Status seeking at its core is the respective access to valuable resources within a social group or set of social groups that make up a larger community. Most animals in communities with contested resources tend to rely heavily on status in order to obtain dominance over another. This includes strategically taking away the status of a neighbor in order to climb one notch higher on the notoriety ladder. Humans, of course, are no different.
Chimpanzees are rather dominance driven and when we compare our distant cousins to the homo sapien, or even to other mammals for that matter, we find similarities in our basic intentions, our instincts, our “primal urges,” but really we our very different regarding this elusive term “dominance.”
Rather than showing off our physical strength in order to scare a less fit group of humans to obtain resources, or food or money or what have you - we instead show off our value as a person through the perception of the rest of the community. The more one man is accepted by the community, or even simply known by name in a positive or negative light, a human’s status is lifted and can be used for social or monetary gain that can in turn impress his/her neighbor.
To impress is to intimidate, and to intimidate is to dominate. Whether it be through high leadership positions, superior knowledge, excess of material goods or mating ability, we do not want these things quietly.
Which leads me to my fascination with minimalism. I tend to find solace in isms for short periods of time but the idea of having little in order to do more just seems ... right. It has to be the healthiest lifestyle to pursue in the Information Age. And it may very well be, however, I’ve noticed something about the popular ism that is comparable to the desire to impress or dominate.
There’s an ironic dichotomy happening in the “internet aesthetic” minimalism clan. It seems that only those with a lot of money are showing off how little they have. It reminds me of the same trend that went around YouTube in which influencers attempted to spend only 2 dollars or so on food for 24 hours. A sizable income then translated through ads and sponsorships on the same content.
Stripping back expenses is necessary in the world we live in. Stripping back material possessions isn’t a bad idea either but when we begin to flaunt how “efficient” we are or how “generous” or “woke” etc., a good bit of that underlying goodwill is tarnished in my eyes. Teaching others about minimalism in a less gregarious way, I suppose, isn’t bothersome.
The definition of altruism is “the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.” Is it then still altruistic to post a good deed on Twitter? (There’s probably more opportunities in a later post to go into this idea further). Likewise, does flaunting how little we have equate to flaunting a brand new Lamborghini? In a way, yes. It is relatively harmless to strip back material things, and having a Lamborghini doesn’t necessarily indicate a toxic lifestyle.
Both stories can inspire others greatly to follow their dreams. On the other hand, the consumer may scrutinize their worth for not having attained the Ferrari first. This is when flaunting seemingly healthy habits can have bad taste, but this is common knowledge at this point in the age of advertisement. Most target marketing methods from large corporations sell a risky or moderately unattainable lifestyle that can subsequently produce negative effects on mental health.
My motto is ‘do what works for you.’ Minimalism isn’t for everyone. I have a hard time grappling with the notion of being sold a lifestyle even if it is appealing, hence my waffling with isms.
And with that, let me sell you a lifestyle. Minimalism, as bad a rep as it may have from time to time, is a fairly attainable lifestyle. It doesn’t ask you to spend more money or ask for an egregious effort otherwise. It simply asks you to spend less in order to add value into activities commonly on the back burner ie. extra family time, reading, meal prepping, volunteering.
I believe no matter what financial or life situation you are in, there is room to strip back the excess. We all have excess somewhere. No need to classify this as a lifestyle change - just a little experiment. Whatever excess means to you, take that element out of your life and see what it does for your overall mood. It’s helped me a ton.
What I’ve Stripped Back For My Minimalism Lifestyle
Buying coffee from shops almost daily to once per week.
Excessive planning or scheduling in order to stay fluid with work (I’ve limited myself to a daily to do list)
Traveling expenses (I always opt to walk if the destination is walkable)
Cancellation of my gym membership (the walking is sufficient, even giving me better results in the long term)
Giving up books I’ve read to donation bins to clear up bookshelf space.
Donating unused clothes.
Budgeting food expenses to limit myself with grocery store spending only (I go out to eat only when friends or colleagues invite me out)