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The Empty Promises of Minimalism

The overwhelming international success of Japanese minimalist Marie Kondo speaks to the fatigue and disillusionment many feel in our obsessively consumerist culture. The dopamine rush of buying something new quickly fades and the next rush is sought after.

According to an article in The Guardian the concept of minimalism has been a solution for many who are living with less and being happy with what they already own. Minimalists have had an epiphany that buying more had failed to make them happier. In fact, it was entrapping them, and they needed to find a new relationship with their possessions--usually by throwing most of them out. Many now openly boast they own less than 100 objects.

Kondo’s catchphrase is to ask oneself whether each individual possession “sparks joy.” Other minimalist influencers have a basic message: “Own less stuff. Find more purpose.” The benefits of minimalism are numerous. More money, more generosity, more freedom, less stress, less distraction, less environmental impact, higher-quality belongings, and more contentment. The question is: Is the old lifestyle being replaced with something transcendent or authentically spiritual?

A criticism of this simplicity revolution is summarized by The Guardian article:

Yet my gut reaction to Kondo and the Minimalists was that it all seemed a little too convenient. Just sort through your house or listen to a podcast, and happiness, satisfaction and peace of mind could all be yours … Minimalism also seemed to be … an excuse to put yourself first by thinking, I shouldn’t have to deal with this person or thing because it doesn’t fit within my worldview … Not a particularly inspiring doctrine.


Kyle Chayka, “The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism,” The Guardian (1-3-20)

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