How Netflix's Minimalism Documentary Inspired Me to Rediscover the Secret to Happiness
“Happiness had to be somewhere just around the corner,” said Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. Is it?
An endless wad of cash would have made me happy. You would be happy too, if you can buy anything. But here come two guys saying that happiness is not material. It’s not in the tangible. It’s not in the number of cars you own or the space of your house.
Meet The Minimalists.
I met them only through the Netflix show. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things sounded pretty decent. It featured Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburns, two guys spreading a might be secret to happiness. I was hooked.
Here comes Ryan with his opening salvo. "I had everything I ever wanted. I had everything I was supposed to have…There was this gaping void in my life so I tried to fill that void the same way many people do—with stuff. Lots of stuff. I was filling the void with consumer purchases…attempting to buy my way to happiness. I thought I'll get there one day.”
His words resonated. Wasn’t I the same? Here I am, always looking out for the next sale. I’m thinking that the latest gadget would get me pumped up, that the hip clothing would get me into the hype. It’ll keep the juices flowing. More, more, more. But the joy in buying lasts only as good as the next sale. Was happiness something that you buy?
Apparently not, according to The Minimalists.
Want to know their secret?
The less you own, the happier you are. Live deliberately with less. Strip away the excess. Ask every time you make a purchase—does this adds value? And that…is the secret to being happy.
It’s a sound idea. It bears some weight. But it’s way more difficult, in practice. When I asked my friends if they’re willing to give up a lot of their stuff, they practically stared at me as if I was from a different planet. Who would want to live with less?
“That depends on the person,” Lyla, an artist friend said. She herself was a big spender but she usually purchases high-value, worth-keeping items. She wanted order and the basics. Her sense of order and simplicity reflect on the type of artwork she creates. “Do you know that minimalism started as an art movement?” she asked me.
I did some research and found out. It’s a 1960s movement. Apparently, people got tired of dreamy and sensual. They wanted something different than the usual splashes of color and crowding of shapes on canvas. Linear, precise, neutral: these were the common features of a minimalist style. (“Minimalism (visual arts),” 2019)
“You should ask the Japanese if they’re happy,” Rick, another friend, suggested. “They’ve been leading simple lives ever since. Are you familiar with wabi-sabi?”
I did another digging. “Wabi” is simple, austere beauty. “Sabi” is rustic patina. Taken together, both words signify appreciation for what is already there, regardless of the imperfections. Bask in the natural beauty of things, don’t ask for more, don’t elaborate. Just live and be happy. Savor life just as you would savor a Japanese tea ceremony. (Graham and Adam, 2018)
Another conversation with a friend went on like this. “Hey, isn’t minimalism just like the KonMari MethodTM?” Ah, Marie Kondo, the woman who swept the world with her . But Marie Kondo said this herself, "Many people have confused my tidying method with minimalism but it's quite different. Minimalism advocates living with less; the KonMari MethodTM encourages living among items you truly cherish." (Kondo, n.d.) practices of tidying up
So, what’s next?
From the Netflix show to the visual art going to the Japanese culture and to Marie Kondo, the ruling idea is to be simple.
But is “being simple” simple to do?
By any chance, can I avoid converting into monkshood?
If I pose the questions to The Minimalists, they would probably laugh. It’s not that radical, you know. There are several, easy ways to do it, if you’re suddenly inspired to convert into minimalism.
Ask yourself really, really hard before buying. "Does this really give value? Am I better off not buying this?" I tried and I found out that my willingness to buy on impulse went down a notch.
Take a good stock of your wardrobe and room. Do you have clothes that were no longer fit to wear? Are you willing to give them away? Do you have room decors that just appear as clutter instead of improving the aesthetics?
Unplug and detox from online activities. I’m not asking you to do the impossible. Just have a fifteen-minute break or a day-off or a week-long vacation leave from social media. Your call as to how long. Information also consumes.
Overloading yourself with data can distract you from being "in the moment". I did a week and the results were magnificent. I got totally zoned-out. It was very peaceful and liberating.
When you start doing the above, the effects will be immediate and easy to detect
Am I happier because of it?
Well, it was not full-blown happiness…yet. But I felt fulfilled, more conscious, tranquil. Living simply reduced my ecological footprint. I have more breathing space. I was mindful before I buy. Somehow, the idea of a simple life forced me to re-evaluate my way of living and pinpoint the things that truly matter.
So, why not give it a try?
Minimalism (visual arts). (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimalism_(visual_arts)
Parkes, Graham and Loughnane, Adam. "Japanese Aesthetics". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/japanese-aesthetics/>
Kondo, Marie. (n.d.). KonMari Is Not Minimalism. Retrieved from https://konmari.com/konmari-is-not-minimalism
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Chris Martine