The New York Times recently ran a style piece entitled, "Six Items or Less," about the brainchild of two friends: Heidi Hackemer and Tamsin Davies, who both felt that they needed to cut back on their respective wardrobes. What originated as a web challenge, became the inspiration for thousands of people across the globe who pledged to wear only six items of clothing for the entire month— with mixed results.
Photo courtesy of The New York Times
The terms of the pledge weren't too preachy; there were numerous exceptions to the "6 or less" rule, including underwear, swim trunks, work-out clothes, outer jackets (a rain coat, for example), shoes and accessories. One of the more interesting aspects of the experiment is that surprisingly, the majority of individuals who participated found that the people in their lives didn't even notice that they were wearing the same 6 items, day after day.
While some fashionistas embraced the challenge as a creative way to see how good they really were at accessorizing, others took on the mantra as a way to limit their own consumption, one pair of work slacks at a time.
With the economy taking a nosedive and the general population saving their money, it is perhaps unsurprising that these new 'minimalist' trends have taken hold across the nation. The Times reported on Aug. 7 that, "The Boston Consulting Group said in a June report that recession anxiety had prompted a 'back-to-basics movement,' with things like home and family increasing in importance over the last two years, while things like luxury and status have declined."
The trends are clear, but what is less clear is exactly why American consumers are deciding to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle. There are clear advantages, to be sure. To consume fewer things is to lessen your environmental impact, save money, and reject the seemingly "natural" cycles of consumption which make people feel as if they always need something new, something better, something more state of the art. Yet, many of us continue to swipe our credit cards, despite the obvious advantages to limiting that instinct.
But what if consuming less could literally make us happier... then would we be convinced?
It's an interesting question, and one that as an extremely mobile recent college graduate, I've been thinking about a great deal. (It's easy to give away unnecessary belongings when you're loading up a car every few months).
I've been seriously downsizing myself, and I'd urge others to take the plunge. While some may recommend ripping the band-aid and throwing away everything all at once, I prefer a more methodical approach. Aside from your own introspection, the easiest way to downsize is to take inspiration from others. Try for example, unclutterer, a blog devoted to simplifying your living space. Or, look into the zen habits blog which emphasizes that individuals to embrace the mantra that "the best goal is no goal."
There are plenty of columnists who will try to tell you that they have stumbled upon the key to a happy life, I won't make that kind of promise; but, if the trends are any indication, it does seem like we may be moving to a more minimalist America— and that many of us are liking our lives better that way.