We all desire the latest gadgets, bigger house, more money, fancy wardrobe, exclusive beauty products, stylish cars etc… the list is really endless. The general perception is that the more you have, the better off you are (At least ideologically). But practically, we all have experienced that the more possessions we accumulate, the more craving we develop whereas, Minimalism is developing the capacity to enjoy less
How many of us have really taken a moment apart & introspected the rationale behind our consumerist attitude? Some of us may cite this as an inevitable outcome of our urbanized conditioning in response to a world that values economic & material prosperity more than ever before. Others may reason that material acquisition gives them a sense of security & purpose. But beneath these fabricated rationalizations, lies the naked truth which is shockingly simple – deep inside we all are hungry for name, fame & significance.
Each one of us, by virtue of being humans, has an innate need to be loved, to feel special & wanted. This crazy rise in consumerism is just an overt expression of how miserably barren we all are in psychological & emotional terms. We try to compensate for our mental infertility by attributing intrinsic value to material objects, i.e., commodity fetishism as proposed by Karl Marx. This uncontrolled spree of accumulating & acquiring possessions is a sign of brewing internal conflict. It is indicative of one’s insecurity. A perfect example would be shopaholics who have confessed that shopping enables them to de-stress when in actuality it is just an escape route from the situation at hand.
One believes that they should go on gathering as much as possible to make their lives fuller & more fulfilling, not realizing that they are actually digging deep holes into their psyche & feeding their personal deficiencies which just propel them to pursue higher power & status. Even once they reach the pinnacle, there will always be a new mountain to conquer, a new enemy to crush & need to prove their worth repeatedly so as to not fade away until one fine day, they become slaves to their own accumulated wealth & power. A lingering discontent & gaping void consumes them eventually leading to its ultimate breaking point.
I am not implying that buying products or accumulating material wealth is wrong. In fact, we need some of it for our own sustenance. However, one needs to be self-aware & balanced to differentiate between the necessary & unnecessary. Crowding one’s life with material riches & being flashy about it does not make you look attractive it just shows the poverty of your intelligence & character. Nevertheless, there is hope for liberation from this materialist labyrinth which if held on to will just lead one towards the path of self destruction.
Surprisingly, some of the world’s billionaires lead extremely frugal lifestyles in spite of their billions. For example,
- Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is worth $13.3 billion, yet he prefers wearing jeans, shirts, hoodies or sandals over expensive suits & leather shoes.
- Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro, is worth $11.2 billion, yet is concerned about the company’s use of resources. He even monitors the number of toilet paper being used in their company premises, and reminds the employees to always switch off the lights when not in use and when leaving the premises.
- Warren Buffet is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is well-known for being one of the most influential and richest people in the world. His net worth is $53.5 billion as of March 2013. Buffett lives frugally despite the huge net worth. He doesn’t spend on gadgets or electronics and doesn’t even carry a mobile phone. He doesn’t even own a yacht and says that, “Most toys are just a pain in the neck.” Buffett is also known for being generous to various charitable institutions. He has given billions of dollars to different foundations.
- David Cheriton the Stanford professor who has an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion from Google shares, hates the idea of living like a billionaire. “I’m actually quite offended by that sort of thing,”he told the Edmonton Journal in a 2006 interview. “These people who build houses with 13 bathrooms and so on, there’s something wrong with them.”
These examples support the fact that richness does not equal extravagant spending on yachts, super jets or a ridiculously luxurious lifestyle. Financial prosperity may have nothing to do with being flamboyant or glamorous as most people supposedly associate it with. It could just be leading a simple life with elegance by discarding the superfluous and focusing only on what one truly needs. This paves the way for an emerging trend called minimalism.
According to the famous minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus who sacrificed their well established corporate career to embark on this path; minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. 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 life. 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. Getting started is as simple as asking yourself one question: How might your life be better if you owned fewer material possessions?
But one need not necessarily have to forsake their careers or material aspirations to become a minimalist. The only requirement is to subtract the excess from your life in order to focus on the remainder part which basically forms the crux of your existence. However, the interpretation & practice of minimalism can differ from person to person due to its subjectivity. What may be important to one may not be to another. So it is high time that one takes control of the operational & logistic aspects of one’s life, be practical & realistic about spending habits & budgets, take calculated risks, set limits on the number of objects you intend to own & then strictly adhere to those predefined boundaries while fulfilling your material ambitions. For example, if a desire to buy high end haute couture, I do not have to go on a spending spree; instead I just need to buy a limited number of fashion items that I had decided for myself. Sure, these require a good deal of willpower, but believe me it all pays off in the end. It gives me a sense of personal satisfaction analogous to achieving a goal.
It has drastically reduced my anxiety levels, boosted my productivity at work & allowed me to channelize my energy & time towards what really matters to me. Minimalism is not just some philosophy about life; it has divergent applications ranging from visual arts and music to minimalist architecture & design.
In conclusion, all I can say is that the secret of happiness is not found in seeking more but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.
(P.S – to all the status conscious people out there, believe me, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!)
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- Minimalism is developing the capacity to enjoy less - January 3, 2015