What is minimalism?

When hearing minimalism most people think of the hippie lifestyle living in a tent or some sort of a handmade cabin in the woods with the bare minimum to survive. That is certainly not the case. Minimalism is usually explained as living a lifestyle that allows people to focus more on the experiences and less on the material things. It helps place the focus with what matters most in life.

Swept in consumerism, lack of time, loss of family and community values people constantly complicate their life by adding more unnecessary things to it. That is what I call the never ending cycle of materialism. We all know money is important for the time and age we live in; however, it is crucial to understand what this cycle does to us and how we fail to use the resources we have to benefit us to the fullest. Minimalism is really a simple concept and it is the idea of living with intention. We must eliminate everything that burden us in some way and reach only for what makes us happy and brings us joy. The problem with incorporating this simple idea lies within the social rules that have been set up for us. I am not here to blame the corporate world but for the sake of understanding what I am talking about I would have to dive into couple of examples.

I grew up in a much poorer country than the United States but things seemed simpler, people appeared much happier, and life in general was much more enjoyable. What made the difference? People were debt free for the most part, family and friends time were important, smaller houses and apartments did not allow the excessive purchasing we see here which in terms translated into money being used for vacations, trips, and savings and other pleasurable activities. Another thing that people in the US practice and I find very important but often overlooked is what we call in my home country stretching Turkish delights. What that means in simpler words is making something that is seemingly small and easy to solve into a long and stretched subject that was never even worth wasting time on. A good example would be a thirty minute office meeting with ten people trying to decide which side of the warehouse should the copy paper be placed at. I used this example because I have had that meeting. In fact, I have attended many useless meetings like that one. I can guarantee that anyone who works in making any type of decisions in the workplace has attended a meeting that was a total waste of their time. Such simple decisions should not take the amount of time or people it did. This scenario happens more often than we care to admit and not only in the business world but in all spectrums of life from relationships, school, simple everyday situations, government, etc. Have you ever looked at the door of a business and thought “I am so glad that the Push or Pull sign was there because otherwise I wasn’t ever going to be able to get out of here”? Why did people feel the need to spend the time and money of creating such sign? Was the person going to be stuck at the store or whatever facility that was? Exactly.

Overcomplicating things in the US is the norm regardless of how harsh this may sound, but if one thinks about it they may just find there is a lot of truth to that statement. How much brain power, time, and resources do you think go to waste every single day in this country to accomplish that level of overburdening? Not only are we wasteful with our personal resources but we are progressively making things more difficult in an effort to “simplify them”. That is a bit counterproductive, isn’t it? Yet, there is this illusion that we are progressing towards something great when the reality is that we are going backwards.

Here is another example: phone use. I am certain a large number of people can relate to this one. The initial idea was that smart phones would helps us do things in a much easier way. While that is still true, I would like for you to open it up right now and take a quick glimpse of all the apps you actually use regularly. How many of these actually have a really valuable purpose? How many of these do you use and wasting aimlessly time with? How many of these apps are filling your screen with enormous amounts of advertising? Now check your email box. How many of these emails are direct correspondence to your work, school or other important only to you things? How much time of your day goes into using just your phone alone? These are a lot of questions that we need to ask ourselves to grasp the scale of how overburdening most people’s daily life had become.

Part of the idea behind living in a more minimalistic way is that we bury ourselves with things which create the opposite effect of what most people try to achieve in life. Simplifying our surroundings, tasks, eliminating all those areas of clutter helps us focus more on what matters most and helps us gain a better focus of the current and future moments. We only have one life and we should live it to the fullest.