Less is more? The rise of minimalism

Are we past the era when lavish lifestyles that comprised of expensive cars, mansions and clothes were ‘the dream’? Even with social pressure today that has many living beyond their means in an effort to ‘keep up appearances’, many are embracing minimalism — way of living that fits within their means.

Although the trend is quickly gaining momentum as more people opt to transform their lifestyle, minimalism is different for everyone.

To some, like Doreen Mutesi, a social worker and mother of one, minimalism is about prioritising the things that bring value to your life, appreciating the items you own more and spending less money on products you won’t use.

“It is a lifestyle that values experiences more than possessions. Minimalism isn’t just about empty houses with hardly any items. It’s about removing all the things that distract us from what’s important in our lives. As a working mother who hopes to have more children, time with them is what is important so I do not want to dwell on the means to give them a lavish lifestyle but what they actually need,” she says.

For others like Darius Rukundo, an accountant, it is the desire to cut back on the number of things they own and have less clutter. This, he says, is an ideal way to easily have a clean environment, which he is so obsessed with.

“After I learned about this new lifestyle, it came to my knowledge that I was buying things that excited me for just a short while, but after that, I wondered why I bought some of them in the first place as I did not need them. All they did was fill up my home space with clutter.

“Right now, I’m more planned about belongings that are important to me even in the next five years and giving away those that I do not need to those that do,” he says.

Minimalism is a growing trend globally but common mostly among the millennials who are known to have a unique set of values around how they choose to spend their money. The trend is perpetuated when you consider that things you buy require extra hard work and do more.

“We come from a generation where we’re told to study hard, get a decent job, purchase as many belongings to our names as a sign of our success, and give our kids the kind of life they ‘deserve’. They contend that we can all be happier if we buy things we truly need, and borrow or rent things we need temporarily, which has only made us competitive and anxious,” explains Brenda Abatoni, a banker.

Since embarking on a journey of minimalism, Abatoni, has committed to de-cluttering and being content with the essentials that she has, and believes she can be debt free within a few years, while also saving extra money in the meantime.

A minimalist lifestyle, she adds, entails being mindful about the things we own, what we buy, and how we utilise them. It emphasises quality rather than quantity, which means buying clothes in neutral colours in really good quality fabrics that would last a longer time.

“My car was acquired on loan and was only putting me in debt to maintain it. I sold it off and have now opted to take the bus or get rides with the company car. I also shop for less clothes and shoes, only if I need them, and rented a smaller house. Having a tiny home encourages the minimalism movement because it literally makes it virtually impossible to succumb to overconsumption, and life has never been simpler, for me,” she says.

Mutesi also explains that minimalism doesn’t in any way preach stinginess or deprivation –rather, spending more prudently on things that are necessary and things that last.

“Even the economic trends seem to be drawing towards this idea. The sharing economy, in which consumers do not mind sharing a set of services available, such as Airbnb and office spaces, rather than buy cars, improved gadgets that can accommodate documents and media content at once, and consumers who spend on ethical and sustainable brands, shows how important this lifestyle is not only to individuals but the environment as well,” she says.

A personal decision

Owning a lot of material goods is incredibly tempting, and the alluring advertisements on products do not make it any easier, which is why many people fall into consumerism so easily. Transitioning from a cluttered and materialistic lifestyle toward the exhilarating simplicity of minimalism, therefore, is a tough decision to make.

For this reason, Rukundo believes that the need to turn into a minimalist has to be from within as opposed to simply following a trend, because finding contentment and happiness through less possession is not for everybody.

“Having a lot of things and the clutter doesn’t bother you, and you want to keep them, then why not? But if you decide to follow the minimalism trend and follow through, you will not only be more at peace with yourself, but also more in control of your own life,” he says.

A sustainable lifestyle

Johnson Gahigari, 43, a businessman, hopes that the trend is widely embraced as an anti-consumerism, environmental awareness, and a move to sustainability that everybody can get on board with.

The growing trend of minimalism, he says, can also be attributed to the technological age we are living in. Home offices are so common nowadays that often, people’s homes double up as their workspaces, which means it needs to be functional and conducive to productivity.

“With people buying less junk that they’ll inevitably end up chucking out at some point, harming our environment, with the growing awareness that excessive consumption leads to environmental damage, people will be more cautious of what they need as opposed to what advertisements tell them about satisfaction.

“As millennials adopt a debt-free life, they will choose to spend their money on experiences, such as traveling, concerts and meaningful parties, rather than things. The more the minimalism trend grows, the better for the environment and our mental health as they grow towards self-discovery, as opposed to societal expectations,” he says.

The focus, Mutesi adds, shouldn’t be about succeeding in the new movement or sticking to it, but about what it teaches you and how it changes your life along the way. This, she says, means anybody willing to adopt the lifestyle should consider what works for them, as opposed to what they see other people do.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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