Minimalism, a way to combat first-world problems

By John Linderman

Elm Staff Writer

Less is more. This has been the crux of the minimalist movement, an ongoing trend for the past couple years. While the word “minimalism” can define an architectural or artistic movement, this article will be exploring the lifestyle trend that has blown up on the internet and office spaces across America.

The roots of the trend can be traced back to 2011, when the podcast “The Minimalists” started up discussing the positives of decluttering, simplifying, and literally minimizing aspects of life. Topics included minimalist takes on self-care, personal finance, and habits.

In 2017, filmmaker and YouTuber Matt D’Avella released a film on the podcast hosts, and D’Avella himself is now a rising minimalist YouTuber. Other faces in the movement include YouTubers like Nathaniel Drew, Pick Up Limes’s Sadia Badiei, and Madeleine Olivia.

Minimalists are striving to define the movement outside the lens of self-help. So what makes it so exceptional? And is complaining about too much stuff a first world problem?

One of the reasons why minimalism seems to be so popular is its aesthetic: clean, organized, and radiating health and productivity. For westerners who have grown up in economies of excess and consumerism, the aesthetic of minimalism is striking and engaging. Perhaps minimalism will end up being a defining inter-generation gaps.

Another reason may be the ubiquity of the movement. Minimalism asks its adherents to save money, make space, and be mindful. There are no required reads or subscriptions, but only an honest want to simplify one’s life.

“According to minimalists, by removing things from our lives that don’t add value or bring joy, we can experience a lot of benefits, like better financial security, reduced stress, clarified passions, and allow more quality time with family and friends,” said D’Avella.

What perhaps makes minimalism stand out from the sprawl of self-help movements across America is its application across many aspects of life. Other lifestyles like zero-waste and #VanLife often work with minimalism, trying to achieve a simpler lifestyle. In the reel of the 2008 recession and the destructive consequences of consumer culture, minimalism has adhered well to the youth of developed countries. A corporation can fight against a regulation, but not your choice not to buy.

 Is a cluttered life a privileged problem though? After all, the lifestyle begins with the presumption that one has too much, like food, clothes, and household objects. The kinds of items and resources minimalists are rejecting would be happily accepted by those who are less fortunate. Is it privileged to claim all of humanity would be better off minimizing their life? Well it seems that minimalists don’t dictate, only report. A minimalist rejecting to buy more clothes doesn’t exclude others from buying them.

Minimalists also have the option to donate the things they don’t want or need. Minimalism can have a positive impact on the environment through reducing the amount we buy, drive, fly, and consume. Even still, the mindfulness and productivity messages of minimalism have made waves in developing countries, with YouTubers like irenexplores in South Africa, and Saloni Srivastava in India.

“We live in a country that doesn’t embrace a minimalist lifestyle; our country tracks consumer spending and actually encourages you to spend all your money and shop for the ‘betterment’ of the economy. Minimalists question that reasoning,” writes Robin McDaniel in Frugal Living.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the YouTubers listed earlier. Tiny minimalist actions you can take today include organizing your space, planning out your week on paper, or cleaning up your social media diet.  With many other New Year’s Resolutions being to eat healthier, waste less, or save more, minimalism may help in all of that.

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