Updated: Apr 12, 2021
What is minimalism?
Minimalism refers to a living method that demands fewer material possessions, less cars, houses, clothes, bags, television and so on. An increasing number of individuals have been adopting such lifestyle, or choose to live it.
The root for the pursuit of material possession grew from the values that the society connotes: fame, wealth, power. However, people have started to realize that chase for material possession have costed them their health, relationships, and even their lives.
Less is more. Many have said that when they started the minimalist lifestyle, they were able to create rooms for meaningful things; the attachment towards material made them feel freer, and the fear of losing had reduced as they possessed less items.
Does wealth or material achievements necessarily bring happiness?
“Things, which we desire, often lead us to sufferings; things, which are necessary, often we are lack of efforts for them; things, which are essential, often we have no clue of them.”
Are materials necessary or essential for us? Possessing more of them is only the manifestation of our desires? Where is the boundary? How do we strike a balance?
Joshua Fields Millburn was born in 1981 in Dayton, Ohio. Growing up in a less-fortunate circumstance, he suspected that his lack of happiness was derived from the lack of money. Therefore, in the first 30 years of his life, he drowned himself in the his workload, accumulating as much wealth and materials as he can. Eventually, he became the youngest director of in a company’s 140-year history.
Ryan Nicodemus was born in 1981 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in Southwest Ohio by way of Upstate New York. Similar to Joshua Fields Millburn, he was living a consumer-centric lifestyle and climbing the corporate ladder.
Why do we use them as an example? Many people believe what they had believed: that wealth can be directly correlated with happiness. However, their experience shows the opposite.
While Millburn and Nicodemus were approaching 30 years old, achieved almost everything that people believe to make a happy life: luxury cars, six-figure careers, big houses and all the things to fulfill the material-driven lives. Unfortunately, their happiness did not grow as much as their wealth, on the contrary, more sense of void, stress, anxiety and fear come as the number of salary, working hours and possessions grows.
Therefore, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus started a minimalistic lifestyle. Reducing their possessions, such as career, money, clothes, houses, cars, bags etc., they intended to take control of their own lives from materials and to attain happiness.
Is minimalism only on the surface?
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said:
When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks into you.
Materials, such as food, money, clothes, work and a place to live, are necessary; but when they turn into uncontrollable desires; greedy, hatred, anger, complain, etc. will be developed as well. We try to create a happy life by pursuing social positions or materials, but in the end, they become cocoons, which limit and suffocate us. Eventually desires will become an abyss and engulf us.
People are looking for the freedom through different ways, such as minimalism. Living minimalistically physically is a way to reduce material consumption and possession, but how to live minimalistically emotionally as well? What shall we do after minimalism?
Do you feel stuck in your heart because of the children’s education, career choice and overwhelmed by the complex relationships between colleagues, family members and friends? The feelings of anxiety, anger, hatred, fear, and guilt are the extra emotional baggage that we carry. To live minimalistically is to let go of these emotions, and only keep the ones that are important, such as gratitude, compassion, kindness, wisdom, loving, and forgiveness. Living emotionally minimalistic, you produce less emotional pollution: negative energies such as attachment, suspicion, greed, pride, and arrogance.
Isn't it a time for us to look for a new path and a new direction of life? If we do not know what it is and where it is, how should we have the courage to continue the old ones?
It is akin to a Chinese poem:
Birds vanish from the surrounding hills,
Footprints fade from the winding trails.
Where is the path? Where are the companions?
Life is a journey to discover the meaning of it and what is essential, no matter where we are and what we do. Firstly, the goal is to liberate ourselves from daily life stress. Blessings, including wealth, intelligence, health, freedom, harmonious relationships etc.. and wisdom are important elements if we want to live a happy life. Materials are “food” for our body. Purity, wisdom and virtues are “food” for our mind and soul. The sense of void comes from the soul, which cannot be fed by food. Learning the structure of our human system, made by body, mind and soul; is to discover where the stress comes from, what the causes of our sufferings and to find the balance in our life.
Thank you for your reading,.