Minimalist Lifestyle
Slow Living

Scarcity, Aesthetics & Minimalism

A minimalist lifestyle goes beyond decluttering. It means a rejection of the scarcity mindset and the belief that there’s never enough.

I’m eating salmon sandwiches on the sunny terrace of a boutique hotel. There’s violin music, dainty cups of tea and blossoms in glass vases. There’s chatter and the rustle of banana tree leaves by the tiled swimming pool.

It’s a PR event for an international tea brand and a beautiful spring day. We’re invited to try some tea blends that are stacked in a display. A PR Woman says we can take some boxes to sample at home.

Soon the crowd around the display thickens as people grab up the remaining boxes. A woman asks if the cups and saucers on the table are also for us? A few people reach over the table to grab those as well and stuff them into their overflowing bags.

A colleague asks me to carry some of her load. And as we wait for our taxis, it hits me how ridiculous this is. To be carrying a heavy load for someone who doesn’t need this stuff.

I tell my colleague it’s all too heavy. Can she find a way to fit them into her own bag? And as my driver takes the leafy sidestreets towards the freeway, I smile at the absurdity of the episode. It seems almost funny now: crowds of well-off journalists grabbing up boxes of tea and logo cups they’ll probably never use.

But doesn’t this mad rush happen all too often? At every sale, or Black Friday or Christmas holiday?

The scarcity mindset

Scarcity, Aesthetics and Minimalism

When we operate from the scarcity mindset that’s perpetuated by our competitive society, we can never feel like we have enough of anything. We must grab every opportunity and shove others out of the way because there’s only a limited amount to go around. And even if our cupboards are already full of tea, more can never hurt. It can be stored away for a rainy day, it gives us options and variety, it’s a safety cushion.

These days, minimalism is a big trend because this scarcity mindset has left thousands of us with useless clutter and overflowing wardrobes.

Now everyone is decluttering and sending piles of their ill-considered purchases to the thrift shops, where most will be carted off to distant landfills to pollute the land.

After purging my own home from unworn cardigans and unread books, I’ve been reading more about minimalism. And I’ve also realized how much it’s just the same wolf but in different – albeit linen and organic – clothing.

Because unless we abandon the scarcity mindset, then minimalism will only ever be an aesthetic for us. We can declutter our home and invest in beige-colored sofas, but if we’re still feeling that yearning to shop, and that insatiable urge for more, then we haven’t really embraced a minimalist lifestyle.

And decluttering will remain just a tool to make space for new purchases that will, in their own time, end up in a landfill.

Begin living a minimalist lifestyle

Minimalist Lifestyle

The minimalist movement – when it means lifestyle and not aesthetics – is by design anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist. In a world where the economy can only function with constant growth, minimalism goes against an establishment that’s forever telling us it’s never enough.

Because pop culture and the mainstream can only go so far with the minimalist trend.

Decluttering and wardrobe organization get prime spots on morning shows, but buying second-hand and supporting free trade are still topics better left to radicals and vegans.

The driving force of minimalism as a lifestyle is a rejection of consumerism and the marketing that tells us we can be better and happier with more possessions. It’s knowing we have enough, and being conscious how our purchases have an impact especially in the world’s distant and exploited communities.

And the minimalism of closet clear-outs and decluttering sprees can have far-reaching implications when we consider the ideas driving this movement.

It can make us examine our daily routines and our priorities. Do we scroll social media for hours while postponing the work we’re passionate about? Do we agree to more work projects because there’s no such thing as having enough money?

And this kind of minimalism is free. You don’t need to buy basic neutral pieces to fill out your wardrobe, watch the latest documentary on Netflix or invest in timeless quality furniture.

What is minimalism?

Scarcity, Aesthetics and Minimalism

Because the minimal lifestyle doesn’t have to look Instagramable and pretty. It’s making do with what you’ve got. Patching up a hole in your leggings instead of buying another pair. Buying fair trade even when you can hardly afford it. Saying no to more work and knowing how much you need to get by. Paying attention to what comes into your home so it doesn’t accumulate as fodder for the next declutter.

It’s making mistakes along the way and learning from them.

And it’s embracing less, right now. Not waiting for that day when you’ll have enough to stop shopping and ride away in a chic converted van.

We don’t have to be bright examples that will inspire others.

We just have to be ourselves. And that, like everything else, is enough.

