Two minute read. Written by Yamini Bharadwaj, grade 9 student.
Minimalism is a movement that has soared in recent years, with people making a switch from the conventional overconsumption of products to making more conscious choices about what they purchase and keep. It emerged to counteract consumerism which is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.
Consumerism “views the activities and spending habits of this leisure class in terms of conspicuous and vicarious consumption and waste. Both are related to the display of status and not to functionality or usefulness,” according to Thomas Veblen, author of The Theory of the Leisure Class. Consumerism encourages consumers to purchase products in pursuit of the ‘good life’ – which leads to overconsumption of goods, the reason for its definition being ‘high levels of consumption’ ever since the 1970s. Using this psychological tool that proposes happiness after purchase makes products appealing to the masses. It is the reason why we applaud consumerism by using terms to describe it such as ‘the American dream’ while it leads to wasteful, unsustainable impacts on the environment. This sort of marketing and advertisement of consumerism makes it beguiling to consumers as they attempt to find happiness through their purchases.
Minimalism – My Take
Minimalism, we have already discussed, is a movement encouraging the conscious purchase of products so as to buy only the essential or valuable. The economic and environmental impacts of minimalism are indisputable. It is obvious that when you purchase less you throw out less, and when you leave this world, the carbon footprint that remains is small. It also is a wallet-friendly movement, unlike consumerism. Its philosophy plays on the theory of consumerism and proposes that people don’t need large amounts of goods to be happy or lead a good life.
However, this is not where it ends, at least not in the articles of the major influencers of minimalism, such as The Minimalists. ‘Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.’ ‘Minimalism has helped us eliminate our discontent, reclaim our time, live in the moment, pursue our passions, discover our missions, experience real freedom, create more, consume less, focus on our health, grow as individuals, contribute beyond ourselves, rid ourselves of excess stuff, discover purpose in our lives,’ they claim on their website. To me, it seems that the underlying philosophy of minimalism is eerily similar to consumerism. It preaches that it is only when you eliminate unessential products is when you can be happy. Just like consumerism it places unnecessary importance on goods and how their absence or presence can impact our happiness. Minimalism is marketed as the better lifestyle philosophy, and the opposite of consumerism, so ideally, the opposite of a product purchase centric philosophy would be one that is apathetic or equanimous towards consumption – not one that proposes the same idea of happiness, just now in the absence of unessential products. I understand that this is a way of showing how unnecessary consumerist purchases are, but followed by claims of how (minimalism) the absence of the unessential leads to happiness is once again product-centric.
While I agree with the excellent environmental and monetary impacts it has, I do find that the way it is being portrayed and advertised comes very close to the philosophy of consumerist happiness. My greatest argument against minimalism is that it places just as much importance on products and their influence over our happiness as consumerism does. Thus, it seems, they are both the opposite sides of the same coin. I find it absurd to place so much importance on things and their control over our moods – which is something both consumerism and minimalism do.
By Yamini Bharadwaj
Yamini is an artist and a writer. She loves to paint in her free time