Minimalism: More than an Aesthetic

Sights By Logan Blair

Sights By Logan Blair

Thoughts by Garrett Olson

Minimalism is one of the biggest buzzwords of 2017 thus far, and it is a trend that is gaining more attention as it goes. Despite the growing popularity of the movement, I have noticed something a little troubling: there is more to minimalism than just an aesthetic. Minimalism, at its core, is not about simple and sleek designs. It actually has its roots tied to the concept of sustainability. 

A great way to gain a basic understanding of the background to the movement is the Netflix documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, which was directed by Matt D’Avella. The doc follows the lives of two minimalists who travel around on a speaking tour, discussing the concepts of sustainability and how that relates to a simplified life. They argue that the current idea of happiness relates to how much money you make and your ability to buy things, leaving many with a hollowness inside. The entire idea of ”The American Dream” is questioned as they examine Scandinavian countries that have values that closer resemble simple living as well as why their societies seem to have a greater quality of life. The pair travel on the road for almost a year and they only have one bag with them—which accounts for almost all of the clothing they own. After watching this, I almost immediately purged my closet in response. 

The documentary does a great job of giving a basic understanding of why we should be shifting to a minimalist lifestyle; however, once you start to dig a little deeper, you can see that there are serious underlying issues that we need to be addressing. As the climate crisis increases in severity each year and the western world keeps over-consuming, we will soon surpass our ability to maintain our current lifestyle. Actually, we already are taking more than the earth can handle—The Global Footprint Network recently did a study that showed that we are over-consuming resources by 30 per cent. Big deal? If we maintain this level of consumption, we will require two Earths to provide for the growing global population by 2030. This stat is quite staggering, as we are in a time where drastic change must be made. Societal norms and the rampant increase in branding towards consumers makes it harder than ever to not “need” the latest weekly fashion trend or that cup from Ikea to put your pens in to finish the right aesthetic of your study space. 

One of the biggest deterrents for people to make difficult changes is the idea of failure. When you change your lifestyle dramatically there will be setbacks; you will likely fall back upon old habits the odd time. The best approach is to realize that this is all part of the transition, and that is normal. For instance, any time you buy a new shirt, force yourself to get rid of an older one, that way you have to ask yourself the hard questions: Is this worth it? Do I really need this? By accepting that change is a process, not an immediate switch, it is easier to take the steps towards a more sustainable life. This also ties into our mental health, because owning less allows you to become less concerned about your possessions. When you have less clutter in the space around you, in theory, you allow your mind to be less cluttered as well. 
Minimalism is not just a look, it is a shift in societal values—a movement towards a much more conscious society that cares about the sustainability of our actions. You don’t need to give up everything all at once, you don’t have to become a minimalist overnight, but we are reaching a turning point in which we no longer may have the luxuries we are accustomed to or feel entitled to.