The concept of minimalism has taken front stage over the past few years, driven primarily by popular media through The Minimalists and the likes of bad boy phenomena James Altucher and other big media names such as Tim Ferriss. The simple concept of minimalism : less is more.
I was compelled to write something after watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix that brought upon moments of self-reflection over the past several years. While the term has been overused and misunderstood given its appreciation in popularity, I guess I was a minimalist without ever knowing the term - traversing the foreign lands with nothing but a 40L backpack. And it kept getting lighter and lighter as the journey went on. The simple life. And I loved it.
It was a stark contrast to the glitz and glam of the Hollywood life I was accustomed to seeing once upon a time. But that's what brings a smile to my face. To go from Fast & Furious screenings with celebrity appearances to hitchhiking on the roads of Palestine. It was amazing.
However, the term has received a lot of crap as well, used solely for those fortunate enough to go off the grid with several backup plans. It depends on how one uses the term. Similarly to how one could say he or she is a world traveler by spending a mere 1 or 2 days in each country - it depends on the context. But the principles behind minimalism is nothing new. Rather, I experienced a different kind of minimalism growing up, one called "financial minimalism." As the son of immigrant parents who never had an education, we had to learn to get by with bare the minimums. Of course, as a kid, you compare yourself to the "haves," but you eventually get by with your hand-me-downs. There's no money for a new pair of $100 Nikes. $20 No-names from Target will do. And Lunchables? Eww, stuck again with mom's "asian" homemade rice plate (although I do now realize that it was a luxury!). Call it frugal, cheap, or minimalist, but most immigrant families I know exhibit these principles in some manner but extremely different from this westernized definition because walk into a Chinese family's home, and you'll see stacks of useless storage containing anything and everything - far from "minimalist."
But somewhere down the line, you "grow up." And you believe that success equates to a nice car. A nice house. And the next "nice something." That should equate to a life of happiness and fulfillment. And then you curiously ponder why the self-help industry is a $15 billion industry.
Then one may start to question life...when you stumble upon "unfortunate" ones with tattered clothes and a missing shoe but with the biggest smiles on their faces. And who could forget the aspiring monks I met from Laos to India who gave me lessons in simplicity? At the end of it all, I found my confirmation : less is indeed more.
Minimalism isn't new. It's as simple as decluttering your room and getting rid of anything that doesn't "spark joy," according to Marie Kondo. And it does shed a light on the question of what one truly needs to be so-called "successful" in life. I agree in the principles of minimalism, but I don't need to declare myself a minimalist.