Materialism / Minimalism

Updated: Jan 25

Why we have a propensity towards consumerism and the suppression of minimalism


What's the matter?


When we hear the term minimalism there is a tendency to think that it only refers to material possessions, but it also relates to headspace. Whether it is the spam emails that you never subscribed to, time you spend on social media which leads to anxiety or daydreaming about ideas received from other external prompts like friends, colleagues, advertisements and even the sound of the toilet flushing, this matter evokes thoughts, feelings and reactions in your mind depending on how you relate to it.

All matter in this world is a novel composition of the same matter in a way that it can be differentiated from all other matter. In a nihilist sense, it’s all the same.


Our minds are infinitely complex processing machines. From actions as innocuous as walking around your home merely observing your possessions there are thoughts flooding in relating to them. "What happens if that vase breaks, it's irreplaceable, but it was a gift from X, so I should keep it". "That's a nice plant, I must water all the plants, I must remember to buy plant food, they will soon need re-potting etc." If these thoughts occupy your mind in an overbearing way then perhaps these possessions are cumbersome and taking up valuable space in that memory card. If your plants or that vase give you joy then why get rid of them?


Why we consume


We live in the material world, interacting with material goods is inevitable, but materialism occurs when we appraise certain matter at a higher value than other matter, but to a toddler or alien, all matter is alike. Some is hard, some is soft, some is poisonous, some is rare but they are all just different forms of matter. We make matter novel by changing its form, trading it in our economic systems or expressing ourselves through it. Making stuff out of matter in unique ways adds a dash of human creativity which elicits desire from others. If enough others agree to this shared desire, then the markets we have created puts a value on it and a product is born.


The human ego is constantly seeking to fill voids through external sources. Whether it is for keeping up with the Jones', impulse purchases because you can afford to, or you just want to reward yourself with a gift.


While it would be simple to preach about non-attachment here, and while we would benefit from an extreme bout of minimalism in the West in general, it can be damaging to the ego to rid yourself of worldly possessions and very few of us are content enough to go without some home comforts and indulgences. As noted, we still must validate the ego to some extent, as this is the driving force behind our experience in this reality.


How to Invest


Digital Detox


This is not a digital fast, but more about spending some time deleting some unnecessary or time consuming apps from your phone and removing yourself from that email list and instantly free up space in your inbox and your mind. You are no less important now that you don't have a dozen emails coming in from faceless corporations on a daily basis. Now those go-to apps that you use to escape from reality are missing from your phone you may actually have to face your thoughts, or worse, read a book.


The one year rule


This one is tough, as it requires the action of removing material possessions from your life. Things that you may have grown attached to through long term ownership. We also get attached to our emotional baggage because it becomes a place of comfort, though it is holding us back from becoming the person we want to be. So, if it has been hanging around from 12 months, and provided no real purpose, then turn it in to feel good equity and take it to the charity shop.


The one month rule


Had an impulse to purchase something online? Was it an ad that influenced you? A conversation with someone, or just a fleeting thought? Who cares. Stick it in your basket for a month. If it is superseded by another purchase (clearly more necessary) then bin it. If you still want it after a month, you will have had time to consider how this purchase can add value to your life.


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