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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

Minimalism: An Alternative to the Expansion Mindset

Apr 27, 2022 06:48PM ● By Jared Zornitzer

Life is all about growing, developing and taking means to better oneself. In America and many other countries, this starts with education—children progress through grade school, middle school, high school and even college. With a degree, graduates search for a well-paying job which will allow them to get married and start a family. Money plays an important role in all of this because it allows one to pay their bills and purchase anything which they or their family “need” to live a happy life. Are there alternate ways of living that don’t revolve around constant self-improvement and expansion? 

This question was recently raised in my sustainability course at college. We studied how an expansion mindset has dominated the industrialized world for several centuries. The notion that people ought to enhance their personal comfort, relationships, and social class through the acquisition of material wealth and goods has the unfortunate side effect of environmental degradation. For example, factory emissions are largely due to the high demand for consumer goods. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum is minimalism; the idea that one can achieve the same, if not a superior level of happiness by living with what they absolutely need and cutting out unnecessary items from their life. When I glance around my bedroom I see an abundance of clothes, school supplies and technology. Minimalism preaches lessening the burden of all these items. I could reduce my wardrobe to just enough outfits to last between laundry cycles and get rid of all technology other than my phone and computer to live a minimalist lifestyle.

   I am trying to achieve balance between these two opposing ways of life. To have the luxury of new clothes every so often and state of the art devices to aid in my schoolwork are certainly aspects of my life that I enjoy and would find very difficult to erase. However, I am also a passionate advocate for the environment and try to be conscious about how my actions might better or will worsen our planet. If this means extending the lifetime of my clothes and devices, I am willing to do so to reduce the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing their replacements. 

Additionally, certain doctrines of minimalism are appealing to me such as being content with what one has instead of seeking more. In turn, one can focus on the relationships that truly matter such as family and friends. Indeed, minimalism is a viable lifestyle to a certain extent. There is much to be learned by incorporating even hints of it into one’s life.

Jared Zornitzer is a full-time college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY studying engineering. An advocate of balancing work and school with exercise and healthy living, he loves hiking, biking, running, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and learning in his classes.