Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
William Morris was one of the founders of the “Arts and Crafts Movement” which arose during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to the mass-produced goods coming out of the new factories.
He was one of the “names” of Victorian England and lived at a time when capitalism and the factory had become major influences on the British social milieu.
As he was an active social reformer he rejected the cheap, mass-produced goods coming out of the factories, appalled by the conditions under which so many had to work. He was in favour of the well made, long-lasting items that were hand made. Somewhat glorifying the idea of the noble artisan slaving away in his workshop.
The quotation used above remains good advice for those of us, myself included, who have houses full of things we bought in a fit of excitement, but which we didn’t need and have hardly ever used. These possessions take up space – both physical and emotioinal – and make a significant contribution to a sense of unease and disconnection from the world around us.
This is a major difficulty of living in our materialistic culture. We have come to believe the advertising and when we feel the need to communicate through the things we own materialism wins and we end up buying things to impress others, rather than things that will improve our lives
I am not sure why we need six bluetooth speakers in a household of four.
This materialist lifestyle is driven by the belief that what we own is the major reflection of who we are. This belief is encouraged by the advertising world, which, helped by a hundred and fifty years of practice and research, knows the best ways to part us from our hard-earned dollars.
We now live in a world in which we are constantly bombarded by messages telling us that we are not cool if we do not own the latest gadget, that our life will be so much better if we only drive the right model of gas guzzler, or we will be as thin as the model if we buy the latest slimming aid.
Things will not make us happy.
The result of all this is the we end up dissatisfied with our lives and rush out to buy the latest shiny, ephemeral, and very expensive, “designer” fashions in the hope that somehow they will make us cool, or happy if we only wear them. Possessions that we are prepared to buy even though they seem to be badly made and their low price is dependent on poorly paid workers in other countries.
Isn’t retail therapy wonderful?
We live in a world where the latest smartphones are advertised with cameras that would have cost the professional photographer thousands ten years ago. Seriously over-engineering the process of taking a selfie.
The consumerist society depends on first creating and then developing this discontent. We are sold the image of a lifestyle that is designed to make us feel dissatisfied not only with what we have but also, by association, dissatisfied with who we are.
After all, if we are happy with our current gadget, why would we buy another one? Companies will not make huge profits if their product lasts for years, hence the development of built-in obsolescence – which brought a whole new take on what counted as the best product you could be manufactured. Our economies depend on the consumer keeping on consuming at an ever faster rate. Economic growth is the be all and end all of economics.
The economy depends on growth, driving the need for the consumer to keep on buying new things that they do not need.
When we are happy with what we have and our circumstances as they are, our lives can be very different. The minimalist mind and indeed, minimalism itself, are firmly grounded in a sense of contentment. This is a state of mind in which we are happy and satisfied with the way things are going. When we are happy with having enough to meet our needs we can be trruly content.
Contentment depends on a well grounded sense of self-worth and a high degree of self-knowledge. We cannot be truly content unless we are at peace with ourselves. When we slow down enough to look beyond the superficial we can come to see the idiocy of a society that has created the conditions under which the current generation may well be the first that will not outlive their parents, and has produced a population that is considerably more anxious and depressed than previous generations. Which is a shame, as life is good if we allow it to be.
Being a minimalist is not about being an enlightened zen master or giving away all our possessions. Rather it is partly about not worrying about external appearances and resisting the siren call of the bells and whistles that are designed to lure us into buying things we know we will never use.