Minimalism has gained significant popularity in recent years. The renowned Marie Kondo even had her own Netflix show, emphasizing the importance of decluttering and parting ways with items that no longer spark joy. Kondo’s advice may sound like a straightforward concept, but letting go of your possessions, as much as they no longer add any value to your life, can be painful when you’ve attached sentimental value to them. Minimalism simply suggests a way of life that abides by the “less is more” philosophy in an effort to secure more time, energy, and money for worthwhile things.
If you moved away from home to come to university, you likely experienced an aspect of the minimalist life, either willingly or not. You probably had to prioritize the objects you could take with you, such as your favourite and most practical pairs of shoes, one or two winter jackets, and no bulky items. The whole ordeal was likely filled with nostalgia for all the things that were familiar to you, even if you hadn’t used them in years. Of course, taking your 13-year-old teddy bear is a waste of space, but what if you’ll need it?
There is certainly merit to the practice of re-prioritizing your possessions; it’s an exercise in letting go and questioning what truly brings joy.
Minimalism teaches you that quality over quantity is a fact of life. Accumulating things that are not strictly necessary or do not bring you happiness can be a true and complete waste of space and money. A minimalist mindset trains your ability to distinguish between an actual need or desire from a fleeting interest.
While minimalism offers numerous benefits, it’s important to note that for students, this lifestyle is often adopted out of necessity rather than choice. Influencers and spiritual gurus advocating for organized living often assert that owning fewer possessions enhances their value. However, these individuals typically find themselves at a different life stage, allowing them to explore alternative paths to the consumerist status quo. On the other hand, students are usually financially limited and have temporary living situations, either on or off campus. We exist in a sort of limbo because we don’t know where we’ll be in the next few years, and owning less is simply a means of facilitating our frequent changes in residence.
Owning low-quality indulgences can be comforting to many, especially at this point in our lives when it’s important to build an identity. In an explorative phase, it’s normal and even encouraged to experiment with different styles, hobbies, and passions that usually require purchasing things. For instance, decorating your dorm is a way of owning a space that can be uninviting and bland. Putting up posters, hanging fairy lights, and placing books on your nightstand are ways in which you can express yourself and make a home in a new living environment.
On the other hand, minimalism glamourizes the idea of a plain bedroom, monochromatic colours — if any colours at all — and very few possessions. This might be an appealing scenario to a non-student looking to declutter and zen-ify their space, but being away from home while studying is arguably not the time to practice this ideal.
With that being said, we live in a time that encourages consumption in all its shapes and forms. The fast fashion, fast food, and tech industries each push different short-lived trends, convincing you to purchase low-quality goods that will be out of fashion within months. They have devised clever marketing strategies that convince you that you need to consume to feel satisfied and content.
Over-consumption leads to a form of maximalism that, in turn, promotes feelings of emptiness and loneliness.
Of course, we still need clothes, gadgets, and the occasional fast food indulgence, but the compulsion to consume is the real issue. Perhaps we did not choose the minimalist life when we decided to start university — there are many things we wish we could own that are too inconvenient or too expensive at this moment in time. However, these restrictions provide a space to reflect on the patterns that our society is engaged in.
The characteristic scarcity of university life has shown us to appreciate the little things in life.
Although we are privileged to receive an excellent education and to know that in the future, we will have the opportunity to build our lives in the way we see fit, we are currently experiencing a limited way of living. This minimalist lifestyle will hopefully train us to be more conscious about how we consume and pay closer attention to the things that matter to us.