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Voluntary minimalism - an expression of concept of non-greediness

Updated on June 12, 2015

Minimalism is a lifestyle, in which simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effects. In other words, it is minimal, low-consumption way of living, also called simple living.

Voluntary minimalism means that we choose the minimalistic lifestyle of our own, not imposed by our circumstances. In other words, it means that an individual voluntarily chooses this lifestyle, though the individual can afford to live a life of luxury. There are no hard and fast rules for voluntary minimalism because what is minimally enough for a person may not be so for others. It is a lifestyle that needs constant awareness to choose things mindfully considering one’s real needs. On our journey of life, we all are likely to gather more and more stuff, which may be clutter for some, whereas it may be useful for others. Voluntary minimalism has underlying a commonly accepted principle that the persons practicing it should possess what is really needed for them. They should live mindfully and make conscious choices deciding what is important for them.

However, the practice of voluntary minimalism always requires a comfortable balance so that one doesn’t feel overwhelmed by one’s possessions and at the same time, one doesn’t feel that one is going without only for the sake of doing so. There is another dimension attached to it that the practice of voluntary minimalism requires zero wastage of things.

The practice of voluntary minimalism is an expression of the spiritual concept of non-greediness or non-hoarding.

The concept of non-greediness -

Patanjali, an ancient sage of India, who postulated seminal eight limbs of yogic practices, named after him as Yoga Sutras of Pataljali. The first limb of Yama – Universal Morality – has a concept of Aparigraha – non-greediness or non-hoarding – as one of five concepts. The basis of the concept of non-greediness is that an individual should take only what is necessary and should not take advantage of a situation to acquire more than necessary. In other words, one should not act greedily. Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants in life.

The practice of non-hoarding means acquiring, consuming and holding on to only what is essential. For example, what is the use of keeping an old car for rusting in the backyard, if we haven’t used it for some years? In the modern culture of credit cards, we are exposed to temptations of buying things, which may not be useful to us. The credit cards provide the facility to buy things now and pay later, which leads us to hoard things that may actually be not necessary for us. It tempts us to hoard the unnecessary things that will cause us stress when we find their uselessness after some time.

The concept has much wider connotation than simply the practice of non-greediness or non-hoarding.

  • The concept also implies non-greediness towards security, comfort, status or simply joy of owing something we love.
  • It also implies non-greediness towards the desires or cravings that don’t have good intentions. Our true desires should include good relationships, creativity, long term happiness, connection with a higher power etc.
  • It also implies that we should not have greediness to cling to our thoughts, ideas, or perspectives because such greediness will make us blind to the thoughts, ideas or perspectives of others.
  • In general, it requires us to let go our attachments to things, persons, ideas or viewpoints because attachment breeds greediness that leads to hoarding.
  • Another implication underlying the concept is that all is impermanent so why should people have greediness to hoard when everything will change in life.

Benefits of voluntary minimalism –

We are bombarded with advertisements on every type of media about all sorts of things that exist on earth, tempting us to buy them. We live in a society that believes in possessing things that we love to flaunt to others in order to raise our social status. But most of us don’t heed the fact that hoarding has its own disadvantages whether we hoard material possessions or something else that has no real use for us. The following are some of the benefits of voluntary minimalism –

It gives freedom – The accumulation of lot of stuff emotionally ties us down because we will always be afraid of losing the stuff. Getting rid of the stuff will give us a sense of freedom that we never experienced before.

It gives peace of mind – By clinging to material possessions, we create stress because we are always afraid of losing them. By simplifying our life, we can give up attachments to these things, thus creating peace of mind.

It creates happiness – By getting rid of excess of what we actually don’t need, we slowly gravitate toward things that matter most for us. When we clearly see through the falseness of the impression that an abundance of material possessions gives us happiness, we begin to create real happiness by getting rid of what we don’t need.

It reduces fear – We are always plagued with a feeling of fear to lose our worldly possessions. By practicing minimalism, we reduce our fears as we have so little to lose.

It allows focus on hobbies – By the practice of minimalism, we spend less time on unnecessary things and, therefore, have more time to spend on the hobbies we once wanted to pursue. We create an opening to do things we love but couldn’t do so because we never seemed to have time to do them.

It allows focus on health – A lifestyle of minimalism directs our focus on eating wholesome foods by changing the attitude of gluttony of eating unwholesome, thus promoting health.

It spares money – When we don’t spend on things that degrade and depreciate with time, we have more money to spend on worthwhile things. In other words, we earn our financial freedom. We have more spare money to invest for our future; we also have more money to spend on travels that we probably wanted to do.

It gives more free time – With minimalism comes more free time because there is less to maintain and worry about. We can make use of our spare time to pursue hobbies that interest us; we can also invest the spare time in strengthening our relationships that were neglected before.

It is environment friendly – Everything we own is manufactured by factories that pollute our environment. The practice of minimalism will directly or indirectly prevent the degradation of our environment. The carbon footprints associated with buying fewer things will do the mother earth a favor by not contributing to her downfall.

The bottom line –

The concept of Aparigraha , first postulated by Patanjali, an ancient Indian sage, involves non-greediness or non-hoarding as a way of life. Apart from non-greediness for the possession of material things, the concept also encompasses the non-greediness for our security, comfort, status, ideas, perspectives, beliefs etc. It also implies that all is impermanent, thus underlining the futility of hoarding things.

The practice of non-greediness has many benefits, which include peace of mind, happiness, less fear, less anxiety, more free time to indulge in worthwhile activities etc. Moreover, it is environment friendly.


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your valuable comments and support.

    • carolynkaye profile image

      carolynkaye 2 years ago from USA

      Great article about minimalism. You made lots of good points here :) Voted up!

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your valuable comments and support.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I so agree with what you wrote here. After my home burned down in 1987 I learned that material possessions are obstacles in once life. Today we practice a voluntary minimalistic lifestyle compared to the households we often visit.

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your valuable comments. I am in full agreement with your views.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      I agree that minimizing things in our life is liberating. I get a certain peace when I remove clutter from my life. I like to see things in order and I feel much happier with less things. Most of the things we have we really don't need. And material things certainly depreciate with time.