For decades the world has believed that to be successful one needs to do more – work more, earn more, spend more. Minimalism, on the contrary, focuses on doing less – buying less, earning less, working less – and in turn, living more. The focus, say experts, should be on the experience not possession. The journey that began half a century ago with a visual arts movement in New York goes much beyond just art today—visual or otherwise. Fashion, lifestyle, architecture, music even theatre have adopted minimalism—each with its own interpretation and manifestation of the concept. Minimalism in its modern avatar is here, and it is here to stay.
But what is minimalism, really?
While there are many theories and definitions of minimalism, simply put it means to survive with less: less space, less possessions, less distractions. The concept however has transcended the obvious and has acquired a much larger perspective in the current times. In arts it may mean simpler lines, in architecture it may mean open spaces, in design it may refer to functionality and optimization, and in fashion it may be interpreted as monochrome and capsule wardrobes.
The Journey of Minimalism
Minimalism as a term was first coined in the 1950s and 60s when artists of the time, fed up with abstract modernism, came up with a style that rejected the excess of the medium. Art and sculptures, created with straight lines and angles became popular; monochrome and solid shapes were celebrated, and visual art acquired a striking, edgy form. It was around the same time that Mid Century Modern architecture emerged. Also comprising of straight lines, basic shapes and monochrome (or no colour at all), Mid Century Modern complimented the visual art minimalism movement. By the 80s minimalism had become an established alternate stream and had carved a niche throughout the world. If Corbusier’s edgy designs were being celebrated in the West, Japan’s aesthetic principal of Ma had made a comeback in the East. Zen inspired design thrived even as growing consumerism was being fueled by cheap factory made products. By the 90s the term had seeped into the fashion industry and by the noughties it had started influencing all other streams. Today, over half a century after it was born, minimalism is a wide term that can be attributed to any field. Music, arts, architecture, fashion, literature, lifestyle, everything can, and does, fall under the purview of the principal that seems to be getting more and more popular every passing day.
When best friends Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, the writers of Minimalism, a book that promotes the ‘joy of living with less’ walked away from their six-figure salaries and thriving corporate careers to practice minimalism, they did not know they were spearheading a new movement—one that would inspire thousands of others to follow course. The duo that also run a website, several blogs, and have a documentary filmed around minimalism and its benefits, now guides people—who want to give it all up—to adopt minimalism and experience real happiness.
Minimalism today is a philosophy that makes you question your desire to possess, eliminate excess of every kind and make space for things that truly matter.
Minimalism and Social Media.
The Internet has emerged as a significant proponent of minimalism. Websites, virtual support groups, and social media forums keep the conversations going, Instagram is filled with images of homes and closets with just the bare minimum; blogs and tutorials promise to handhold those who maybe tentative about the whole thing, and hashtags such as #minsgame and #minimalism are regularly trending on twitter.
With young millennials like Mary Kondo talking about benefits of owning only what ‘sparks joy’, organizing more, and living better, role-models like Mark Zuckerberg wearing the same outfit everyday, and Hollywood celebrities like Keanu Reevs and Leonardo De Caprio endorsing simple lifestyles, younger generation has access to real life examples of minimalism. Finding like-minded people who endorse the cause help strengthening the resolve further.
Social media has also been pivotal in bringing about trends like ‘no shopping challenge”, “use less stuff day”, “gifting mentality.” While on the outside they may just seem like passing trends, there are enough stories to validate their contribution in bringing about a change.
The most popular assumption about minimalism is that in order to practice it, you need to give up everything. Quitting high paying jobs, selling off cars, or moving to tiny apartments may not be the only way to practice minimalism though. The definition and extent of minimalism can – and does – differ from person to person. And while the real concept means living with the bare minimum, it doesn’t prevent from taking baby steps into reaching that state.
A minimalist lifestyle is about living with intentionality of thought and action. And so, the journey toward minimalism can begin with a small step like getting rid of extra possessions. The second step is to think before buying anything: Is it really needed? Can it be borrowed or rented? Is there an alternative? Such small measures taken everyday can go a long way in reducing waste, clearing up your life, and in turn helping the world move towards a more conscientious life. Minimalism, after all is a long road that needs commitment and focus.