Minimalism has been a constant in fashion since the 1990s, its subdued colours and clean lines were espoused by brands such as Calvin Klein, Balenciaga and Jil Sander. However this highly influential philosophy has moved from being just a fashion aesthetic to a lifestyle one.
The minimalist lifestyle is about reducing material complexity by eliminating the unnecessary. And around the world, people are embracing minimalism, swapping the burden of owning and accumulating material possessions for the freedom that living with less offers. In doing so, people are spending less time cleaning and shopping, and more time travelling, socialising and engaging in activities they enjoy.
Minimalism in Japan
Minimalism is most prominent in Japan, where controlled simplicity in life seems a natural progression from their long-standing ascetic practice of Zen Buddhism. And when one considers that there is a population of 127 million on this small island nation and that it is plagued by earthquakes (the 2011 earth quake and tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people) simplicity is a practical necessity. “Thirty to 50% of earthquake injuries occur through falling objects,” Fumio Sasaki, editor and minimalist told The Guardian. He points to his empty apartment, “but in this room, you don’t have that concern.”
Even if you’ve never been to Japan, chances are that you will have noticed the sparseness of their homes in films, TV shows and interior styling magazines.
The traditional Japanese house is set up differently to Western homes. Rather than having one designated use for each room as is the custom in most other cultures, all rooms - aside from the kitchen, bathroom and toilet - are multi-purpose and can be used interchangeably. Rooms are known as ima meaning “space” and the Japanese create space by purchasing portable furniture - such as futons - that can be stored away in large closets known as oshiire. Even the house partitions and sliding doors are movable so that room sizes can be altered.
Japanese interior styling is also inspired by Zen philosophy which integrates clean lines, minimalist forms with open spaces and natural materials. The Japanese have simple living down to a fine art. Uncluttered living produces balance and order, enabling them to live a life in pursuit of excellence.
"In the west, making a space complete means placing something there," says freelance writer Naoki Numahata in a Reuters interview. "But with tea ceremonies, or Zen, things are left incomplete on purpose to let the person's imagination make that space complete.”
The Japanese approach minimalism in the same way they approach most things - in an unhurried, straightforward and dignified manner.
Want to follow the Japanese lead and try minimalism for yourself? These online resources will help you reduce anti-compulsory consumption and declutter your life:
Zen Habits - A sparsely designed website with none of the advertising frills and where meaningful words take centre stage, it is obvious that Zen Habits founder Leo Babauta practices what he preaches. On Zen Habits he shares tactical advice for simplifying your life, being more mindful, fulfilled and productive.
Becoming Minimalist - Joshua Becker is an American-based minimalist and author over several books on minimalism. He gave up the trappings of materialism and he writes highly quality inspirational blog posts that offer practical tips on simplifying your life.
The Minimalists - Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the duo most commonly known as The Minimalists also operate the highly popular website of the same name which attracts close to 2 million visitors each month. Rather than asking you to throw everything out and keep a hardcore small number of items, their message is centred on living a meaningful life with less stuff.
And if you’re looking for inspiration to create a highly curated capsule wardrobe that you can wear season after season, read this post.
Now over to you: What do you think of the minimalist lifestyle? Would you consider giving it a try or do you think it’s too oppressive for your maximalist attitude? Feel free to leave a comment below.