Life/Living

Minimalism and Contentment

Anyone else hear the crickets chirping away in this corner of the Internet? 😀

It’s a beautiful Monday morning and even more so because I got the chance to watch the sun rise and it was simply BREATHTAKING! On this Monday morning, I’d like to share with you my opinion on minimalism or the minimalistic lifestyle. Sorry, no pictures today. 😀

Why? Well, of all our cultural differences, the one custom we share worldwide is celebrating the New Year. These celebrations do vary from region to region but, in most or maybe all there are parties, fireworks and resolutions. Most of us write down a list of things we would like to do, not do and/or get rid of and I have no idea what the statistics look like on this but, most people do not live up to them 😀 And, whether they do or do not complete their list within that year, they will still make another list for the next year with ‘Completing my New Year’s resolutions this year’ being the first on that list for those who didn’t 😀 . The theme of these lists I believe is centered around organisation and ‘declutter’. You know, I won’t do this this year and I won’t do that but I’ll do this and get rid of this etc.

In the December 2015 – January 2016 period, I came across several articles, books and vlogs that were centered around a ‘Decluttered 2016’ and some of them, knowingly and unknowingly,  included minimalism as a part of or the declutter process which I found very interesting and after reading a little about it, was a major trend of 2015. Let’s recap first,

What is Minimalism?

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Shikow gave an excellent definition of minimalism or the Concept of Ma in Japan or the Less is More philosophy (check out her post here) but, it is not something I agree with when it becomes extreme or borders on the extreme. It can be applied to almost anything such as art, architecture and space, literary works and even music.

Minimalist architecture is probably what started it all, I believe. Specifically, the Japanese Zen Philosophy which puts great emphasis on meditation in order for one to discover their true nature and ‘open a way to liberated living’. I know what you’re thinking, it sounds like something you would hear in a Yoga class 😀 but, think about it, when you analysed 2015 and saw what you achieved and didn’t as well as realised what you needed to do in 2016 to be ‘better’, isn’t that just what the Zen philosophy is about (sort of)?

And now you’re wondering why I’m telling you about this, it’s because Zen is all about simplicity and Japanese architects used this and other philosophies to create. As zen is simplicity, the concept of ma is also simplicity seen in the simplicity of a traditional Japanese home and in Ikebana. The one you may not know about is, Wabi-sabi which gives value to simple and plain objects, which I shall go into later in this long post 🙂 .

These principles can be applied to everyday life and just like any other custom, or growing trend, it’s like a coin and there are two sides.

What does Heads look like?

Minimalism is simply, getting rid of stuff you do not need. For instance, you do not need 100 pairs of shoes when you only have two feet and, think about it, having 100 pairs of shoes means you’ll spend more time picking out which pair to wear, more shoes to clean, more to put away…

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Francine Joy, in her blog and book, The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide, talks about the joys of minimalism and I do agree with her, so far. There are major benefits to having less and for most people, more money, high quality stuff and less to clean would be the selling point of minimalism. I mean, more money and less to clean? Who wouldn’t want to sign up? And,

Any Successful Minimalists?

Sure, there are plenty, just check out her blog. She has done several interviews on people who have done it and quite happy with themselves. But, in my books, the most impressive minimalist isn’t on her blog.

Andrew Hyde.

He chose a minimalistic lifestyle and took it all the way and it seems to be working for him just fine. In 2015, he and his backpack of 15 things visited 16 countries! 16! Visiting 3 in a year is but a dream for some of us and he goes to more than 5 times that amount. 😀 Jump on the minimalist bandwagon people! Jump on it fast 😀 (That’s a joke, minimalism will not make your dreams come true immediately, it’s not a wish granting genie. The politician in me will cry ‘misquoted’ if you quote me on that 😀 )

Andrew

The Extreme?

Minimalism has some pretty crazy extremes or what I choose to call ‘The Extra’. Check this and this out. There are people who say they are comfortable and content but, I don’t know if I believe them because I know I wouldn’t be comfortable living how they live. It just seems kinda crazy. Sorry, but that’s just how I see it and as much as I envy Andrew Hyde’s travels, he is extreme. I mean, he lives off of 15 items and is intentionally homeless. He can afford a house or even a studio apartment but IS INTENTIONALLY HOMELESS.

Um…WHAT?? 😀 😀

But, he’s just the famous one among the many minimalist extremists out there. I do see why he chose and maintains that lifestyle but the extremity of it is shocking and, just a little outrageous.

The Beauty of Minimalism

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I then came across Marie Kondo, the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, a Japanese home-organising guru. She gives great insight on organising your life by tidying up and, it makes sense if you look at this way. Getting rid of stuff or having less stuff means you value what you do have and because you have less and buy less, you might only have the highest quality products ergo less is more. And, she does try to relate the tidying up to real life specifically with relationships.

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But, there are things that I do not agree with at all and this, is at the top of my list…

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They roll about and bump into each other every time the drawer is opened? This should be a time for them to rest? 😀 Wow 😀

But, she’s Japanese and I think that there’s an element of Wabi-sabi here. If you remember, wabi-sabi gives some form of value in the simplicity of plain objects; it’s basically saying that they have some understated elegance and treating them with the respect you would a living entity falls into what Wabi-sabi is about. It may seem a little crazy, but, if you look at it that way, you can see the beauty in it. Analysing her book while considering the Zen, Ma and Wabi-sabi principles gives you a deeper understanding of what she is about and, displays the beauty of the Japanese culture to a very great level. (Try it and let me know 🙂 )

What this was all about, contentment..

After looking at minimalism at different angles, I concluded that it’s all about being content. Keep less stuff you actually like, use and appreciate. But, true contentment is something most people have trouble because we’re human, we’ll always want more meaning that it will be and is very difficult to be contented. Right? Wrong. It really doesn’t take much, all it is appreciation, acceptance and just a tiny bit of minimalism. 🙂

Allow me to tell you a story that I was told…

A news station here in Kenya, (Citizen I think), was conducting random interviews on one of the streets of Nairobi. The theme of these interviews was ‘What do you want or what can the government do for you?’. After talking to a few people, the general opinion was ‘The Government of Kenya should help me make a living’. But, a different opinion was given by one person. The only different opinion. This person made a living by roasting maize and selling it by the roadside and, because we are who we are and will always judge a person based on their appearance, you’d think that this man had all the stress in the world and was very unhappy. But, he said, ” I have been roasting maize and selling it by the roadside for years and with the little I have made all these years, I have managed to buy a shamba (plot of land) and built a little house in which my family and I have lived comfortably for several years. I have managed to take my 4 children to school up to the university level. Three have graduated and are now living their lives comfortably. One is still in university but set to finish soon. I have provided for my family. They are a success meaning I am a success and I am perfectly happy with my life. So, what can the government do for me? Nothing because I have accomplished everything.’

That is a man who has lived a very simple life and not by choice. To an extent, he has been a minimalist, an unintentional minimalist, who from his short story only bought what he needed and now had all he needed and was perfectly happy. And, I think that’s what it should be about. Less is more in the sense that, the less you have makes you truly happy and that is what we should strive for, minimalist or not.

読んでくれてありがとうございます!

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In a perfect world, Gillian would be travelling round the world in her red vintage VW T1 van (Hippie Van) gathering stories of the people she meets and retelling them to those ready to listen. She is in the process of building this world which is now going to have all of you in it.

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