Minimalism: a great lifestyle or a new consumer trap?

Until the beginning of the twenty-first century, the physical accumulation of property was the standard of security that everyone sought. Job stability, owning a home and a car, were the dreams we were caught with like straw, even if it meant drowning in a flood of credit and debt.

We became addicted to accumulation and consumption, but by the beginning of the first decade of the twenty-first century calls were made for a conscious abandonment of patterns of consumption accumulation and the tendency of “minimalism” in response to the tyranny of consumer behavior. . , a tendency that urges people to get rid of excess possessions from Their need, in an effort to simplify life, to focus and appreciate the most important things, and to protect the human soul from drowning in the flood of materialism .

Today, hundreds of books and blogs have spread about “minimalism” and if you search for the hashtag #minimalism on the platform “Instagram” or “Pinterest”, you will find millions of pictures, but what stands out is that they all look. similar to one degree or another, as if displaying duplicates of predominantly white designs.Elements of nature and similar clothing in neutral colors. It is as if minimalism has gone from a tendency to improve life to a new commodity and an easy response and a new trap that pushes us towards consumption.

the first roots

Diogenes sitting on his urn – Jerome 1860

Minimalism, or the call to simplify the way of life, has its roots in many ancient religions and philosophies. In Greece, specifically in the third century BC, Diogenes, one of the pioneers of cynical philosophy, was described by al-Shahristani in his book “Melal and Nahl” as “he was a wise, virtuous, ascetic who did not buy nothing. and did not take him home. ” All of Diogenes’s wealth consisted of a cloak, a stick, and a leather bag, and he slept in a wooden jar like a barrel, having refused to conform to the values ​​of society at the time to amass wealth and compete for status. social.

The roots of simplification and thrift also appear in Stoic philosophy, which is associated to some extent with a happy life without possessions and considers it as transient and on the verge of extinction. (1) Certainly, the same features of secession and asceticism are what we see in the heavenly religions such as Islam and Christianity, and in a hadith on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with them, he said: “The Messenger of Allaah, peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him, took me by the shoulder and said: Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler.

As for the term “minimalism” itself, it appeared in the sixties of the last century, specifically in 1965, in an article by the philosopher Richard Whelheim, in which he referred to an artistic tendency that began in New York to departed from the expression. and the abstract methods that prevailed at the time towards the simpler elements. This coincided with a similar architectural trend that began in the early twentieth century with the name “Bauhaus” preaching more modest and simpler structures and lines, without excessive decoration, a style that later extended to interior design. . (2)

Minimalists: less is more
Minimalists: less is more

Later, the term shifted from the technical field to the field of life improvement with Joshua Fields Melbourne and Ryan Nicodemus, two friends who lived in the United States a luxurious life and were able to master the vocabulary of the American dream, from luxury cars. , expensive homes and prestigious jobs with fantastic salaries, yet each of them suffered from Depression and stress. And in 2009, after watching an inspirational clip by Colin Wright, who owns several collections and travels the world, they realize that what they are living is not a dream, but a lie and a hoax.

The two friends embarked on a journey to simplify their lives and dispose of about 90% of their wealth in a direction they called “minimalism”. They recorded their inspirational journey on a blog followed by millions around the world and a documentary on Netflix. platform that inspired millions of people to follow the same trend.

Marie Kondo .. the magic of arrangement and the supposed spark of joy

Later, the professional organization “Marie Kondo” became one of the most important pillars of this trend, with the publication of her book “The Magic of Adjustment”, which sold millions of copies, and was translated into many languages, including Arabic. . Kondo also presented a series of realistic TV episodes in which she visits various homes to help their owners get rid of clutter and organize their assets in a semi-ritual way.

In short, the Kondo technique is to go through all your possessions in a predetermined order, determining if each piece inspires pleasure and happiness, eliminating everything you do not use and do not use. The Kondo method offers its followers a radical way to escape chaos and rediscover their identity away from possessions.

But with a little meditation, her method is as simple as the illustrations in her book. Either you love the purpose and you ignite what you called a spark of joy, or you get rid of it immediately, without asking about the elements that our relationship with them may change over time, or about the abstract utilitarian relationship with some elements. . But what if your financial income does not guarantee the possibility of buying new shoes, do you get rid of all your shoes that do not arouse that so-called spark of joy in your heart? What if you are a refugee or immigrant and circumstances require you to keep assets, which in that case may constitute a lifeline and not a burden? Is the spark of joy enough in this case to judge your relationship with the property? Well Kondo does not tell us the answer in these cases.

The irony is that Marie Kondo’s style has become a commodity in its own right. courses and certificates that enable you to become a professional organizer in her own way. Is “minimalism” turned into another commodity?

Well, Marie Kondo is today at the top of a long list of writers and influencers who have embraced the philosophy of “minimalism”. But it is impressive that most of the books published in this regard adopt what is as a unified structure, starting with the crisis that made the author turn to minimalism, then the transformation that took place and how his life changed for the better. . and almost all wear similar covers with neutral colors and simple harsh designs, and thus slipped the Movement of “minimalism” toward commodification and repetition, transformed from a philosophy of self-discipline into a form of competitive luxury. (3)

The lie of renunciation

Steve Jobs at his home - 1982
Steve Jobs at his home – 1982

“It was a perfect time. I was alone. All I needed was a cup of tea, a light and a stereo player. And that was what I had.”

(Steve Jobs)

In one of the most iconic images of Steve Jobs, the iconic CEO sits cross-legged in a simple jacket and jeans, embodying with his previous quote the trend of minimalism that Apple has successfully translated through its devices. But do not let the simplicity of the figure fool you. Jobs is sitting in a house that is too spacious for a single person, and this lamp that appears is not just a utility piece, but a piece of Tiffany and its stereo system cost him $ 8200, according to Wired magazine.

In his book, The Longing for Less, Kyle Chaika analyzes this view and treats Apple devices as a representation of deceptive simplicity. The complex superstructure of submarine cables and satellites transforms the aesthetics of simplicity into an overly volatile garment. (4)

The conclusion is that in the light of a global system based on consumption, and always capable of containing every movement that arises to resist them, to turn it into a cog in its ruthless wheel, an empty version of meaning has emerged from the trend of minimalism, which has produced vocabulary and similar goods that erase the elements of local cultural exclusivity and the personal style of individuals. The characteristics of this trend appear in Swedish furniture with monochromatic wallpaper and light curtains, in a brand that has turned into a franchise that only the rich can afford. (5)


True, minimalism started as a question about the new way you see the world when you give up excess, but quickly turned into an arrogant answer, offering other ways to enable new forms of consumerism. (6)

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. (7)

It is true that the awareness that simplification brings to our lives can really help us reduce consumption, create a simple life and a healthy relationship with the assets we really need, without the dictates and logic of the market, but it requires that we we maintain our awareness of it within a framework. It is a tool and not a goal, an open question with no ready-made answers like the ones sold everywhere around us today. (8)

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1-Are we wrong with minimalism?

2. Philosophy of effect Minimal art in the works of artists Modern art

3- For refugee children, Marie Kondo’s “Magic that changes the life of adjustment” reveals the privilege of clutter

4-Marie Kondo’s empty promises and mania for minimalism

5-A critique of minimalism

6- The empty politics of minimalism

7- Minimalism is just another boring product that rich people can buy

8-The pitfalls and potential of New Minimalism

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