By Adrian Schleicher, Jr. Project Manager
By my parents’ standards, I’m probably a minimalist. After three moves in my four years of college, I had become painfully aware of the sheer amount of possessions I had accumulated, and became increasingly more harsh with what items would actually make it to my next home. It turns out, by evaluating what I didn’t need, I began to value what was left over tenfold. Thus began my rather shallow foray into minimalism.
Lately, the concepts of minimalism and anti-consumerism are more prevalent than ever with the popularization of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Kondo teaches her readers how to value their own possessions and requests they hold every possession they own and ask themselves, “does this bring me joy?” Now bloggers and influencers are adopting the minimalist lifestyle to varying degrees of rigidity—publishing “Minimalism 101” blog posts and touting their newfound aesthetic on Instagram. Minimalists aren’t inherently anti-consumerists, but rather check themselves when they feel that familiar compulsion to consume that is second-nature to so many of us. As self-identified minimalist Joshua Fields Millburn says, “minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives.”
Whereas Marie Kondo wants her readers to learn how to cherish the possessions they already have, Volvo wants consumers to avoid buying more than they need. In their spot for the new XC40, Volvo proposes, “by not owning things you’re not owned by things,” suggesting that rather than buying your next car, you subscribe to it. With less money in their pockets than those of baby boomers when they were the same age, millennials are less likely to buy those big-ticket items like cars and houses while opting to rent instead, or in Volvo’s case “subscribe.”
Minimalism hasn’t been met without its fair share of criticism. The Guardian argues that minimalism only appeals to those with “enough upfront disposable money to ‘invest’ in [their] wardrobe and surroundings.” It’s ironic that even the pushback can receive its own pushback. Other critics posit that these consumers treat minimalism as a cure-all to end any and all ailments, and that only once you forsake most of your worldly possessions can you “be free from the tyranny of [your] desires.”
Maybe there is an ailment that needs to be cured. Kyle Chayka of the New York Times suggests we’re “hungover from pre-recession excess” and that consumers are gravitated towards owning less as their hangover cure. Consumers are more conscious of their consumption, and they want to support brands that add value to their lives in some way. Regardless of whether or not we’re on the brink of a cultural shift, one thing holds true: When consumers see a brand that will enrich their lives, their perception of the value of that brand increases, which drives both loyalty and sales.
Adrian a native Houstonian, Hot Cheeto connoisseur and recovering boyband addict. When she’s not working as a project manager, she’s probably deep in a Wikipedia hole.