Minimalism is not simply about having few possessions or vowing to consume less. It’s first and foremost about realizing, being proud of, and cherishing the meaningful things you do have.
A lot of the time those ‘things’ aren’t actually things at all; rather they’re the intangible things that make life so sweet like relationships, satisfaction at work, good health, fresh air, the feeling of being full of a delicious home cooked meal, or simply a beautiful clear blue sky with the sun’s rays shining down upon your back. Many of us, including myself at times, often take these things for granted. They can so easily be overlooked when good fortune has provided them each day, but they are the things that make life worth living. Cherishing life’s sweetest gifts, ones that cannot be bought or sold at the market, will make possessions far less important. That’s where minimalist living begins. Owning fewer things will naturally follow close behind.
Minimalism has a lot to offer folks seeking a more fulfilling life. It can make aspects of one’s everyday routine much more rewarding because the goal is not to obtain or be rewarded by a thing. Instead the reward is the task itself. Minimalism gives everything more purpose. Work, for example, will become a joy because minimalists don’t seek to be rewarded through a paycheque so they can buy more stuff, instead the reward is the work itself and the paycheque is simply a bonus.
Once we change our aim from materialism to sincere satisfaction derived from the fulfilling nature of doing things we’re passionate about, happiness and a more optimistic outlook on life will begin to take shape. Suddenly the seeds of our efforts will begin to sprout and the warm feeling of purpose will be the driver of our efforts. We’ll find much more faith and confidence in ourselves and discover greater satisfaction from our everyday tasks.
Countering Mass Consumption
The alternative and unfortunately popular method is that of mass consumption, or compulsory consumption. A vicious circle of short term, semi satisfaction driven by rewarding one’s self with material goods from money earned doing undesirable work. The goal of life becomes consumption and the practice becomes second nature, or compulsory. We do it to justify doing unfulfilling, stressful, or relentlessly boring jobs that we hate. Materialism will never truly fill the void of satisfaction because the idea behind it is to constantly consume, which in today’s world has no end.
The mass consumption of material goods doesn’t come without a cost. Each new gadget, toy, or tool requires immense amount of energy and resources to make. Extracting, creating, packaging, shipping, using and disposing all contribute to the pollution of the air, rivers, oceans, and lands that we need to survive. We take so much from the earth by living a materialistic lifestyle and often give little to nothing in return. Our earth only has so much to give, but our high rate of consumption has no end and demands far more than the earth has to offer.
The people behind the scenes, who endure grueling work in sometimes toxic factories are not to be forgotten. They are the ones putting their personal health and wellbeing on the line to make the all of the unnecessary things that people buy; things which are frequently tossed away after being purchased or rarely ever used. These factory workers often have no choice. The land that they once lived off of, the ground that grew their vegetables, the rivers that provided their fish and water are now degraded to a point where they cannot be used. Their traditional ways of life have been stripped because the natural resources around them were exploited for a quick buck.
We have such a rare and beautiful opportunity to be alive. One in which experiences and feelings are some of the greatest gifts the world can provide. Being consumed by material goods only hinders our ability to appreciate the world in which we live. I encourage an attempt towards a more frugal lifestyle of fewer things, if not for yourselves, then for the planet, the factory workers, and our future generations.
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