Minimalism vs consumerism. Aside from virtues such as saving time and money, the need to clean, maintain, repair, the need to make lots of decisions, minimalism cultivates the habit not to buy, not to collect stuff. Minimalism encourages paring down to essentials, making well-made and responsible purchases, and sharing.
Consumption isn’t inherently bad. We have to consume food for energy at least. On the other side, Hoarders is a TV show, Happy Meal toys exist, and cheap clothes fall apart quickly. The deeply ingrained habit of wanting bigger and more is not only expensive, it’s unsustainable. Finite planet, finite resources. And we’re irresponsible with those resources.
But minimalism doesn’t appeal to everyone. Many people love stuff – for beauty, connection, memory, etc. What if minimalism isn’t the only way to resist consumerism? What if art is?
Megan Auman argues that getting rid of all our stuff is as unhealthy as constantly consuming.
“Most of us need stuff in our lives…. Objects help communicate meaning. Objects help connect us to people – family, friends, makers – alive and dead. And objects provide aesthetic and sensory experiences that can nourish us.”
Maybe the issue isn’t that we value stuff too much, but that we don’t value it enough?
“The sheer volume of stuff has made us lose our appreciation for it…. We’ve lost the ability to connect with stuff on a deeper level. To form a relationship with an object. To understand the small miracle that has to happen for a truly extraordinary object to come into being.”
Auman also points out that “Our need for objects is both culturally and biologically embedded, and it isn’t going away any time soon.”