Can Minimalism Save Us From Materialism?

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: A day after us Americans give thanks for all that we have, we then go out on a spree to buy things that we don’t need. It’s not so much because we have an inherent love for shopping. It’s the deals! The fun-filled havoc! Stocking up on Christmas gifts! Right?

Wrong.

It’s our culture’s obsession with “stuff.” It’s our inability to stop buying the coolest gadgets, the fanciest shoes, and the most up-to-date gaming PC because those items keep us at the social level of others. We go out and buy the items that are marketed to be the newest and best in order to display them, all the while possibly hoarding and pushing the other stuff we have into the garage or closet because we may not want to throw them away.

In other words, our materialism is a result of our obsession with commodities, which is fueled by a need to fit in. We literally buy into the culture we have so that we can prove our worth. This promotes a “standard” for people rather than individuality. Even “new” things are always going out of style, so in a rush to build up our status symbol, we buy things and go at it year after year because it’s never enough. We want to upgrade not only our homes, but our lives and how others perceive us. Therefore, we also learn to take things for granted by essentially expecting that our money will buy us happiness. And as we have also heard many times before, money can’t do that.

It’s sad, really, the mounting desire for items. This year, JCPenney opened up their stores for Black Friday on Thursday afternoon — cutting into employees’ family time on Thanksgiving Day. All in an effort for us, consumers, to get something that we’ll either forget about or throw out in the near future.

I’m sure those of you who came back home from college for Thanksgiving break have experienced walking into your bedroom and realizing that your family has turned it into another storage closet. And your actual closet is now holding more of their things than your own. Then, you look through your room and realize all the things you left behind that you forgot you ever had. Those are the things you realize you never really needed in the first place.

This need for things doesn’t end just on Friday, either. It continues on into the following Monday, for those who want to comfortably spend at home while in their recently-acquired fleece pajamas, using the latest Dell laptops, and laying atop the “best” memory foam mattress.

Now, let’s take a look at minimalism. The Merriam-Webster dictionary cites it as, “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” However, I like to think of it as more of a mindset that could be incorporated into a great lifestyle. Its principle is not necessarily anti-materialism, as it is being more conscious of the things you need, and therefore, the things you spend your money on.

By practicing minimalism instead, you learn to invest in something that’ll be worth it in the long run, as you know that accruing things and then dumping them out is a waste in many ways. If so many things go out of style so frequently, perhaps why not do research and find something that’s worth spending a good amount on that’ll withstand time?

As with many things that become a lifestyle, you also tweak it to cater to yourself. What’s minimalist for you as a gamer may not be minimalist for a person who’s an artist or musician.

So next time, it may be useful to ask yourself questions like: Can I see myself wearing that $250 dress more than once? How long will I play this video game before I call it quits?

I’m not completely against Black Friday or spending; if the stuff you have at home is literally falling apart by the seams and you’re in desperate need to replace that old junk, by all means, partake in buying things that are on sale! It’s just important to practice spending what you need versus what you want. In essence, you’ll end up saving a lot more than you would have bargained for at the register: money, space, time, and the environment.

Mira Lu
Mira Lu

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