Minimal (ism)

-ism

a suffix appearing in loanwords from Greek, where it was used to form action nouns from verbs ( baptism ); on this model, used as a productive suffix in the formation of nouns denoting action or practice, state or condition, principles, doctrines, a usage or characteristic, devotion or adherence, etc. ( criticism; barbarism; Darwinism; despotism; plagiarism; realism; witticism; intellectualism ). -Dictionary.com

In modern society we are confronted with countless isms that demand our allegiance. We encounter questions like: What religion do you believe in? What political party do you belong to? On the other hand, people profess to follow this ism or that ism and they give all sorts of passionate arguments why you should follow their particular ism. Some may question the audacity to create to isms to add to the list such as “dudeism”.

With all these isms fighting for attention, what makes minimalism so different? I think it is because isms are either inclusive or exclusive. An inclusive ism does not require you to follow it as the only ism but allows for integration into other isms. Conversely, exclusive isms tend to offer themselves as the one solution to all problems and set fundamental standards in order to be a member.

I would argue that minimalism is an inclusive ism in that you do not have to pledge alliegence to some unerring principal. Minimalism is different for everyone and that makes it very personal as opposed to institutional. If you are a minimalist, you do not have to be a certain religion, follow a certain political ideology or even obey certain fixed rules. While other isms compete minimalism offers itself as an individualized and inclusive personal philosophy.

The key to understanding minimalism is understanding why isms come into existence in the first place. Every ism has it’s root in the event that some other ism becomes unbalanced. Therefore, new isms are usually born of a reaction to another ism that has failed to meet the needs of a group of people. In that case, minimalism can be said to be a reaction to the over-commercialism of modern culture.

Many people become victims of advertisements and media telling them they need certain products to be happy. Companies see the population as “consumers” and tailor thier advertisements to include false associations. For example, an advertisement may associate drinking their brand of alcohol with having good close friends. In reality, there is no guarantee that drinking a certain beverage will automatically attract meaningful friendships.
People who buy the product believe they are buying friendship which is a false association. Drinking may also lead to no friends at all as you down in alcohol alone in a bar wondering where your friends are. This is not to say drinking itself is bad, only that it can be used as an advertisement tool to purposely mislead in order to make money. In reality, cultivating a good friendship has many facets but all can be accomplished without name brand drinks.

The arguement of minimalism is that the things that really speak to us in advertisements like: friends, contentment, self-sufficiency ect. (which are paired with products) are easy to obtain naturally. Obtaining these things through buying tons of products is only designed to make you buy more and more things until you are left unfulfilled and in debt. Instead of more “stuff”, minimalism teaches to select the important and essential things we already have and get rid of the clutter that gets in the way of what is important. It is an ism of prioritizing. The threshold of “just enough” is different for everyone. Some minimalists pride themselves on owning less than 100 possessions while other minimalists simply focus on keeping their house clean. The unifying principals are: less stuff = more freedom and less ambition = more contentment. Minimalism, however, is not an end goal. Rather, it is a habit that leads to prioritizing life so that the maximum amount of contentment is reached. It leads to the goal of realizing that happiness is not only possible but easy.

If you hear testimonials about minimalism, it usually comes from people who talk about how it has helped them. It is not a club to join or a flag to pledge to and you don’t even have to call yourself a minimalist. Give it a try, or not… everyone is different and have different needs to be met. However, there remains at least one social good that comes from minimalism. Since resources are finite and space is limited it might be a good idea to “live simply so that others may simply live.” To achieve that while creating personal contentment is not such a bad idea. Choose your isms wisely and be conscious of them.