For my first voyage into the world of self-improvement for ‘Self Improve Me’ I have decided to try my hand at becoming a Minimalist. What the hell is a Minimalist I hear you cry or why will the abstract art movement of the 1960’s help to improve you?
Developing a competency in abstract art appreciation isn’t quite on the agenda just yet although I’m fairly sure I could fit a florescent light in interesting ways à la Dan Flavin. Nope, This new form of Minimalism is a lifestyle movement that has gained popularity in the last few years and at first glance appears to be about turning your back on mass consumerism and ‘living with less’ by getting rid of all of your stuff.
I can’t recall where I first heard on ‘The Minimalists’ but whilst aimlessly clicking through the ever expanding library in Netflix (I had already devoured season 2 of Stranger Things) I came across a documentary entitled ‘Minimalism: A Documentary’, it was a documentary in case you were wondering.
‘Minimalism: A Documentary’ is the creation of ‘The Minimalists’ Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus who have given themselves the moniker ‘The Minimalists’ (bloody big heads) and who on further investigation turn out to be the poster boys of the movement in the USA but with an eye on world domination. These guys have a blog, have written a couple of books, a podcast along with this documentary on the subject of Minimalism. Josh and Ryan are on a mission to get us all living more meaningful lives.
Their back story is that they both had successful careers in the ‘corporate world’, all of the conventional trapping of success and were for all intents and purposes living the ‘American Dream’. They had the big houses, expensive cars but were miserable and couldn’t understand why? That was until one day Ryan noticed a change in Josh and asked him ‘why the hell he was so happy?’ His answer….he had discovered minimalism.
Since becoming minimalists Josh and Ryan have set about sharing their minimalism ‘recipe’ and are hoping that other people can get value from their ‘ingredients’. Hang on a minute; this is all starting to sound a bit corporate isn’t it? They have a devoted following in the US and they are currently on a mammoth tour attracting significant crowds to large venues to spread their brand of minimalist gospel to often gushing applause and approval.
There were a couple of things I’m not so sure about with ‘The Minimalists’, firstly they are self-declared ‘huggers’ and say thing like ‘I’m a hugger’. At their talks people form orderly queues for hugs from them, yep, they actually QUEUE for hugs. I think it is my extreme Britishness but unless I am 5 pints into a night out I am most definitely NOT a hugger. If they ever tour in the UK I will be circumnavigating the queue of huggers instead opting for a respectful nod of the head in appreciation before making a hasty exit just in case I get cornered into an unwanted hugging situation with a minimalist.
The other thing is that they love a catchphrase, and I don’t mean a night in binge watching Roy Walker and Mr Chips. They are constantly repeating phrases like ‘live a meaningful life’ ‘letting go’, ‘add value’, ‘‘live deliberately’ , ‘Good Game, Good game’, ’what’s a hotspot not?’ ok so the last two aren’t theirs but you get the idea.
Despite that, there is a lot to like about Josh and Ryan and after looking beyond the stock phrases and clichés it turns out minimalism isn’t really about getting rid of all of your stuff (phew) It’s about living more deliberately by focusing on the important things. For example, if you are in a boat load of debt because you keep buying things to try and compensate for being miserable then maybe, just maybe it is buying stuff that you can’t afford which is making you miserable in the first place.
You know that wardrobe bursting to the brim with musty smelling clothes? You don’t need them. You know that wobbly Ikea book case bursting with books you won’t ever read? You don’t need them. You know that cupboard bulging to the brim with 1000’s of CD’s that you haven’t listened to in years? You don’t need them. That pile of papers gathering dust on the kitchen top? You guessed it you don’t need them. You might want to keep your driving license and marriage certificate but you get the gist…
If the idea of Minimalism is to make you happier and less stressed then I’m signing up (well for at least 3 weeks anyway as part of my first experiment). We could all do with being a bit happier and less stressed couldn’t we?
It turns out that ‘Minimalism: A Documentary’ was my gateway into a further exploration of Minimalism and so here I am about to embark on three intensive weeks of being a fully-fledged Minimalist. Heck, I may even start hugging people and start saying words like ‘heck’.
Coincidently as a big Beatles fan I was recently watching the George Harrison documentary ‘Living in a Material World and came across and interview with George Harrison where he talks about materialism and how having lots of material thing didn’t make the Beatles happy. In it he says ‘By having the money we found that money was not the answer. Because we had lots of material things that people spend their whole lives trying to get, we managed to get them at quite an early age and it was good really because we learnt that that wasn’t it. We still lacked something, and that thing is what religion tries to give to people’
Could George have an early adopter of Minimalism? Well if it’s good enough for those four lovable mop tops from Liverpool it should be good enough for me.