Minimalism: A little bit less of everything

In a world of chaotic chatter and consumerism, it’s often hard to find peace amid the artificial need for “more.” With the economy tipping over, more people are seeing such chaos as unnecessary chains they have to break from. A movement, which has its roots in history, is now growing and bringing fulfillment to many. A minimalistic lifestyle, living in an uncluttered and simple environment, trims the fat of excess consumerism.

Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, two essayists who left six-figure paying jobs to focus on being fulfilled with less, have become full-time enthusiasts and gurus of the minimalistic lifestyle. “When some people first hear about minimalism, they don’t understand it. To them, it sounds vaguely occult, unreasonable, outside the status quo, and far away from the comfort zone of the average consumer. In other words, they don’t see why it is a necessary tool to live a more meaningful life,” Millburn and Nicodemus write in their essay, “Minimalist Family: Start with Yourself.”

There are multiple viewpoints concerning the idea of minimalist living. Some critics may argue that this movement is just a gimmick to make money, though many books about minimalism are available for free, or close to free, online.

Throughout history, minimalism’s purpose has been to accentuate religious beliefs. John the Baptist ate locusts and wore camel skins to show his devotion to his god. Both Christian and Buddhist monks kept few worldly possessions to focus on their spirituality. Even today, the Amish live a minimalistic lifestyle, with hardly any technology, for the sake of their religion.

But what is the use of such a lifestyle if it doesn’t have religious purposes? From Millburn and Nicodemus’ “The Minimalists,” to “Zen Habits,” the Internet is filled with pro-minimalist websites. “Fly Lady” is a website that offers a free program on how to declutter your home via “baby-steps,” but it also sells many products that you may or may not need. How minimalistic is that? Television shows like “Hoarders” portray people who think they’re happy, but they sob as they cling on to useless junk. Such portrayals strike fear into audiences and may cause them to look at their own clutter.

The goal of most such websites is universal: happiness. Living with less clutter, both physical and mental, can make life more fulfilling. It puts the focus on life rather than the excess distractions around it.

In reference to living a minimalistic lifestyle, popular blogger and founder of “Zen Habits,” Leo Babuata says, “There’s no one way.” According to his blog, Babuata suggests, “It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.” Many students are so focused on getting the latest technologies and styles, not realizing that they can be happy with what they have. In fact, without the stockpile of self-indulgence, one can more easily focus on what really matters in life, whatever that may be.

But as Babuata says, there is no one way. You can live frugally and be happy with just the bare essentials, or you can splurge and live happily with just the very fine essentials. Either way, the goal is to get rid of the excess possessions, distractions and chatter, and to be fulfilled with what is left.