Perfection is attained, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.
These were the words of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the legendary aviator and author of the children’s classic, The Little Prince.
With this statement, he was talking not only about the evolution of flying machines, but also about life and happiness.
We live in a world that is driven by consumerism, where the message is always needing more and never having enough.
There’s always something around the corner that is bigger, faster and better.
We are constantly bombarded with advertisements reminding us to eat more, shop more and indulge more.
The average American house contains more than 300,000 items.
A Cornell University study estimated that an average average adult makes about 35,000 sub-conscious decisions of which 221 decisions concern food alone each day!
On the topic of food, why do supermarkets carry 100 varieties of cereals, yoghurts, sausages?
What would take us to be contented? More importantly, what forces are we trying to resist?
The targeted savvy marketing is everywhere.
And, the machinery is just all too powerful.
Have you wondered why the supermarkets don’t have any windows to admit daylight?
Or, why we always traverse the supermarket aisles in the counterclockwise direction?
Or even, why some supermarkets give you bottled water when you enter a shop?
These aspects are consciously designed by savvy marketers to make us buy more.
Blocking daylight by eliminating windows makes us lose the sense of time, so we tend to stay longer in the supermarket.
Walking counter-clockwise, we tend to slow and make unplanned purchases.
The bottled water compels us to return the favor by purchasing something of more value from the shop.
Such nudges are everywhere – in our social media feeds, on our phone notifications, and on our car GPS screens.
Have you wondered why YouTube! Automatically plays the next video?
This is a sub-conscious nudge to make us stay longer on YouTube! and watch the advertisements that make Google a ton of money.
It is very challenging to prevent the advertisers’ messaging from reaching us regardless where we are in our day.
As these trends demonstrate, it is easy to become bamboozled.
The American astronomer and author, Carl Sagan wrote,
One of the saddest lessons of history is this.
If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.
The bamboozle has captured us.
It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.
Our modern-day life is filled with things to do, buy, achieve, plan, strive for and tick off.
It takes a lot of discipline to separate the wheat from the chaff.
It takes conscious effort to avoid succumbing to these pressures.
It’s humanely challenging to reduce the clutter till you can’t further subtract any more.
The solution is Minimalism, which has a deeper meaning and history than is generally recognised.
A minimalist lifestyle is a conscious and aware one, of the stuff that clutters and distracts you from living a meaningful life.
Is it possible to pursue such a lifestyle, you may ask.
Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs adopted a minimalist lifestyle amidst the great American consumerism.
He wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers every day.
His focus was always on the important things, what feature would the next iPhone have as opposed to what will I wear tomorrow.
Likewise, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, one of the richest people on this planet wears the same basic grey T-shirt and dark grey hoodie every day.
During a press interview, he revealed that clothing wasn’t his main priority.
If you’re looking for ways to declutter your life, you may want to look to Japan.
Japanese minimalism inspired by the aesthetics of Zen Buddhism focuses on keeping life simple, clean, and uncluttered by living with just the essentials.
This lifestyle is based on 3 foundational concepts – Wabi sabi, Ma and KonMari.
The Wabi-sabi concept encapsulates the beauty of imperfection and transience of life.
The wabi-sabi aesthetics emphasise simplicity, minimalism and use of natural materials, such as wood, stone, and metal.
Ma is a Japanese concept that can be described as the space between things or time.
It’s the silence in a room or the pause between two sentences.
Ma is what gives life to an environment.
It’s the emptiness that allows us to appreciate the fullness of life.
The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category, say beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items.
Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy.
In Europe, the Swedes are the masters of minimalism.
You can also see this phenomenon whenever you enter IKEA.
You see a lot of empty space that IKEA could easily fill up.
But, IKEA designs are guided by Lagom, a Swedish philosophy, which roughly translates to “not too much, not too little.
” Sweden constantly tops the chart among the happiest countries on this planet.
Lagom could be one of the many aspects of Swedish culture that makes the Swedes so wonderfully happy.
The European roots of minimalism go back to the Greek philosopher named Diogenes, who was known for his extremely frugal way of life.
As a result of a series of unfortunate events, he lost all his wealth.
His only possessions were his jar, some rags for clothes, and a bowl.
While walking, he noticed a small boy attempting to drink water out of the river with his bare hands.
Following this experience, Diogenes he threw away his bowl.
Diogenes was once visited by Alexander the Great, who had heard various fascinating stories about Diogenes.
Alexander addressed him and asked if he had any requests.
In response, Diogenes told Alexander that he simply wanted him to step away as he was blocking the sunlight that was warming Diogenes.
Alexander was so impressed by Diogenes‘ audacity that he declared to his followers that if he hadn’t been king, he would like to be just like Diogenes.
To which Diogenes replied:
If I wasn’t Diogenes, I too would wish to be Diogenes.
One of the most important aspects of minimalist living is removing unnecessary material possessions from our lives to declutter our physical and mental space.
This allows us more room for what matters and helps us focus on what’s truly important.
In so doing, we can find peace and tranquillity in simplicity.
Which is what I believe that leads to happiness.