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Eliminate discontent with this single philosophy

Amongst philosophers, artists, poets, and beyond, many put forth that they have cracked the secret to happiness. Although we can’t lay claim to the knowledge that one is better than the next, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of Netflix documentary Minimalism certainly make a convincing case for such in a movement of the same name that describes a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives.

Although it’s easy to interpret the word minimalism at face value, the movement is less about eliminating stuff from your life, and more about making room for more: more mindfulness, creativity, passion and growth. It’s about searching for happiness, not through things and the meaning we ascribe to them, but through life itself – living more deliberately, with less. As a primer, here is a list of minimalist tenets you may choose to incorporate into your own lifestyle, with the goal of paving the way for a more purposeful existence:

  • Clear away all but your most essential possessions, to make room for those which bring you joy
  • Reduce distraction to make room for creation
  • Focus on spending quality time with loved ones
  • Clear away the noise to make way for spiritual thinking
  • Make way for a less cluttered schedule, but prioritize what’s important

Although the philosophy seems relatively simple, certain elements of minimalism work better for some than others. We caught up with BRIKA’s very own Jacqueline Schmidt of Screech Owl Design, who is featured in the film, about how the movement takes shape in her own life.

When were you first made aware of the benefits of a more pared back lifestyle? Why did you decide to incorporate the guidelines of minimalism into your own life?

I live in New York, which is a very expensive city. I wanted to create a low impact and low overhead lifestyle that would make my life more about living to work and play rather than just working to live. By downsizing and eliminating space, I freed up mental space and physical time. After stripping away all the excess, what was left was all that mattered. What I didn’t know then that I do know now: I would be able to access more happiness and that sense of freedom would play a role in all areas of my life.

In your opinion, what is the relationship between the values of minimalism and technology?

With the advent of so many technological advances, one no longer needs a physical CD, record, or book collection. With the addition of sharing systems, you can take an Uber, rent a dress, share an office, or borrow a waffle maker. I mean, how often does someone use their bread or waffle maker? With all these amazing options, a person can have a very asset light model, while still getting all their needs met.

Jacqueline and her son Finn in their pared back Brooklyn home (photo courtesy of Remodelista).

Why do you think there is a connection between a decreased number of possessions and increased happiness?

Possessions have weight. They need to be cared for, stored, cleaned and they take up not only physical space, but mental space too. It’s ironic that most people were happiest when they were in college or while traveling. I think the increased happiness comes from the sense of freedom from not being weighed down, and when experiences are valued more than stuff.

How do you get your kids to start consciously thinking about minimalism in their daily decision-making?

Living by example certainly helps. My kids definitely want stuff and request stuff and I get them stuff. But I do help guide them to make better and more practical choices. For instance, if they have a lot of toy cars and want another toy car I might suggest they pick out a different type of toy. Or if they want a fruity drink instead of choosing something with artificial flavors, I’ll have them choose something with fresh ingredients. Or instead of getting something small with the money in their piggy bank, I might encourage them to wait for something bigger and of more value.

What do you think is a good first step in terms of incorporating a more pared back lifestyle into your own life?

Take inventory. Literally get clear on what you possess. Then think about the use of these objects and how that use applies to your current lifestyle.  How often are you using these items and can you honestly live without them? How much space does this stuff consume? When was the last time you used these items? Ask yourself why you’re keeping these things.

I think the most important first step is to start by getting rid of a few things. Once you strip those things away, note how you feel. The first step is learning about your relationship to your stuff. From there, you can design a life that works for you and your stuff.


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