribute to society.

There is nothing wrong or immoral with wanting to have material things. For many, some material possessions provide a sense of sentimental value, symbolizing moments of pride, accomplishment and discipline.

But, these sentimental items often end up in the trash after people decide to declutter their homes to make room for more things.

The issue lies in defining our self-worth by those products and letting them control our lives.

Next time you’re overcome by the urge to buy something, ask yourself what purpose that item will actually serve.

Do you already own something similar? Would purchasing the new item make the other products you already own seem obsolete? Does the urge to buy the item stem from emotional discontent rather than a true need for it?

Ask yourself where you think that item will end up in six months, one year or even five years. Will it contribute to the exponential growth of landfills? Will it be tossed into a developing nation to decompose and add to toxic mercury, arsenic, lead and carbon emissions?

The choice between irresponsibly buying superfluous items or purchasing only what you need is yours to make.

In the end, we should love people — not things — because the opposite never works.

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