DUBAI: The idea is to live with less than a hundred things. And if you can, you can earn your place in the once-again relevant hall of fame that goes by the name of minimalism.
A minimalist is an individual who can count their belongings — be it clothes, furniture, or electronics, or any manner of material possessions — and pare it down life to basics in order to keep living a simple and content life.
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This many a time also includes downsizing the bigness of their house. In case some of you have missed the point here, the idea is to be happy and content with less.
The beacon of minimalsim has been shining for a few decades now, and getting stronger in the last decade, particularly in the US.
As the wave of consumerism gets stronger, the need to get out of its way faster — or risk being pulled into its undertow — seems to be pushing minimalists onwards as they declutter their lives physically, mentally and pyschologically.
For example, two of the leading minimalists in the US are Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, young men who, in 2010, decided to pare it down.
Such is the enthusiasm they have created for others that minimalism in the US seems to have gone past the stage of being deemed a fad.
Millburn and Nicodemus describe the concept as “a tool that can assist you in finding freedom.”
Making room for more
Having helped over 20 million people live meaningful lives with less through their website, books, podcast, and documentary, the duo continue to follow a life of minimalism focusing on not having less, but rather, on making room for more — “more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment. More freedom,” according to them.
Clearing clutter from our lives “helps us make that room” reads a statement on their website.
A direct correlation between getting rid of material possessions people know cannot add real value to their lives and their mental, physical and emotional well-being has been established many times over by experts and psychologists.
Overconsumption: A 'mindless state'
Dr Tara Wyne, Clinical Psychologist and director at Lighthouse Arabia, Dubai, said: “Overconsumption suggests consuming more than is necessary — this state is typically a mindless state where we aren’t connected to what our real needs are, but simply filling ourselves and our lives up with activities or things to achieve some kind of happiness,” she said.
Is there is any sign of minimalism in the UAE? Gulf News carried a report on the new shoots breaking through thanks to individuals like 28-year-old Jana Xiolier, an expatriate from Trinidad and Tobago who made the decision to live as a minimalist when she moved from the Netherlands to Abu Dhabi with her husband and three children in 2014.
Xiolier has a Facebook account for minimalism and she has inspired many to at least start thinking of it as a way to live.
Xiolier lives in a two-bedroom apartment with simple furniture pieces, including two closets, three stands, and two large king-size mattresses.
She also owns 30 pieces of clothing, including 10 identical dresses, two pairs of jeans, and eight T-shirts, and is often comfortable in her flip-flops and doesn’t see the need to own any more items of clothing.
Looking back at the three years of living with less, Xiolier says, it has been a “freeing experience. I was a hoarder who didn’t realise it,” Xiolier said.
Though her tipping point came due to circumstances — she was forced to live with basic necessities for three months upon her arrival in Dubai owing to her belongings not having arrived by sea — Xiolier believes the minimalism makeover can be achieved in different ways.
Having accrued an experience of being a minimalist for three years, she is well placed to share her advice with aspiring minimalists in the UAE.
Start from within
The need to turn into a minimalist has to be from within, as opposed to simply following a trend, says Xiolier.
“It is possible that some cultures could promote a minimalist trend but humans seem to be natural hoarders, so it will always take some introspection to decide to stop hoarding,” she says.
How can people address the initial fears of downsizing? By believing that it is worth it, says Xiolier. “You will feel great to be free of things,” she assures. The important thing is to know, very clearly, if their lives are being controlled by their belongings or if too much of their energy is being diverted to just having more and more belongings. That realisation is the key, says Xiolier.
“If you have things and they don’t bother you, make your place dirty or cluttered, or create additional cleaning - and you want to keep them, then why not?”
Hoping to live out the rest of her life as a minimalist, Xiolier said she is also teaching her children two important values; to care about the environment, and that actions have consequences.
“I try to show them that everything they buy came from somewhere, and was made by someone. I show them that it took work and energy and that they therefore should not buy things that they cannot use;" Xiolier said.
"I also show them that items thrown in the ocean can harm the animals that live there and that the cost of producing some of the things we consume harms people in other parts of the world,” she added.
Xiolier’s children have also adopted their mother’s philosophy and positively responded to decluttering their collection of toys, keeping in mind there would be less to tidy up after a playing session.
Don't force the issue
However, when it comes to living with a spouse who does not necessarily share the same minimalistic views or lifestyle, Xiolier pointed out that force shouldn’t be used as a tool of persuasion.
“I think if your spouse doesn’t want to be a minimalist, do not force them, just downsize your own things - that’s how relationships work. Compromise is important,” she said.
Getting full support from her husband to live her life as a minimalist, Xiolier said she isn’t bothered by her partner’s moderate buying habits, despite him not being a minimalist.
Slow but growing culture
With a slow but growing culture of minimalists in the region, the Facebook group ‘Minimalism UAE Minimalist Lifestyle’ created by Xiolier is also catching momentum.
Within months, the group, which started with around 49 members, currently has an active page with almost 300 people, who are intrigued to find out more about living simple.
“Many people joined the Facebook group, which is great. It would be great to meet some minimalists in UAE,” added Xiolier.
Gulf News talked to aspiring minimalists in the UAE about their views on owning less and their journey towards simple living.