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Can minimalism save the world?

It’s about being happy with less. While the idea itself is not radically novel, minimalism has gained a lot of popularity in a post-consumerism age, where houses, offices, cars and even our gadgets are filled with things we once thought would give us value but are now just clutter, occupying space. At a time when the world generates 2.12 billion tons of waste every year, we ask Gulf News readers if minimalism can fix the problem?

  • Joselito FernandezImage Credit: Supplied
  • Zahra VenkatImage Credit: Supplied
  • Shelina JokhiyaImage Credit: Supplied
  • Harbinder SinghImage Credit: Supplied
  • Image Credit:
Gulf News


Poor people have been minimalists for a lot longer

I disagree that minimalism could save the world not because we can’t do it, but because the concept of minimalism is misunderstood. To be a minimalist, one should have a valid need, not a want. This would mean that we should stick with the essentials for our everyday lives. With the world set up to encourage consumerism we will always end up aqcuiring items that doesn’t necessarily answer our need. Only if you buy items that you need will you get close to being minimalist.

The rich only pretend to be minimalists by surrounding themsleves with the ‘style’ and not the concept. The poor, with the little that they have, have been minimalists for so long. They have adapted to only having the essentials to carry on with their everyday lives. Poor people might have less material possessions over rich people, but they have more resources to build anything from scratch should the need arise.

From Mr Joselito Fernandez

Designer living in Dubai



Minimalism promotes an extreme alternative to consumerism

I am a decluttering and organising consultant and create organised systems. There should be a place for everything. If you’ve got more things and you don’t have place for it, you will have to get rid of it.

With minimalism, however, I feel it is an extreme. Hoarding is one extreme and minimalism goes to the extreme. I still have stuff in my life, but I don’t have too much stuff.

I see the articles where people live on five clothes a year and it puts too much pressure on people, they can’t live like that. I don’t follow that kind of a mantra and I don’t like to make my clients and followers go on that path either. There are some people who are naturally like that, which is is fine, but the average person cannot go from being cluttered to being a minimalist, especially in a short space of time.

Minimalism has exploded, especially this year. I have been doing this work for four years now. It took two and a half years for people to undesrtand what I did and now they realise they need it. It helped to have books like Marie Kondo’s bestseller: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She has some good ideas but some of the suggestions are just too much for normal people to do, it would cause you too much stress. Each person is different in the way they have accumulated the clutter and how they will get rid of it.

Whether you are rich or poor you don’t need to keep all the ‘just in case’ items you have at home — the cardboard boxes or carrier bags, for example. When people keep things ‘just in case’ they don’t usually use it.

There is a very disposable lifestyle right now — people are buying a lot of stuff. They don’t need it but its available and they’re buying. I don’t believe in complete minimalism but people need to not buy as much, reduce what you are buying, save money and relieve the stress as well.

From Ms Shelina Jokhiya

Runs a decluttering and professional organising business in Dubai



Instead of purging clutter, avoid buying too much

I am constantly reading about the Japanese ways of living, and am definitely a big fan of minimalism. Being a stay-at-home mother to two young children, a lot of stuff does tend to get accumulated. Hence, I recently went on a purge of items at home, consisting of clothes, and other baby items; I made it into an event for friends and sold a few clothes. So, I went clutter free and even made some money!

Although minimalism is defined as ‘the art of getting rid of things that you don’t require so that you can appreciate the things that you do’, I would prefer to look at it as the art of self-control before you accumulate unwanted things in your home!

Consumerism is at its peak today, so much so that it is now a science — brands spend millions on gauging their target audience and then create ads that ‘speak out’ to the public. The displays on supermarket shelves also have a psychological motive behind them. Hence, to be able to exercise one’s self-control and stop ourselves from buying things we don’t actually need is the first step to leading a minimalistic lifestyle.

If more people decide to buy only the things they need rather than the things they want, the law of demand versus supply will cause companies to only manufacture those items that are being purchased; eventually leading to lesser wastage, curbing landfill pollution, and promoting recycling, thereby saving the world.

From Ms Zahra Venkat

Stay-at-home mum of two living in Sharjah


People power

Conscious consumerism can be a game changer

You can’t avoid buying certain things but make sure what you are purchasing can be recycled or reused so that at the end of the day, you close the loop.

We collect about 10,000 tonnes of just electronic waste each year. There are new electronics items coming out every day. Even if you look at the life cycle of products, there is a new version of a smartphone released every year. So, e-waste is a growing issue.

Individual efforts can make a lot of difference. People are, by nature, consumption-driven. Everybody wants to get the latest things but you have to make a conscious effort to reduce what you buy and only purchase what you require. If done systematically, you can reduce the amount of items that will eventually end up in a landfill.

You have recycling bins in almost every community for regular items like clothes and books. For specialised items, like electronic waste, companies like ours offer pick up services. But the important step is to separate waste at the source, which makes a big difference.

Whenever you are making a purchase decision, take a step back and decide if you really need the item. Then, make sure the item has come through a sustainable production process and can be recycled. Most companies specify on the packaging if there is some form of sustainability production and how to recycle it back.

Also, if no one uses the item, you are just wasting money that could be used down the road.

One thing I can’t get my head around is the amount of packaging that people have — when you go to a shop, every item you purchase comes in a box that is wrapped with something else and that goes into another bag! all of this will ultimately go into a bin. It is a cultural perception that good packaging or more packaging enhances the value and image of what you have bought. The same happens with food waste, where perfectly good fruits and vegetables are thrown away even before they reach the shelves because they might be mishapen.

Our consumption pattern creates a demand for nice packaging. Consumers will have to say no to so much packaging and then retailers and manufacturers will comply.

From Mr Harbinder Singh

Director of Project Development at a Dubai-based waste recycling facility


Gulf News asked: Do you think you have too much clutter in your life?


Yes 73%

No 27%


Have you tried to purge your home of all clutter? Do you think minimalism can make a difference in a consumer-driven culture? Share your views at


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