Updated: Sep 18, 2021
The idea of minimalism originates from a Greek philosopher named Diogenes, known for his extremely frugal way of life in 323 BC. As a result of a series of unfortunate events, this individual lost all his wealth. While walking, he noticed a small boy attempting to drink water out of the river with his bare hands. Following this experience, Diogenes decided to abandon all those unnecessary objects, and he opted to be homeless. This story is eye-opening for today's capitalistic society that thrives on the accumulation of wealth and thus promotes greed. In Diogenes' story, we learn that one can survive even after losing all his belongings, and money has nothing to do with the happiness or well-being of an individual.
The Greek philosopher Diogenes lived in a barrel and owned only a bowl. He was an extreme minimalist who lived frugally. Tutoring some aristocratic children could have affordably gotten him out of poverty, but instead, he didn't care about society at all. As he made his way through life, he was very much like the Joker from Dark Night, wondering why society was so serious. In his conversations with people, he often proved their rigid beliefs wrong. He strongly opposed social norms and conventions, believing these to conflict with nature. One of the interesting things about Diogenes is that he practiced what he preached.
Diogenes came across as the odd man out, and this is no surprise. Diogenes was once visited by Alexander the Great, who had heard various fascinating stories about this being. Alexander addressed him and asked if he had any requests. In response, Diogenes told Alexander that he simply wanted him to step away as he was blocking the sunlight that was warming Diogenes. It is said that Alexander was so impressed by Diogenes' audacity that he declared to his followers that if he hadn't been king, he would like to be just like Diogenes.
Diogenes was also famous for opposing Plato, another of his contemporaries. Plato, a fellow philosopher, was ridiculed by Diogenes because he believed Plato's teachings had no practical application. He interrupted Plato's lecture by criticizing him.
There is no consensus as to how Diogenes spent his final days. During Diogenes' life, he mentioned that he thought his body should be buried in the forest because that was where he belonged, and he would take nothing from this earth upon his death.
When we examine Diogenes' life closely, we can see that he was a cosmopolitan who identified himself more with the universe than with any location. To protest materialism in society that he saw as morally corrupt, he chose to live a very simple lifestyle. It was precisely because of that that he did not take on any formal occupation. By a certain measure, Diogenes' life teaches us to live our lives as we wish, and mock the system for being ruthless, and complicated. We should not accept societal conventions as if they were gospel, and instead establish our own boundaries and priorities to live in harmony with the world around us. Some described Diogenes as lazy, while others called him cynical. To me, Diogenes was one of the architects of the Minimalist movement.
It is a common misconception among people that the more they acquire, the better their lives will be. They should keep in mind that everything has its dark side. The act of owning and possessing things robs people of their peace of mind and happiness. The need to discern internal factors from external influences cannot be overstated. For instance, we have observed a lot of millionaires who believe that hustle culture is a good thing, as they are constantly on a hamster wheel. When you look at them, you can hardly see a smile on their faces due to the fact that they live stressful lives resulting from too many responsibilities and commitments. People who have experienced situations like these, have been propelled to question their materialistic beliefs, and decide to simplify, and organize their lifestyles. The solution to their problems was found in minimalism, which is the process of reducing unnecessary things in one's life, and maximizing the things that add value to one's life, such as time, and freedom.
The spiritual aspect of minimalism begins with managing one’s thoughts and emotions. Instead of connecting with negative thoughts such as revenge, anger, envy, fear, and greed, the focus should be on connecting with positive thoughts such as joy, fulfilment, gratitude, forgiveness, and abundance. Having a more optimistic worldview can change a person's mindset. In other words, real minimalism involves the reconditioning of the mind and thus an increase in quality of life.
In my personal life, I follow minimalism by maintaining a strict budget to eliminate overspending. By tracking my expenses daily, I can monitor my spending patterns, and prevent impulse purchases from emptying my wallet. Additionally, I have uninstalled some apps from my phone, which did not add any value, and have unsubscribed from products that were a total timewaster. Less is more!