The minimalist lifestyle is described as a simplistic way of living using materials that are necessary or serve a purpose. Those who choose a minimalist lifestyle, often called minimalists, are people who seek happiness and peace in living, not in materials. Minimalism is the conscious decision to live with fewer possessions with more time to focus on health, harmony, and relationships. On the other hand, according to scholars, materialism is a value system where the attainment of wealth is considered the most significant path to happiness. Here, the acquisition of possessions is the main life focus and the measure of success and life satisfaction.
A minimalist lifestyle has been associated with reduced anxiety and stress, emotions common in modern times. Decluttering is a way toward minimalism, and simplifying life by owning fewer objects can be healthier. A study of average middle-class American households found that managing large amounts of possessions was a major problem in many homes, verified by elevated stress hormones in mothers or caretakers. Another benefit of minimalism is the money and time savings of fewer purchases or reduced consumption.
Lifestyles of moderate consumerism are more respectful of the natural world, Our Common Home. Pope Francis addressed the need to live simply in his encyclical. “A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment.” Former President Jimmy Carter suggested that materialism does not lead to fulfillment. “Too many of us now worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.”
Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). Julie has been writing a weekly column for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.