An interesting supplement to developing a minimalistic lifestyle I have found is the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. A Grecko-Roman methodology adapted today to be a framework for making better decisions and training oneself to be less reactive, ancient Stoicism spawned from many teachings of Socrates on ethics and rationale. Stoicism directly informs a minimalistic lifestyle in its adherence to simple living ideas, its focus on one’s self rather than one’s “stuff” and its goal in reconnecting people in community through shared bonds.
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants… -Epictetus
Seneca said that philosophy (specifically stoicism as he held to it) “calls for simple living” and “conformity with nature” (Letters from a Stoic). In the same way, minimalism today is “simple-centric” (my own term) and some habits I use to try and reconnect soul with nature by first directing the mind out of distraction pair very well with stoic mindfulness teachings. Practitioners of both minimalism and stoicism use meditation as a way to slow oneself throughout the day and find peace of mind about the chaos in the world. As I have paired down the number of things in my life, I have tried to hold to many stoic precepts about the importance (or rather unimportance) of “things.” Marcus Aurelius said, in his published diary, Meditations, “how swiftly all things vanish away.”
Identity: Likewise, Seneca spoke of our identities linked to our belongings saying, “anyone entering our homes should admire us rather than our furnishings” (Letters from a Stoic). This can be seen to an extent in Minimalistic architecture and design, but also in how people practicing Minimalism build their lives. By designing my life around the things that truly matter and will not fade so swiftly, I am able to lead an intentional life with less clutter and more freedom.
Reconnection: The final kinship shared between these two methodologies is in their emphasis on reconnecting with the people around us in the truest sense.“The first thing philosophy promises us is the feeling of fellowship, of belonging to mankind and being members of a community” (Seneca, Letters from a Stoic). As Joshua Fields Millburn of theMinimalists says, “Love people, use things. The opposite never works.”
“And this you will only achieve in one way, by convincing yourself that you can live a happy life even without (riches), and by always regarding them as being on the point of vanishing.” –Seneca
One final word about the duality of these two applied lifestyles that are adapting to our evolving culture: Stoicism is a philosophy and minimalism is purely a lifestyle that has no established connections to the antiquated worldview. While supplementing Stoicism in parts of my personal life has been effective, it is not something that created the part of my identity that is being a minimalist. It simply helps me organize parts of the chaos…