In a country with a retail industry that accrued £358 billion last year alone, there is an increasing population quietly living by the aphorism that 'less is more.' While the rest of us are dutifully queuing for the latest Apple product, the minimalists among us are turning a 1960s' artistic movement into a way of life. Refusing to be held back by material items, they are decluttering their lives, opting for a more natural diet and amassing experiences as opposed to things as a route to a more mindful ontological experience.
It sounds ideal, but a little familiar. Many of the hallmarks of minimalism are rooted in the hippie counterculture of the mid-1960s: both emphasise a simplistic way of life, feeling more connected with the natural environment and involve the inherent rejection of vapid consumerism. These similarities suggest that 21st-century minimalism is the latest vestige of the hippie movement, a millennial fad that will fade out of fashion as effortlessly as it faded in.
But minimalists aren't abandoning the retail game as an elaborate way of 'sticking it to the man.' Adopting the minimalist lifestyle is more than a vague political statement; it represents the shift in values of an educated and globally-connected generation.
For young people today, the world has never looked smaller. In a matter of seconds you could be face to face with someone on the farthest reaches of the earth and, if you really wanted, you could meet them there within a matter of hours. Minimalism lends itself to this sense of adventure. When you can carry all of your belongings in a bag, leaving the nest doesn't seem as daunting.
Minimalism isn't about hopping on the bandwagon of corporate mistrust, it's about modifying your spending habits to collect more invaluable commodities like experiences and relationships. Nowhere in the minimalist manifesto does it decree, 'thou shalt not buy a new pair of shoes.' This is a movement concerned with mental health and wellbeing; it's not in the business of denouncing or criticising.
Minimalism also reflects current concerns over climate change and creating a more sustainable future. We are becoming increasingly aware that overconsumption is having a major impact on the environment, something Naomi Klein highlights in 'This Changes Everything': 'We have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else...while failing to place value on those things that most of us cherish above all – a decent standard of living, a measure of future security, and our relationships with one another.' Minimalism echoes these sentiments by encouraging us to transform our consumer habits to include ethically-sourced goods and reduce our carbon footprint by owning as little as possible.
And it's not just millennials who are catching on. New minimalism blogs are appearing every day and their authors are people like Chris, author of 'Two Less Things,' and Claire, the woman behind 'Just a Little Less,' both of whom are in their 50s and practise minimalism to limit their exposure to the pressures of consumerism. This more thoughtful approach to spending is something that is beginning to resonate more and more in a bigger population with tighter wallets than ever before.
It might be fashionable, but minimalism is more than a trend. It's a lifestyle choice that urges us to look at the stuff cluttering our shelves and examine the purpose it serves. It reflects our desire to resolve current ecological crises and create a more inclusive and connected world. The aesthetics of minimalism might change over the years, but the values it embodies are timeless.