Written by Kimberlee Joi
I am a product of the culture in which I live—and by that I mean I am a person that often over-spends and over-consumes.
Mass consumption and consumerism are normative American values and have been accepted as positive elements of our culture because it is believed that consuming more can both improve our economic status and/or allow us to feel more contented in our personal lives. Both of these propositions are often incorrect.
So why do we have such an obsession with consumption?
I think the answer is specific to each individual, but generally speaking, I believe we attempt to satiate our highest needs by consumption and consumerism. That is, we buy material things that in essence appeal to our baser needs (i.e. more cars, more clothes, bigger houses, etc.) as a grasp at some higher fulfillment or enlightenment; but, these are fruitless acts.
The interminable desire to always acquire more neither adds value to a person’s life nor does it cause a person to feel any more fulfilled or gratified than he or she would if he or she had just enough. The evidence of this is overflowing. The American Psychological Association finds that people who buy into the message of consumer culture do not have greater emotional well-being or a more satisfactory outlook on life.
It is why we are always acquiring more but are still left feeling discontented.
Although it’s a counter-culture position, I believe that minimalism, not consumerism, leads the way to fulfilling our highest needs, achieving happiness and even in some cases increasing our wealth.
What I’ve known for a long time is that my life has always felt cluttered, not just because of the physical things that I’d been stockpiling around me, but because of the lack of clarity I had mentally and spiritually. Like so many other people, I’d been purchasing “things” in an attempt to make my life feel full, but in fact, those “things” had been a distraction.
Joshua Becker is the founder of Becoming Minimalist, and has defined minimalism as “the intentional promotion of our greatest passions and the removal of everything that distracts us from them.” Once I read this quote, I gained a new perspective and a much broader understanding of what it means to lead a minimalist life.
For me, minimalism does not mean being able to pack all of my belongings in one box, or living in a 200 square foot apartment. It does not demand deprivation.
For me, minimalism means only introducing things into my life that add value and discarding those things that do not.
Of course, part of my journey has been ridding myself of needless material things. I have given away a dozen or so bags of clothes and shoes to charity in the last month, and I am currently in the process of downsizing my home and selling one of my cars.
However, the bigger part of my journey has been evaluating what I need to do in order to have a clear headspace, and a peaceful heart because on the value continuum, these are the things that matter most to me. Here are some of the things I am doing to help me along the way:
1. Go Electronic:
One thing that always keeps me from being relaxed is having a disorganized home. Some people can live and thrive in “organized chaos.” I cannot. In an effort to diminish the time I spend organizing and filing paperwork, I’ve decided to go electronic. While I was previously reticent about having all of my bills, personal notices and business statements submitted electronically, now that I’ve finally done it, I can see a noticeable difference.
If you are not ready to take the plunge and go electronic, I recommend finding a local shredding event hosted by a community business or organization and take all of your unwanted/unneeded paperwork for proper dispersal. You will have peace of mind knowing that your confidential information has not been compromised and that there is no longer extraneous paper taking up space in your home.
When I’m feeling distracted and aggravated, I do an “E-Purge.” It may sound very much like a contradiction to #1, above, but taking a day to disconnect from social media, television, the telephone, and even online work commitments, allows me to focus my thoughts and have a moment of calm. When I am feeling more centered, I can resume my passions with more resolve.
3. Practice Mindfulness:
I find myself floating through life on auto-pilot a lot, and it has made me feel like life is passing me by day by day. I am a work in progress, but I am practicing being conscious of what I am doing and why I am doing it. This doesn’t just apply to the ways in which I spend money or what I consume, it is also useful in determining the people I invite into my life, the energy that I put out into the world, and the intention with which I choose to live. Whether it is what I watch on television, what music I listen to, or the people with whom I associate, I am now making thoughtful decisions about what I allow to happen in my life.
4. Show an Attitude of Gratitude:
Most importantly, when I start questioning whether I have enough or feeling like life is cheating me because I’m having a bad day or a bad week, I begin to “count my blessings.” I recommend keeping a Gratitude Log, or a “Good Things” Jar to remind you of all the positive things happening in your life. It dulls any sensation I might have to overcompensate by purchasing an inessential material thing-like a Salvatore Ferragamo purse-and allows me to focus on what I already have—whether it be material or not.
Minimalism means different things to different people, and everyone’s journey will be different.
Tell us, what leading a minimalistic life means to you
Kimberlee Joi is a native Midwesterner, who traversed to Washington, DC in 1996 where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English, and later went on to receive a Juris Doctor. Currently, she is a part-time blogger/freelance writer and litigation attorney with more than 12 years of experience in the field of labor and employment law. She is a member of the American Bar Association, and has worked as an Editor and published articles for the Bureau of National Affairs, Daily Labor Report, as well as other publications. Her blog, scrivenista, is her passion made visible through writing. Her goal is to educate people about marginal communities, elevate their consciousness and inspire them to transform their thinking and behavior to effect change in the world.
Kimberlee Joi is a political enthusiast, passionate foodie, and recovering coffee-addict. In her free time she enjoys traveling, reading, and binge-watching “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”
 Liz Perle, Money, a Memoir: Women, Emotions and Cash, 1st ed. (Henry Holt and Co. 2006) citing (David G. Myers, “Happiness,” online excerpt from Psychology, 7th ed. (Worth, 2004.)