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
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
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?
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.