Minimalism—Trendy Fad or Urgent Necessity?



I’ve come across the word, as you probably have, more than a few times recently. Sounds kinda trendy—like a term someone in-the-know, up-to-date and on-the-cutting-edge would use.

I like to be that ‘someone’, but I’ve learned from experience to check the meaning and appropriate context of a term before acting like its part of my every-day vocabulary. Presumption is dangerous and embarrassment, which usually follows, can be a harsh teacher.


What is a minimalist?


A minimalist is born either out of an aha moment or necessity.

There comes a moment of realization that the true essence of life—joy, worth, relationship, growth, purpose, health and significance—is NOT found in possessions nor money.

(Remember the Beatles’ “Can’t buy me love”?)


A minimalist determines what is really important, removes what is not necessary (the clutter) to give place to only that which adds value to the true essence of life.


A minimalist asks, “Do I really need this? Does this add value to my life?”

  • If the answer is yes: a minimalist keeps it and builds a meaningful life with it—for him/her-self and for others. (A minimalist tends to be a giver not a taker.)
  • If the answer is no: a minimalist simply does without it—it just isn’t necessary for a meaningful life. It doesn’t add value.


Is minimalism really necessary?


Well…that depends.

You don’t have to look far nor wide to see that a major component of life today is stress. It rears its ugly face every which way you turn.


Look at these statistics.

At least 40% of office workers in America say they are stressed at work. Twenty-five percent identify work as the biggest source of stress in their lives.

It used to be that work was meaningful, satisfying and rewarding.

No more.


Next to work, relationships are the second major cause of stress.

Really not hard to understand, is it.

You’re bombarded all day at work.

You manage—with some difficulty—to keep the pressure in check.

Home at last. 

Finally, a respite from stress.


You step through the door—

     the kids are yelling and fighting…

     the house is in chaos…

And where is your spouse?

     on the computer…

     totally oblivious to what’s going on!

(How stress-free is that relationship?)


Words are spoken…

     and then regretted.

Feelings are hurt…

     apologies are made, and accepted.

But the pain remains.


Not far down the list, the fifth major cause of stress is ‘trash talk’.

     Negative self-talk, regrets,

     deteriorating self-confidence,

     unrealistic expectations

     add to the already crushing burden.


You want to take your mind off the pressure so you sit down to watch a little T.V.

Annoying in-your-face advertising won’t let you relax.

  • In 1960, a 1-hour program contained a mere 9 minutes of commercials—just enough time to run to the bathroom and grab a quick snack on the way back.
  • Today, a 1-hour program has on average 22 minutes of advertising. Late night talk shows run 14 minutes of commercials and anything after that has up to 30 minutes per hour—49% on average!

More stress.


What fuels this stress juggernaut?


In one word…consumerism.


Consumerism is the real life version of the PacMan video game.

Everyone is racing down the money trail gobbling up as many gold coins as possible before the credit monster eats you.

  • It is the pursuit of ‘the good life’ defined by money and possessions (consumables).


The endgame?

  • Success measured by the accumulation of wealth and things.


Paul James claims that second only to concern about global warming,

the pursuit of the ‘good life’ through practices of what is known as ‘consumerism’ has become one of the dominant global social forces, cutting across differences of religion, class, gender, ethnicity and nationality.”  (Globalization and Culture, Vol. 3: Global-Local Consumption. London: Sage Publications)


The consumerism juggernaut is global.

It’s huge.

It’s unstoppable.

And it consumes (pun intended) everyone in its way.


Is there no escape?


Actually, there is.

     If you are willing to face reality

     and make some tough decisions

     with intentional action.


You will also need the heart of a salmon.


Salmon have a singular purpose

  • to successfully complete their own life cycle and
  • give birth to a following generation of salmon
  • that will honor the integrity and mission of salmon.


After 4 or 5 years at sea, salmon swim against ocean tides to find their niche, the stream where they were born.

With a strange mixture of urgency and patience, salmon wait at the river’s mouth while their bodies embrace the massive change which will allow them to survive in fresh water.

When the change is fully embraced, salmon swim upstream against the current until they reach their destination.

Along the way, they encounter and overcome indomitable barriers and obstacles with courage and instinct that can only be described as supernatural.


For some, the decision to become minimalist will be relatively easy.

For others, it will be similar to the journey of the salmon.

For all, it will eventually become necessary.




Image attributed to Dmitry Azovtsev (