I’ve mentioned in posts before that I am a “practicing minimalist” or a “minimalist in training”, and as such, I find that I have so much time for reflection. That’s a joke. Although being a minimalist does free up a lot of time, in true Type A fashion, I have repurposed that time to focus on projects and ideas. But today I was reflecting, and I thought about why minimalism is so popular right now and in particular why so many millennials are drawn to it. I thought this would be an interesting thing for us to look at together and I hope to get some good feedback from you guys about your thoughts on the subject. And if minimalism is a totally new concept to you, check out this post from The Minimalists. It has some great information about minimalism and should give you a better understanding of what it is.
So basically I think there are two primary reasons why minimalism is so appealing to millennials. The world we live in and our parents. So let’s break that down, shall we?
The World We Live In
In today’s plugged-in, over-the-top, constantly assaulted with content world it is so easy to feel overwhelmed. We see more in one day than a lot of people used to see in a lifetime. Content is everywhere and your brain has to do somersaults to process and keep up with it all. This can lead to all kinds of things like burnout, fatigue, crankiness, and most of all…overwhelm. If you look at the millennial generation (those of us who are 18-34 years old), we have always been inundated with information and content. Our whole lives we have had video games, television, radio, phones, etc. And as the years went by, the technology just kept getting better and better and the access to content easier and easier. So over time we have developed a sort of need for that content, and as some would argue, an addiction to it. That’s why we can’t put down our cell phones at dinner parties and people from other generations think we are rude or stupid. We aren’t. We have been conditioned our whole lives to seek out more and more and more content. You see the overwhelm part never really occurs to us consciously. We know we are overwhelmed with crap all the time. We are sort of aware of it. But when we sit down and think about why our brains are so cluttered, we don’t always equate that to information overload. We often do equate it to the mess and clutter that we see in the physical world around us. And we seek out ways to eliminate that physical clutter to make dealing with our, I’ll call it e-clutter, a little bit easier. At least that’s the case for me. I am a content junkie. I was born and raised on it, and I love it. I’m not ashamed to say that. So for my two worlds (physical v. digital), I knew that I needed to minimalize the one that I had control over. True control. Now yes the argument could be made that I could simply cleanse my digital world but I simply don’t want to. I am a student of journalism and media studies and it is increasingly hard to remain competitive in that world without being aware of anything and everything that is going on in the world around me. So I turned to minimalism to help me clean the clutter and overwhelm out of my physical world. And the benefits have been amazing. I never could have imagined that the actual tangible benefits could have been as good as they are. And I think that a lot of folks in my generation have found the same to be true.
The other major factor that I believe drives millennials in the direction of minimalism is our parents. Most of us grew up with parents who loved stuff. Physical, tangible, hold in your hands and fill your home stuff. We grew up when Walmart Supercenters were popping up all over the place and our parents love a good bulk quantity deal. A lot of our parents were raised during times when most families didn’t have a whole lot. So they spent their adult lives trying to make up for that. A lot of them were first gen college students and found success that they never knew possible and with success came financial means of which they had never seen the likes before. They bought everything. Two or three or four of everything, in fact. And as we grew up, we were surrounded by stuff. So as we grew into adulthood, we began to really tire of seeing so much physical stuff surrounding us. So we began to desire less and less of it. And over time, this wonderful name for it, called minimalism, came along. And suddenly there was a legitimacy to not needing or wanting so much crap in the physical space around us. And we jumped on it. We are still jumping on it. I am still jumping on it. Now I don’t blame my parents for having so much stuff. They did what felt right to them, just as we millennials are doing what feels right to us. But in light of that fact, it really irks me when someone older than me puts down minimalism as a fad or just the next stupid thing that the millennials are doing. It’s not any more stupid than shopping at Sams Club or Costco and buying food items by the gross that eventually spoiled in the pantry because one cannot safely consume that much food in the allotted amount of time. Nay minimalism is no more stupid than that. And while those of an older generation may not completely understand it, they don’t have to. It is one of those wonderful things that some people just get (no matter what their generation) and others just don’t.
Granted these are just theories and have no basis in research and may not apply at all to everyone who is a minimalist or a millennial. But in reflecting on reasons why I was drawn to minimalism as a millennial, these were my thoughts. So what are your thoughts? On minimalism, on millennials, on why the two seem to love each other? I’d love to hear from you guys! Drop me a line or send me a message on social media. This is a topic that I could literally discuss for days.