My morning alarm rings for the 15thtime and I reach out to hit snooze. As I slowly squint one eye open, I see that I have a mere 10 minutes to get to my morning class. I spring out of bed and open my closet to pick out an outfit. I stood there overwhelmed with all the shirts I can pair with all the jeans… or maybe some track pants… or skirts… or pants…
Remembering that time is of the essence, I just grab a standard black tee and throw on the nearest pair of jeans. I then open my drawers, where a plethora of foundations, concealers, eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks overflow. I scrummage for my makeup brush but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. This is going to take off another 3 minutes.
I rush down to the kitchen to pour some coffee. As I open my cabinet, I’m greeted by shelves of cat mugs, marble thermos, ceramic glasses and plastic cups. Hm, which cute mug should I choose to drink my average Joe today? By the time I decided, the shuttle bus passes my stop and I’m left standing with a cold cup of void.
We’ve all been there before. We are sometimes faced with a dilemma when it comes to what to wear, or what to pack because we have too many things. Too many types of the same thing. Too many unnecessary materialistic possessions that clutter up our lives and just add pointless stress to our everyday lives.
Why do feel the need to own 15 pair of shoes? Because fashion brands come out with a new season every few months to trick you into thinking that the black sweater you bought last month, is already outdated?
Why do we feel the need to decorate our room with various plants and lighting and random trinkets? Because TV shows and movies constantly display a perfect household that’s ornate from floor to ceiling with decorations.
Why do we feel the need to buy the newest iPhone as soon as it’s released? Because marketing ads are so powerful that they brainwash us into giving into the hype that new items equal a better lifestyle.
No matter what mental and emotional state we’re in, we’re wired to keep buying more and more items. Whether it’s after a breakup, and you’re buying a new wardrobe in hopes of feeling the hole inside you. Or whether you’ve just aced your exams and you’re buying a new laptop to treat yourself for your hard work. We’re in this vicious cycle of always wanting more, always buying more, and then once we’ve bought it and grown tired of it, we look to new items that can make us happy temporarily.
So why do we do it, when in reality we know that happiness doesn’t last? Buying and owning material possessions is our guiltiest pleasure, and capitalism is the almighty. Yes, it is true that money can buy happiness, like putting food on the table and paying your monthly rent. But after it reaches past the threshold of our basic human needs, why are we so hungry to make money to fill our other uncertain and unnecessary needs? And how can we refrain from this vicious consumer cycle?
Conveniently, I came across a pathway to this answer while I was browsing the documentary section on Netflix. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things sheds light on the new wave of people who are living more meaningful lives, by deliberately choosing what material possessions truly add value to their lives. Leading this movement is Joshua Mills Fieldburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who are only living with the most basic items, after realizing they weren’t happy despite their six-figure income, fancy cars and luxurious homes. Compromising important relationships and mental health, they ditched their high-paying jobs to live a simpler, yet happier life.
With over 20 million people following this lifestyle through their books, podcasts and websites, being a minimalist have proven to lead to a more fulfilling life. The key to living a minimalist lifestyle isn’t to throw away everything in your wardrobe. The key to a minimalist lifestyle is only keeping material items that actually add value and purpose to your life. Think, if you were to fly to a new country and could only bring 30 items that would last you 6 months, what would you bring? Think, if you were stuck on an island for a month, what 20 items would sustain you mentally and physically?
You’ll soon find out that you attach more meanings to items that don’t really serve a purpose. You’ll soon realize that owning less, can open up space for the more important things in life: more time to build meaningful relationships, more money to invest in long-term goals like retirement, more freedom to feel less guilty and less stressed from the unnecessary clutter.
What I’m trying to say is, maybe it’s better to invest in one expensive sweater that can last you 5 years, instead of buying 5 cheap shirts that will fray in a month. Maybe it’s better to save the hundreds of ringgits spent on clubbing and use it instead to buy flight tickets to travel, which will give you a much more meaningful experience than a hangover does.
I highly recommend watching this Netflix documentary if you have always pondered the title question and if you want to try to live a more intentional and meaningful life, without all the excess white noise. The pursuit of happiness is a long and winding road, which all of us get sidetracked by with temporary, materialistic things. Perhaps, achieving happiness is a question that will never have a solid, permanent answer. We all want to be happy. By living through a minimalist lifestyle, the search for happiness isn’t tied to things, but rather through life itself; so, it’s up to you to decide what is necessary and what is superfluous in your life.