by Rachael Birri
More. Bigger. Not better. Living in a Western world of mass consumerism harms our planet, our wallets, and most importantly, our mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, children under the age of 4 cannot distinguish between television advertisements and scheduled programming, meaning that want and entertainment become associated at a very early age. This advertisement doesn’t let up as we age. When 89% of 18 to 29 year-olds report staying active on social media sites, it’s no wonder that ad agencies would take to the internet. Instagram and Tumblr have integrated advertisements into their users’ dashboards. Snapchat even advertises within their already-sponsored stories. It feels impossible to escape the constant bombardment of “you need this, and you need it now.” However some, like Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors of the blog theminimalists and former six-figure business men, have fought back, saying no, I don’t need it. In fact, I don’t want it.
In their TEDx talk, Millburn and Nicodemus talk about their journey that taught them that “rich has nothing to do with wealth.” Millburn was working for a large corporation, earning six figures, working upwards of 60 hours a week, and spending and spending and spending. His catalogue of belongings was picture perfect: the latest gadgets, nice car, and luxury condo with two living rooms.
He was miserable.
Millburn couldn’t figure out why until he sat down for lunch with his friend of two decades, Nicodemus, who lived a parallel life to Millburn, only Nicodemus was happy despite the passing of his dad and recent divorce. Nicodemus told Millburn about this new community he discovered: minimalists. Operating on the simple idea that less is more, minimalists pare down everything they own until they are left only with two things: what they need and what they love. Millburn, out of desperation to fill the void, decided to try it himself. He boxed up everything he owned then unpacked only what he needed; after a month he found that 80% of his stuff was still sitting in boxes, unused, so he sold and donated all of it.
The stuff was gone, yet in its place he found relief, space, and purpose. Henry David Thoreau, famous author of Walden, was a minimalist before it had a name: “I make myself rich by making my wants few.” In an age where wanting is a practical pastime, hunting for bargains and the biggest “bang for our buck” is an integral part of our lives, yet it seems that we would all be happier if we were able to step back and realize that we do want more and we do want better but not stuff. We really want better relationships, more genuine smiles, and better cries. No iPhone, surround sound speakers, or $400 hipster turntable can give us these things. Yes. Less is less. Less is less: less worry, less hassle, and less receipts.