Less is more
Swamped by consumerism, young turn away from possessions
Wang Zhe sat in front of his wardrobe, trying to pick a formal suit out from the hundreds of items of clothing in his collection.
The immense range of clothes included dozens of jeans from well-known brands, as well as a wide array of jackets lurking at the far end of the wardrobe. As he looked past the "basketball pants" he had asked his friend to buy in Hong Kong, he found he couldn't find any suitable formal wear.
At that moment, Wang, who works in human resources with an international company, felt that he had taken a few wrong turns in his life.
"I used to spend lots of money buying fashionable clothes, hoping to win people's recognition and attention. But at that moment I felt that I had just bought a bunch of useless rubbish," said the 34 year old.
Despite buying a new suit to solve his troubles, Wang came up with the idea of changing his life completely.
"Since then I have been struggling to be more of a minimalist," said Wang, referring to a trend toward reducing possessions and living simpler lifestyles. He has since brought his number of clothes items down from over 400 to less than 100.
After seeing a challenge online, which encourages people to reduce their number of possessions, Wang gave it a try. The challenge said that participants should reduce the number of items they own to below 100, and the number of items of clothing to below 33.
"A pair of socks is two items. And 100 items can supposedly satisfy all your personal demands," said Wang. "It's easy for you to throw away items from 400 to 300, from 300 to 200. But it's hard to limit the number from about 120 to less than 100."
When Wang felt uncertain and unwilling to throw away some objects, he packaged them together and set a time limit on how long he would keep them. "If the items have not been used in the next six months, I will throw them away," Wang said.
During the process of throwing things away, he noted that it is a process of contemplating your life and what is important to you.
Considering himself an intellectual, Wang used to have a wall of books in order to create an atmosphere of a scholarly residence.
"I used to buy mountains of books but only read them pages at a time. I gradually realized that gaining knowledge does not come through a wall of books."
One month later, he gave some precious books to friends and others to libraries.
In addition to donating and giving the items to other people, Wang has a "one in, one out" rule to limit his items to less than 100.
"Most of the time I will get a new item when the old one is broken. But if I have something that I like so much, I will donate the old one first to get the new one," said Wang.
In a recent accounting, Wang had only 87 items. "I care about the quality rather than the quantity of items. Using money that could buy seven pairs of jeans, I buy one item of clothing I need. The money saved is instead spent on things that I really want, like traveling."
A common view in the West, as seen in a number of films and books, is that the concept of a minimalist lifestyle is rooted in Buddhist religions which have a long history in China, and also advocate the shedding of possessions.
Master Lijing, a professor at the Buddhist Academy of China, said that according to Buddhist beliefs, everything is impermanent and that people's obsessions towards owning things is the cause of suffering. "So Buddhism advocates a similar principle to minimalism because everything is changing and you can't hold on to possessions," said Lijing.
The Science Of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day
Have you ever thought about how much time you likely waste deciding what to wear in the morning? It’s probably made you late to school or work more times than you can count.
We waste so many precious moments concerning ourselves with frivolous details. An outfit will not change the world, it probably won’t even change your day.
This is not to say that fashion isn’t important, as it has an immense impact on culture and, in turn, the direction of society.
Indeed, fashion is where art, culture and history intersect. If we look at the 1960s, for example, the way people dressed was very much a reflection of the counterculture movement and the anti-establishment sentiments of the era.
Simply put, clothes can tell us a lot about sociology.
Yet, at the same time, we’ve arguably become an excessively materialistic and superficial society. Undoubtedly, there are greater things to worry about than clothes.
Similarly, as the great American author Henry David Thoreau once stated:
Our life is frittered away by detail.
In essence, don’t sweat the small stuff. Make your life easier by concentrating on the big picture.
Correspondingly, a number of very successful people have adopted this philosophy in their daily routines.
Decision Fatigue: Why Many Presidents And CEOs Wear The Same Thing Every Day
Whether you love or hate him, it’s hard to argue against the notion that President Obama has the most difficult job in the world. As the leader of the most powerful country on the planet, the president has a lot on his plate.
Regardless of what he does, he will be criticized. Simply put, he’s got a lot of important things to think about beyond his wardrobe.
This is precisely why President Obama wears the same suit every single day. Well, almost every day, we can’t forget about the time the Internet exploded when he wore a khaki suit. Although, that probably says less about him and more about us.
The majority of the time, however, Obama wears either a blue or gray suit. In an article from Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, the president explained the logic behind this routine:
‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits’ [Obama] said.
‘I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’ He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.
As Stuart Heritage puts it for the Guardian, “Barack Obama has pared his wardrobe down to such a degree that he can confidently walk into any situation and make decisions that directly impact on the future of mankind.”
The president is not alone in this practice. The late, great, Steve Jobs wore his signature black turtleneck with jeans and sneakers every single day.
Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg typically wears a gray t-shirt with a black hoody and jeans when seen in public. Similarly, Albert Einstein reportedly bought several variations of the same gray suit so that he wouldn’t have to waste time deciding what to wear each morning.
This is all related to the concept of decision fatigue. This is a real psychological condition in which a person’s productivity suffers as a result of becoming mentally exhausted from making so many irrelevant decisions.
Simply put, by stressing over things like what to eat or wear every day, people become less efficient at work.
This is precisely why individuals like President Obama, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Albert Einstein decided to make life easier by adopting a monotonous wardrobe.
Obviously, as these are some of the most successful and productive individuals in history, they are on to something.
Make Life Simple
Indeed, having a diverse collection of clothing is overrated. We waste so much time worrying about things that have no substantial consequences, and don’t even realize how easily we could change this.
This is exactly why President José Mujica of Uruguay rejects conformity and refuses to wear a tie, stating:
The tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck.
I’m an enemy of consumerism. Because of this hyperconsumerism, we’re forgetting about fundamental things and wasting human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness.
He’s absolutely right. The vast majority of us are guilty of obsessing over material things. When it comes down to it, they bring no real value to our lives. True fulfillment is acquired by going out into the world and fostering palpable and benevolent changes.
Buying a new pair of shoes might make you feel more confident in the short-term, but it will not enrich your life in the long-term.
Undoubtedly, the world would be an extremely boring place if we all wore the same exact thing every day.
Yet, we might all consider simplifying our lives a bit more by reducing the amount of time we spend thinking about pointless aspects of our day. In the process, one might find that they are significantly less stressed, more productive and more fulfilled.
Life is complicated enough, don’t allow the little things to dictate your happiness. Simplify, simplify.
I have been embarking on the journey of minimalism for the past few years. I am still far from living with 100 items.
It is a journey of getting rid of things that are unimportant, letting go of the past, and focus on the things that really matters.
I don't miss any of the things I gave away or recycled.
Nowadays, I only buy things that I need or I really really like.
So sales and discount, factory outlets don't really excite me anymore.
It is a liberating process.
I felt at peace.
Less is indeed more. =)