Conscious emptiness for a fulfilled life: minimalism as a way to more balance and free thinking
In today’s world, where excessive consumerism and material status symbols have become central to Western industrial nations, more and more people are choosing to lead a minimalist life. This philosophical attitude dates back to the Greek scholar Plato, but also finds its equivalent in ascetic life forms and many religions for several millennia.
Minimalism can be used as a way to find true happiness in the face of today’s fast-paced, and in many ways, meaningless ways of life . To live in a minimalistic way means to consciously embark on the search for surplus value – in all aspects of human existence.
What does minimalism mean?
The term “minimalism” finds application in different areas and designates stylistic elements within art and architecture as well as an attitude towards life. As such, it can refer to everyday life and the private sphere as well as to interpersonal aspects or different behaviors. Whether in art or in everyday life – minimalism is based on the idea of a “less is more”.
For example, art is concerned with a representation of the essential in order to convey a message in a memorable pictorial and often easier-to-understand way. Due to the lack of detailed motifs linked to personal perspectives, minimalist art movements emphasize a logical, yet clear, often soberly reduced imagery. This is just as noticeable in minimalist architecture. It produces buildings that do not show any ornate decorative elements, but are intended to provide a purely functional benefit. In terms of a minimalist lifestyle, utility and function come to the fore. The aim is to lead a “simple” life that is “liberated” from many aspects and that leads to high-quality living.
In some cultures and societies, artistic or architectural minimalism goes hand in hand with “simple” life. Consider, for example, the attitudes to life and style elements that spread in Japanese everyday life through the influence of Zen Buddhism.
In Zen Buddhism, it is considered desirable and the only goal-oriented way to a happier life, to accumulate as little possessions as possible. An everyday life that is filled with few, selected things and aspects increases the esteem that a person can feel – for the possessions as well as for fellow human beings, their own abilities and the world that surrounds life every day. Minimalistically designed Japanese houses draw a sketch at first glance. On closer inspection, however, the few existing furnishings and decorations turn out to be extremely high-quality, multifunctional and of exceptionally refined aesthetics.
The optical emptiness in the home environment, which marks the absence of random decorations and masses of possessions, has been an important feature of Japanese culture for centuries and is felt to be consistently positive. In Western industrial nations, whose society is influenced by constant consumption and the often indiscriminate gathering of material possessions, most people find this emptiness uncomfortable and cold. However, minimalism, as a countermovement to materialism, has for some time now become increasingly important in the West as well.
Minimalism versus materialism
Many people today make the conscious decision to transfer the values of Zen Buddhism to their daily lives. Minimalists in the Western world are by no means concerned about completely emptying the flat and only living with a bed, a shower, a hotplate and a fridge. On the contrary, a minimalist lifestyle is characterized by being targeted against excessive consumption. In the process, material values take a back seat and make room for things and aspects of life that are actually valuable.
As a countermovement to materialism, minimalism is above all about gradually separating itself from superfluous ballast. At the same time, new purchases are well thought-out to ensure that everyday life is enriched only by what is really needed and not burdened with superficial status symbols irrelevant to a healthy soul life.
Minimalist living – freedom in your own home
Breaking away from superfluous things in order to remember the really valuable objects is a great challenge. The omission of the superfluous is a dynamic process that lasts for an extended period of time and slowly paves the way to a self-determined life that is freed from everyday constraints. The first important step is the realization that ownership per se can not make you happy.
The successful Japanese writer and life coach Mari Kondo has described in her bestseller “Magic Cleaning” an effective method that serves many people as a guide to a minimalist lifestyle. The so-called Konmari method is based on the conscious question: “which things do I really need and which are superfluous for my happiness”?
Mari Kondo’s way to a minimalist life means planned clearing out of possessions by category. It’s about scrutinizing every single item – in terms of its benefits as well as its emotional value. If he is not needed or does not wake up happy memories, the owner should part with it. This process allows an active and for many people unusually intense engagement with their own needs, emotions and individual sense of style. Only things that really give pleasure, stay. Any items or furniture that unnecessarily fill the immediate environment or crush the living atmosphere will be given away, sold or disposed of. Gradually, clearly structured rooms emerge in one’s own four walls. in which beloved or important possessions find their permanent place and can be lovingly staged. Simply put, minimalism brings out the true value of things of all kinds.
Reduced consumption instead of unnecessary purchases
Minimalists are not only separated from unnecessary ballast, but also from the widespread in the Western world habit of accumulating ever larger, more expensive or valuable things to satisfy the hunger for a fulfilled existence. Living minimalist means drastically and consistently reducing your own consumption. This, in turn, presupposes a critical examination of one’s own style preferences and thereby of one’s own ego. In this context, minimalism makes a significant contribution to one’s own identity.
Just as significant for this lifestyle is the realization that advertising suggests false values. Those who do not allow themselves to be influenced by the advertising industry and seduced into unnecessary purchases can concentrate on acquiring the things that are really needed or important. Feelings of insecurity thus gradually give way to a strengthened self-confidence . At the same time, current expenses can be reduced, resulting in a better financial situation. Nevertheless, minimalists are by no means stingy or excessively frugal, but as consumers they focus on goods that are valuable from a subjective point of view.
For example, the value of an item, garment or piece of furniture may be characterized by the processing of natural materials, manufacturing by traditional craftsmanship, ethical production processes or a reduced and timeless design. This attitude not only promotes a balanced soul life according to individual aspects, but also a respectful use of resources.
For many followers of this philosophy of life, minimalism means, out of personal conviction, to deliberately refrain from certain goods such as cosmetics with silicones and other harmful ingredients, drinks in plastic bottles, industrially manufactured food or some packaging materials. In this context, a minimalist human being also makes a valuable contribution to the preservation and protection of the environment.
Act minimalist – creating time for healing moments
Who frees his home and his everyday life from unnecessary things and himself from the need for status symbols, is automatically open to aspects that really make happy. The personal contact with loved ones, creative activities or the conscious enjoyment of untouched natural landscapes within the scope of extensive leisure activities are increasingly coming to the fore and are being deliberately pursued.
It has been scientifically proven that close contacts with caregivers, personal and intellectual pursuits, as well as nature stays have a positive impact on mental and physical health at many levels. Be it a strengthened immune system, weight loss through more exercise, an improved skin appearance through a healthier diet or effective stress relief through relaxation in nature – the positive effects are manifold. A minimalist lifestyle can be especially beneficial in times of crisis, after a failed relationship or after a long illness.
Minimalism reduces the chaos in life, which already Plato described as the biggest obstacle on the way to personal happiness and mental balance. Therefore, this mind-purifying lifestyle can also be a sustainable way out of such a disease for people with depression or support the success of psychotherapeutic treatment.
Small changes with a big impact
Like every philosophy of life, minimalism is also a question of subjective perception and can be implemented in innumerable forms in everyday life. Whether puristically furnished apartment, a worn-out wardrobe and tidy workspace, a daily life without a TV, the deliberate renunciation of indiscriminate surfing on the Internet – every person can interpret minimalism in a very personal way.
Passionate minimalists, however, have some behaviors in common. They make well-informed decisions in every life situation. They have learned the ability to formulate a conscious “no” and cancel unnecessary, time-consuming appointments. Daily meditation is widespread among minimalists as it strengthens focused thinking and feeling and promotes a return to essentials.
In addition, minimalists perceive prestige thinking, meaningless leisure activities and overstimulation as a hindrance and the lack of ownership in their immediate environment as liberating. For them, renunciation means advantage, chance and happiness, emptiness becomes the characteristic of a fulfilled life – depending on individual needs, independent of trends and social developments.