The new minimalism: less, please!
How web activists combat consumption
A new year brings lots of new year's resolutions and projects. To clean out the closet for example. And while you're at it, take care of the desk as well. Or maybe the entire life right away?
To really clean stuff out is probably one of the most common goals that people with possessions set for themselves if a change such as a move or a new year offer the opportunity to do so.
The real thought behind it leads to a lot more than just the wish to keep things orderly. It's about reducing the increasingly complex life in modern society to a manageable concept that can be upheld without using up to much energy for it.
There is a reason the following question exists: "Do you still own your things or do they own you?" Truth seems to lie in the conclusion that you free yourself if you get rid off unused and redundant freight. Who needs ten pairs of shoes, shelves full of unread books or an extra TV in the bathroom?
Life with 40 things
A quite young movement with its roots in the USA wants to combat inconsiderate possession: the minimalists. The lose community of activists and bloggers exchanges ideas on ways of an way of life. The common ground is called "downsizing" - less is more. The minimalists reduce their possessions - their assets of usually more than one thousand items - to the "essentials", the few really important things they need to live and be happy.
How many items it will be is something everyone has to decide for himself - some people can do with 40 things, others can't manage to have less than 200. Which items finally remain is not subject to any dogma. While some only need their tooth brush and iPhone, others do not want to miss their games console.
Another common denominator of modern minimalists is their strong affinity towards the web and modern media. No matter how many things they give up - most of them keep their laptop and smart phone. In the movement, it's not only about letting go of things but also about the freedom to be able to be everywhere at any time without being tied to a specific place.
Many minimalists call themselves "tech nomads" or "digital nomads" - modern nomads who go around the world as freelancers who aren't bound to any place in particular but always connected to their clients and the rest of the world through the web.
One of the first minimal activists who addressed his decision against mindless consumption publicly in his blog Cult of Less, is Kelly Sutton from New York. After spending some time in Berlin, the programmer decided to not even unpack but to sell his possessions he had put in storage with friends and that he hadn't missed during his time away. He put a list of every item on his blog and thus invited his readers to take part in his journey towards this new essential lifestyle. Now, he only owns his computer, some clothes and only one DVD: "Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei" ("The Edukators"; translator's note).
Unequalled consumption of goods
Today, important decisions are not made at the ballot-box but at the supermarket cash register. Through their lobbyism, international corporations have created a society whose extreme focus on the consumption of goods is unprecedented.
Hedonism is not frowned upon
If critical consumption turns into a virtual consumption boycott, they combat Marx' commodity fetish and at the same time react to the increasing complexity of modern life. In doing so, the ideological foundation of modern minimalism are similar to the "new green", the so-called LOHAS ("Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability"): you don't want to get out completely but continue to remain within society yet more conscious and more critical following one's own benchmarks.
A modern approach that fits into our time and into affluent societies. A cultivated hedonism is not frowned upon - everyone is to do without the things he doesn't need and to keep what really makes him happy.
Photos: Sven Neidig