To explore more about minimalism, read my post on 7 Lessons Learned From Decluttering.

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Minimalist Lifestyle

25 Comments

  • kagould17

    Good post Dee. We have long told our kids that life is not about the stuff. It is about the experiences and shared time with friends and family. We are making an effort to get rid of stuff. It is a slow process, but we will get their. As Marie Kondo asks….Does it spark joy? Allan

    • Dee

      Thank you, Allan! Experiences are always better than things when we’re growing up, aren’t they? And it’s those good times that kids will remember and not the stuff.

  • thewonderer86

    I was watching a fashion item on the news the other day, all about being eco conscious/fair trade etc. yet still urging people to buy – and I thought ‘they just don’t get it’. This post is spot on. It’s a kind of insecurity, this bolstering with ‘stuff’.

  • Isabella

    love this post Dee. That is exactly what it means to me. Not the beige coloured wardrobes and sofa’s. I simply stopped shopping and use what I have. It was not easy at first but I kept a journal about it and that helped. And I have fallen in love again with what I have, it’s a wonderful feeling to not ‘want’ anymore.

    • Dee

      Thank you, Isabella! It is such a great feeling, and it’s amazing when you clean and declutter, and find out that you own a lot more than you thought – or when you discover things you’ve forgotten about.

  • Alice

    I honestly dislike how people are transforming minimalism in a social media trend these days and I prefer to use the word “simple living” when I talk about it only to not be labelled as a “minimalism influencer”. I believe it’s such a personal topic because it means different things for different people. I used to believe that, in order to be a “true” minimalist, everything needed to give me value but I honestly prefer the “spark joy” mentality these days.

    • Dee

      It is becoming such a huge trend, and along with that comes the commoditization of the movement.. I hate seeing it go in that direction, but at the same time the fact it’s getting more popular gets more and more people interested in the lifestyle, too, and in making deeper changes.

  • Esther Pulcipher

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. I haven’t fully processed through my own thoughts about minimalism as a lifestyle, but I have wrestled with my own tendencies to want to purchase items because of their aesthetic (in the name of sustainability and linen, and less waste, etc.). And although many of those decisions have been wise decisions, and have meant choosing the better option over materials that don’t degrade in land waste, I have had to watch myself in how much I buy. I don’t necessarily buy a lot these days, but I have to watch the urge I have to want to purchase things. I think you’re spot on in mentioning how it’s easy to have a consumerist mindset, even if it’s towards items that are better options. But we have to remove that sense of needing or wanting more, and practice more contentment with what we already have, while still educating ourselves and being aware of how we can make purchasing decisions that take into consideration others and our environment.

    • Dee

      Yes, I think it’s that consumerist mindset that won’t allow us to ever be happy with what we’ve got, because there’s always something more and something better out there that can “improve” our lives or make things better.. It’s helped me to read up on marketing tactics and the world of advertising, which has made me realise how manipulative and deceitful a lot of sales copy is and how the aim is always to make us feel like something is lacking.

  • Savour & Dream

    That’s such a good point about the scarcity mindset! It’s something that never occurred to me before, but it’s so true. There’s an element of privilege in trusting that you’ll have enough, of course, but the scarcity mindset tends to persist well beyond that point, and you can’t learn to let go of *things* and trust that you’ll be okay without them while your mind is still in that scarcity mode. Definitely something I’ll be thinking about more going forward!

    • Dee

      Yes! I’ve been giving it a lot of thought as well.. I think the scarcity mindset is a lot harder to abandon if we grew up in difficult times.. And it’s difficult to draw that line where “enough” is, but it’s also important to realize that there is such a thing! 🙂

  • Abraham Pinhas

    Thanks for the reminder that minimalism is just about being ourselves. For me, minimalism began as a practical way of making travel easier, to learn a lesson from the times I’ve struggled with heavy loads when walking from bus stations to hostels or stuffed my bags with useless junk. But then I became concerned with buying the most minimal barefoot shoes and light-weight trousers, and so began forming an identity as a minimalist traveler – and I eventually realized I had swapped one burden for another. Ultimately, I think it’s just about being conscious, aware of what we need at any given time, rather than adhering to some kind of standard, be that self-created or something we’ve seen in a Youtube video.

    • Dee

      That’s so true, Abraham. It’s easy to get sucked into the minimalism trend and feel like minimalism is something you’ve got to buy yourself into.

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