What you actually gain from a (more) minimal lifestyle

Ever since Marie Kondo decluttered the houses of Californian couples in her Netflix series “Clean up with Marie Kondo”, the trend of minimalism has also manifested itself in our minds. But in the age of materialism and consumerism, can we really do without the supposed “nice things” in life for good?

What does not affect you, can go

On a superficial level, the documentary series by the Japanese best-selling author and queen of cleaning-up is about the most space-efficient way to store socks in your dresser, there is a much deeper question lingering in the background. How do we really want to live in the future? With Marie Kondo in mind, the answer seems straightforward. After all, people’s design for a life liberated from possessions forms the basis for her success.

The principle to actualize this dream is as simple as it is universal and, probably for that reason exactly, enjoys enormous popularity. Clean out your belongings once and for all and you’ll never have to clean up again; that’s the motto. Sounds doable, right? But how do we decide what stays and what goes? Here, too, Marie Kondo has a solution: everything that does not fill us with joy – tokimeku means something like heartbeat in Japanese – unfortunately must go. What is left over can be lovingly tidied up.

The Japanese way of life

This means that every shirt, every paperclip, every piece of furniture or gadget that doesn’t instantly trigger an inner dance of joy should be put aside for disposal. In addition to a decluttered house, you have paved the way to a more conscious lifestyle. Kondo’s method can be extended to all areas of life. Bad eating habits? Away with it! Unpleasant appointments? Cancel them. Exhausting friendships? Let them go. Things that don’t bring you happiness are in the past. But is Ikigai – the Japanese understanding of the meaning of life, the reason for getting up in the morning? Is the fulfillment to be found in every day life?

Are minimalists better people?

Can the pure sight of a trash can, filing cabinet in the study or the thought of the next dentist appointment fill us with the required amount of euphoria? Probably not. Though Marie Kondo’s definition of happiness dictates that we dispose of the garbage can, along with its contents, destroy the files and cancel the dentist appointment, these things, however unpleasant they may be, are part of the life of any responsible adult. It is precisely this point that challenges the theory of radical decluttering. Does it really make sense to stuff everything in a black sack hoping never to see it again? Are the radical minimalists who have little more than a laptop, two cups and a yoga mat in their homes really the happier, even better people?

The key to success: make more conscious decisions

In the end, minimalism isn’t a contest of who can get by with fewer possessions. It’s much more important to create awareness of how we can better deal with the possessions we already have. Throwing away a pair of glasses just because they’re not fun to wear at first just means we’ll have to either wander the streets blind or buy new glasses. If we throw out the living room lamp because it no longer brings us happiness, we either sit in the dark or start the search for a new, even better model. So, what’s the take away? First and foremost, it is not the thoughtless and premature decluttering à la Marie Kondo that brings fulfillment. In most cases, making more conscious decisions helps immensely and –with the thought of new glasses or an improved lamp in the back of our minds—we can be content for a few more years.

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