Cos'è il minimalismo? L'arte di rivalutare la vita.
Sustainable life

A sustainable approach to life: revaluing value through minimalism

I first approached minimalism when I studied abroad for my MA programme and had to pack up everything I needed for a one-year staying in a not-so-large suitcase, a backpack and a small bag. I didn’t know it was minimalism I was craving. I just told myself “You own too many things that will never fit that space” and I realised I could do without much of that stuff. I didn’t need to pile up hundreds of copies of the same objects because “You never know, just in case you needed them”. I eventually managed to overcome that overwhelming feeling of anxiety derived from being surrounded by anything and got rid of the need to bring it all with me. Once in my newest, light-blue-walled Belgian room, I arranged my stuff and breathed a sigh of relief – the room was full and empty at the same time. It was full because it still included a bed, a wardrobe, a desk, two chairs and a sink, as well as my possessions. It was empty because it wasn’t as crammed as the room I had left behind. I knew it was hard for me to get rid of even the smallest pieces of blank paper that could remind me of the time I cut them off from my first university paper. Yet, I really understood how difficult it was only when I shut the door of my Belgian room behind me and collapsed on the empty, fluffy bed. A couple of weeks later, while browsing in a bookshop, a pleasant coincidence caught my attention: there it was, a book about minimalism. Since then, I’ve been reading lots of books about minimalism and I’ve been trying to simplify my habits and routines in several different ways. Although it’s still a work in progress, it has certainly improved the quality of my life and I want to share my opinion on the matter with you. Though before we move on, I’ve got a friendly quote for you… 

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

― Dave Ramsey

Does this quote resonate with you? With me, it does. With you, well, deep inside I think it does, too.

What is minimalism?

One of the concepts that today can be associated with a wider definition of sustainability is minimalism, a life philosophy focusing on living with what we really need, be it things or feelings or whatever you might be needing.

At the same time, it’s also a narrative that explicitly critiques the accumulation trend characterising our society while promoting the simple act of simplifying. A rebellious act, shall we say?, that may have some rather interesting, positive outcomes on our environment and mental health, too.

Why choose minimalism?

The starting point of this narrative is that we own too much stuff. We follow too many trends. We just do too much. And, more importantly, we don’t even value it. This results in being overwhelmed, and most of the times we don’t even realise it. We simply think that’s normal, that’s just the way life works. It’s always been like that (well, not really) and it’ll always be like that (well, given our planet’s most recent health, not really). Not our fault, one would argue, as our culture is imbued with the idea that the more, the better. Yet, the disproportionate amount of anxiety and depressive issues affecting most part of rich, hyper-consumeristic countries inhabitants seems to suggest quite a different trend [1].

The system we live in constantly pushes us to act and possess more without never questioning why. A vicious cycle entirely unsustainable from a psychological, ethical, spatial and environmental perspective. Indeed, if we tried to ask ourselves why we bought the latest hyper-technological watch, piece of clothes or random thing, the resulting answer might in most cases be slightly itchy.

Again, in the long-term, this won’t be sustainable any more – not for us, hyper-individual human beings, and not even for our rubbish-covered planet. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that owning material possessions or following a given trend is absolutely wrong. Rather, the problem is the reason why we own too much material possession and/or tend to do too much and the meaning we assign to it. Who’s making their decision here? Why? How does this make you truly feel?

The art of revaluing our life

As such, a minimalistic approach to life helps us detach from consumption for the sake of consumption – be it whatever you emptily consume e.g. things, relationships, actions – and repositions our attention on what truly matters – our life goals and passions, our relationships – by eliminating superficial distraction. We start focusing on purpose and we truly revalue the value we attribute to everything surrounding us.

With minimalism, less is truly more. We slow down and value even more our experiences, relationships, personal growth, health. In so doing, it’s us who makes the decision because we want it and mean it and it makes us feel alive. It’s not inflicted by external societal mechanisms. Minimalism may thus become a rediscovery of authenticity and gratefulness in our lives, too. A means of psychological sustainability as well as environmental sustainability. Indeed, it also acquires a political and economic dimension by becoming a practical tool to protect the environment and our planet.

How does minimalism work?

There are several approaches to implement minimalism in our daily life and adequate balance is always fundamental to get to the broader perspective one would ideally need. Also, I’d love to make an important point here: everybody’s different and has their own habits, beliefs, background, and as such, everybody will find their own way to cut through the noise and revalue their life. Therefore, putting one’s habits into questions within a minimalist framework is just one of the many solutions, but not at all the only one.

If we opt for this path, taking small steps is a great way to start delving into this mindset, and such small steps begin at the very basic level of our daily habits. Ideally, I would try to become aware of an attention-sucking aspect of my life and I’d ask myself the abovementioned questions – Who’s making my decision here? Why? How does this make me truly feel? – and then go from there.

For example, you may become aware of unhealthy habits such as nomophobia [2] and the fear of missing out [3]. As the Cambridge Dictionary goes, the former is the “fear or worry at the idea of being without your mobile phone or unable to use it” while the latter means “a worrying feeling that you may miss exciting events that other people are going to, especially caused by things you see on social media”. In this case, choosing digital minimalism by creating new, healthy habits that will clear up your digital life might well be one of the solutions to take up.

Also, if you think compulsive shopping is your issue, you may go for clothing minimalism as a way to declutter wardrobes and save up by simplifying and reducing the stress of useless stuff piling up in your room. Last but not certainly least, what about relationship minimalism that makes you focus on quality rather than quantity and or/constraints with regard to the people you allow in your life?

The key here is simplifying by revaluating the truest, most genuine values in our lives. So, let’s take the very first baby steps towards simplification and revaluation. It’s right here, right now. The rest will automatically follow.


[1] Obviously, anxiety and depression are not issues we uniquely find in rich countries, as people in poor countries are definitely affected by these phenomena as well. Here is some more information on the subject. 

[2] “Nomophobia” (n.d.). In Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved from

[2] “FOMO” (n.d.). In Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved from

Sources and some food for thought

Adam Alter (2017), Irresistible: Why We Can’t Stop Checking, Scrolling, Clicking and Watching, Bodley Head

Joshua Becker (2016), The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, Crown Publishing Group.

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