Minimalism has gained maximal attention in recent years. There’s Marie Kondo pressing us to declare whether our belongings spark joy. Netflix documentaries about cleaning up our cluttered lives. And aspirational stark white living rooms on Instagram that we will never own (does anyone actually live in those places?). But where did it all begin, where is it going, and what could it look like for you?
The De Stijl movement popularized the concept in Europe shortly after WW1, with the bold geometry of Mondrian that influenced the rationalist architecture of Mies Van der Rohe. Later on, it took off in the 1960s New York art scene, with the monochromatic black paintings of Frank Stella and use of everyday objects in pieces by artists like Dan Flavin and Carl Andre. Meanwhile, in Japan, Zen Buddhism has been inspiring households for over 1000 years to embrace the value of empty spaces, and treasure quality over quantity when it comes to possessions.
However, times have changed. The austere and striking simplicity of 20th century minimalism is a little different to the one we see growing in popularity today. Nowadays, minimalism is more accessible and less restrictive than the versions that came before. It has to be. Beyond a form of creative expression and design, living with less is fast becoming more of an environmental necessity or admission of social responsibility than anything else.
Thanks to minimalist experts like Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (you may know them as The Minimalists) and Japan’s famed declutterer Marie Kondo, the world of minimalism has recently opened up to the masses. In a world of over-consumption, many of us are starting to reject the things that we know are bad for us, and consciously work towards a healthier existence. Netflix documentaries, blogs, podcasts and best-selling books courtesy of people like Marie Kondo and The Minimalists have been helping millions of us adopt a version of minimalism that is cleansing, liberating, eco-friendly, and actually feasible.
It is important to consider what this new evolution of the movement really means. The Minimalistsdefine it as“a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom”.
Rather than advocating for getting rid of everything, or living in a glass house filled with just 30 items, it’s about restricting our ownership only to useful, durable objects that we love. Ridding yourself of excess. Of the things you don’t need. Advocates believe that in doing so, we can find the freedom to focus on what matters. By clearing our home, we can clear our mind.
Even Marie Kondo, author of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying and listed in 2015 as one of Time Magazine’s most influential people, doesn’t necessarily advocate getting rid of everything. On the contrary, she talks about how important it is to be surrounded by the things that we love. To appreciate those things and give gratitude to them. We should own the right things and take good care of them.
It is important to add that adopting a minimalist lifestyle does not look the same to everyone. And it doesn’t have to be hard. You can take it slowly. The Minimalists suggest playing the 30-day minimalist game, where on day 1, you donate, sell, or recycle one thing that you don’t need. On day 2 this increases to 2 items, and so on. This fun challenge can help launch you on the way to a more minimalist existence, while pushing you to assess what does and does not add value to your life. The ultimate goal is that by clearing away the clutter, we can make space for a more meaningful existence.
Above all, minimalism is about doing what is right not only for our soul, but for the planet as a whole.
So, if you’re ready to declutter your life, why not make today Day 1 of your minimalist game? You have until midnight!