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Minimalism:
Plain and Simple Living

2017-12-28

Since several years I developed interest in a minimalistic lifestyle. This text describes my personal idea of minimalism and I don't want to force anyone else to live like this.

Minimalism means something different for everyone, so in this article I describe my view of minimalism and how I implement it. The most common understanding of minimalism is trying to own least items possible. Although this aspect basically plays a role for me it is not my main goal because minimalism is about more than just possessions.

Our society is based on excess and consumption, where one needs more, better or newer things for no reason. Things are cheap and easy to access which leads many people to accumulation.

I would like to focus more on the essential values again and try to reduce excess in my life but still possess enough to be able to maintain a complete household. As inspiration I took the Mennonite and Amish by picking some characteristics of their lifestyle for myself, which reflect the attitude behind minimalism and try to realize those in my everyday life.

Essential Properties

For describing the essential properties of minimalism there are terms that are hardly used in today's language anymore:

These values touch every aspect of life and I try to represent them by my interpretation of minimalism and my mentality. In everyday life this means to use just basic items and to avoid excess.

Essentials

The essentials are necessities that you truly need for life. As a human, although you would not expect it, you don't have so many essential needs for a pleasant life:

  1. Food
  2. Shelter
  3. Clothing
  4. Energy (light, heating, warm water)
  5. Water supply
  6. Transportation (local)

Everything beyond is luxury - This you should always be aware of.

Minimalism in Everyday Life

The difficulty is to give meaning to these values and basic needs in everyday life. Depending on the personal situation, this can vary greatly. I developed some general principles for myself to try to achieve this meaning in everyday life.

1. Less is More

Our possessions can be divided into tree categories. The essentials have been already described above. Next there are the non-essentials which are items that add value to your life because you use them or they bring you joy regularly. This can be for example furniture, cooking utensils or a hobby you enjoy. They are not truly needed but they amplify your experience of life. But most of the items in a regular household are just junk and collect dust well packed in a box and not be used ever again.

Humans tend to gather or consume things they actually don't really need just to achieve short term satisfaction. But after a short period of time their happiness is at the same level as before just with more clutter and less money. This applies equally to material goods and immaterial consumption such as frequent traveling, downloads or video streaming. No matter how much you own, how much you buy, how much you earn, the disease of more never goes away.

Stuff takes space, time and money to be bought, organized, maintained and stored. It does not even matter if you clutter is well organized or out-sourced into a cloud, it is still clutter. If stuff does not increase your happiness in the long term it just costs you resources. Free up these resources by only keeping things that you actually use or bring you joy.

We keep many things just in case. Often it is hard to part with things we do not use, because these things belong to an imagination of our self of how we want to be and not how we actually are. In our imagination we may want to do some creative work, dress more fashionable or do more sports. We stick to this imagination because we believe someday it'll come true, even when we know that someday is not going to ever come. These items just sit there and remind you of your lack of effort. But at some point we should let go of that hope and those items.

2. Modest Outfit

Because of quickly changing fashion and cheap clothes a throwaway society has established which is based on exploiting others. Modest clothing is conservative, simple und plain but still kempt and renounces unnecessary fashionable elements and thereby can be worn longer because it is not subject to fashionable constraints. Also the amount of clothing does matter, because many people have large amounts of clothes in their closet and still problems to find something to wear. Instead of spending a lot of time combining clothes you should make better use of your time. Owning only an essential amount and style of clothes makes it easier to get dressed because it removes the time consuming procedure of combining items.

Why is clothing so important? Clothes embody values and show our own spirit. We should think about which clothes match our inner attitude and which impression we (want to) make on others. The clothing of a person always speaks before their words ever do. By wearing particular clothes we are communicating and giving an introduction to who you are and show your values to people which don't know us and at the same time reminding ourselves of it.

3. Let Your Light Shine

Humility and modesty should be inherent in our mind as well. Do not try draw undue attention by your clothing, doings or possessions. You should be helpful and selfless instead of only worrying about your own benefit. Everyone has their own personal gift. Share your gift by serving others and the community.

4. Live Simple

Many people try to boast and impress other people with their consumption or possessions. There are many ways of doing that, may it be by cars, clothes, electronic devices, travels or food. By living simple these are not a matter anymore.

Be content with simple food and dishes. Simple and easy meals are plain fare using local staple foods like carrots and potatoes without fancy ingredients. Food should be bought as unprocessed as possible or in its basic form.

Digital devices by now control many areas of our daily life and decide on the temperature of the heating or with whom I should be friends. Of course, this is comfortable and reduces work. We are obsessed - and encircled - by intelligent devices, quietly controlling our environment and ourselves. Everywhere we are told that this is the only future. Whether that is true or if there is another way, everyone has to find out for themselves. I also own a smartphone. For me a simple lifestyle means not to digitalize my environment and to try surrounding myself with only few electronics devices.

5. Learn to Sew

With this ability, you can cover almost one whole of the basic needs yourself. Through your own activity you have much more relation to your clothes and appreciate them. Furthermore, this prevents you from wastefully handling clothes.

6. Transportation and Travel

For many people modesty and environmental protection stops with their own mobility and holidays. Cars are getting bigger and travels are going further than ever before. Every day, millions of people drive around sole in five-seat, poisonous vehicles, which are used for only one hour of the day and are otherwise useless and waste public space. For many people, air travel has become an integral part of their lifestyle. Nevertheless, everyone tries arduously to save single grams of CO2 in everyday life, for the good conscience, only to release a multitude of it during the next vacation. Knowing and acting on it are not the same thing.

The Change of Life

The phenomenon of abundance exists only a short period of time and only in the first world countries. Everyone can not always have everything without living at the expense of others. When we choose to life more simply we deplete our environment less and have more resources that we're able to share with those in need. Just a few decades ago, it was possible even here to life with less and it still lived comfortably. The question is why people today need more to live than formerly. Even if I do not always succeed I try to keep most of my life plain and modest. This leads to a more intentional, more meaningful, more freedom and environmental friendly lifestyle. Be grateful for what you have.