Escaping Consumer Culture Through Minimalism
By ridding oneself of unnecessary material possessions, it gets easier to eliminate things which we have no use for and prioritize.
Finding meaning in relationships and memories, rather than in things, can help us live a more meaningful life and make it easier to deal with challenges.
According to Joshua Fields-Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known as “The Minimalists” and featured in major media outlets like The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, TIME, and The Atlantic, minimalism can act as a tool to finding freedom from “the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around.”
“That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions,” Fields-Millburn and Nicodemus say on their website, theminimalists.com. “Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.”
Minimalism doesn’t mean one cannot have material belongings like a house or a car, but it “simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately,” Fields-Millburn and Nicodemus explain.
According to theminimalists.com, there are many successful minimalists like Leo Babauta, who has a wife and six children, or Colin Wright, who owns 51 things and travels all over the world.
“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom,” say Fields-Millburn and Nicodemus. “Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself.”
“There are many flavors of minimalism: a 20-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist lifestyle. Even though everyone embraces minimalism differently, each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life,” The Minimalists explain.
In the TED talk, “The Art of Letting Go”, Fields-Millburn remembers events in his life that lead him to consider minimalism as a lifestyle. “I was so focused on the accumulation of stuff. I was living the American dream, but it wasn’t my dream.”
“The average American household has about 300,000 items in it,” says Fields-Millburn. “Just. In. Case. The three most dangerous words in the English language.” After his divorce and his mother’s death shortly after, he finally realized one thing: “Our memories are not inside our things; our memories are inside us.”
According to “The Minimalists”, the process of creating a minimalist lifestyle for oneself includes the idea that, by letting go, one can add value to other people’s lives. “Let go, then move on.”
In “The Art of Letting Go,” Fields-Millburn and Nicodemus explain steps one can take towards minimalism. “Take an inventory of your own life. How might your life be better with less?”
Fields-Millburn started by removing one material possession everyday for one month as a personal challenge to discover what he could eliminate without lowering the quality of his life. “Removing clutter is the first step.”
Nicodemus stresses how important it is to understand that “consumption is not the problem, but compulsory consumption is the problem.”
Minimalism doesn’t only add to the quality of a person’s life, but also contributes to the bigger picture in a substantial way. “The less stuff we consume, the less waste we produce,” says Nicodemus.
If they could give one crucial piece of advice, however, The Minimalists agree on one thing. “Love people, use things.” The concept of minimalism embodies just that.