The Real African|| By Dumani Mandela
“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have”.
Rabbi Hyman Schachtel
In his book Goodbye Things: A new Japanese Minimalism, Fumio Sasaki (2017) Describes minimalism in the following manner. A minimalist is a person who knows what is truly essential for him – or herself, who reduces the number of possessions that they have for the sake of things that are really important to them. It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality.
At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. Time Magazine explained minimalist lifestyle quite well, basically it is the opposite of accumulation of ‘too much stuff’ and seeking happiness from within rather from external material goods.
In South Africa we have a culture of overspending on consumer goods with a generation that is trying hard to keep up with the latest fads whilst not creating a savings culture. Overspending is one of the greatest threats to the gains of the South African middle class.
In an age of over consumption and heavy indebtedness and everyone trying to become a millionaire of even better yet a fictional number like billionaire, minimalism might offer middle ground.
While in the South Africa we’re all madly trying to be more, achieve more and earn more, we’re finally catching on that living simply is essential to being able to enjoy abundance, minus the stress. There is no correct or wrong minimalism, but rather it is a conscious choice for a person in what they really need in their lives and weather or not they derive joy from it.
The question that arises is that do all of the material items in our lives increase our joy and life satisfaction? If the answer is no then one should get rid of those things that they have not worn in a year or which do not increase their joy. Secondly there is the question of if our material items take away from us developing healthy family and societal relationships, and if the answer is yes we should also get rid of some items in our lives and perhaps minimalize our shopping and consumption.
Naoki Takizawa described minimalism in the following manner: “Minimalism is often used in the context of art, but minimalism in Japan is about expressing emotion. It’s unspoken.” According to Saito, (Winter 2007), in The Moral Dimension of Japanese Aesthetics, the idea of simplicity around minimalism appears in many cultures, especially the Japanese traditional culture of Zen Philosophy. Japanese manipulate the Zen culture into aesthetic and design elements for their buildings.
This idea of architecture has influenced Western Society, especially in America since the mid 18th century. Moreover, it inspired the minimalist architecture in the 19th century. Zen concepts of simplicity transmit the ideas of freedom and essence of living. Simplicity is not only aesthetic value, it has a moral perception that looks into the nature of truth and reveals the inner qualities of materials and objects for the essence.
The Japanese aesthetic principle of Ma refers to empty or open space. That removes all the unnecessary internal walls and opens up the space between interior and the exterior. The emptiness of spatial arrangement is another idea that reduces everything down to the most essential quality. The Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-sabi values the quality of simple and plain objects. It appreciates the absence of unnecessary features, treasures a life in quietness and aims to reveal the innate character of materials.
For example, the Japanese floral art, also known as Ikebana, has the central principle of letting the flower express itself. People cut off the branches, leaves and blossoms from the plants and only retain the essential part of the plant.
This conveys the idea of essential quality and innate character in nature. Minimalist architecture became popular in the late 1980s in London and New York, where architects and fashion designers worked together in the boutiques to achieve simplicity, using white elements, cold lighting, large space with minimum objects and furniture.
The concept of minimalist architecture is to strip everything down to its essential quality and achieve simplicity. The idea is not completely without ornamentation, but that all parts, details, and joinery are considered as reduced to a stage where no one can remove anything further to improve the design.
In the new millennium minimalism has made its way back to the main stream as something that is beyond art and fashion. This is about to how people live their lives and what they derive joy from and how they order their relationships and priorities. By cutting out the excess in their lives many minimalists are finding that they have more time for family relationships, save more money, and do only those specific things that bring them the most amount of joy.
In having less people are finding that their lives are truly enriched and they can live lives of purpose and meaning through a minimalist state of being. Bellow are some short tips on how to become a minimalist.
- Evaluate the space that you really need.
- Go on a self-imposed shopping ban.
- Get rid of stuff (I’ll really need to do a good Spring clean of my apartment)
- Think twice before you buy something
- Don’t live in more space than you need (because you’ll be tempted to fill it with space occupying furniture)
- Value experiences, not things
- Try and live the lifestyle of the rich and think about lifestyle deflationrather than lifestyle inflation.
The end result of minimalism is that it can assist you to: Eliminate your discontent, reclaim your time, live in the moment, pursue your passions, discover your mission, experience real freedom, create more, consume less, focus on your health, grow as an individual, contribute beyond yourself, rid yourself of excess stuff, and discover purpose in your life.
Minimalism has more uses than in art and architecture but can be the basis of how we live our lives and how we derive maximum joy from our lives on a daily basis. It is about cutting out the access to such and extent that we are forced to deal with the true beauty of our lives in an uncluttered manner.
This in turn will enrich us with the emotional spaces that are necessary to fulfill the potential of our lives. Minimalism provides more than aesthetic value in our lives but it allows us to deepen our appreciation for the simple things in life and provide us with the emotional freedoms to further express our joys through our own unique individuality in how we engage the minimalist way of life.
There is no right or wrong way to go about being a minimalist. There is nothing wrong with consumption but in today’s world we have been taught to consume for the sake of consumption itself. Being a minimalist is deciding what is enough for our selves and what we personally must get rid of or minimalise in our lives to reach our state of contentedness.