“Oooh, look at those fancy bags” said my Australian acquaintance, as we were passing by a high-end shop in the Dubai Airport. She is in her mid-40s, travelling solo to Europe and England to reunite with her childhood friends.
“I bet you have done lots of shopping back in London, huh?” I asked, when we were at the waiting area near the transit gate.
“Nah… I don’t need all that stuff,” she said, and I nodded in agreement, moving on to other topics of conversation. Judging from her style, I could tell she’s a practical person. This brief conversation was a breath of fresh air and a reality check for me after having spent most of remaining days in the UK, shopping.
This consumer culture has been embedded in our society and has become a norm to our lives. We’re always waiting for the latest gadget, wanting the fastest internet and the most instant way to buy a product. With advanced technology and almost everything done online, one doesn’t even need to step out of the house to run an errand or buy something. Without a doubt, this encourages people to get whatever they want at anytime and anywhere – as long as there is wifi. So it’s easier to buy more, more and more.
Other than that, the culture of buying things with credit cards – even if we can’t afford them “yet” – is the root of all evil. This has led us to become more materialistic and be indulged in a fantasy world of having everything we want. We let our soul dry and continuously consume in order to give us temporary pleasure. One can go to the extreme of hoarding and this will inevitably lead to so many financial and relationship problems.
In fact, during the golden age of Islam – about a thousand years ago – Muslims indulged in worldly pleasure too much. In the end, they corrupted themselves and suffered from self-destruction after many years of building a civilisation because they forgot their true purpose in life.
Minimalism: A High-End Luxury Lifestyle?
Less is more
In my understanding, this means having less and doing more.
When I think about a minimalist, I think about a white-coloured spacious room with modern furniture, zero clutter and some sleek framed photos in black and white, and maybe a collage of polaroid photos and a few motivational quotes hanging on the wall. It’s a style I have seen on design TV shows like ‘House Paradise’ in Japan. I genuinely admire their lifestyle because they don’t have a storage room as most of their homes have limited space. With a high standard of living, they have to practice quality over quantity.
However, not everyone is into this style, including me. I love earthy colours and rustic, bohemian style with some unique cultural collectibles for a home. It sounds like a contradiction to minimalism, especially with the word ‘collectibles’. Does this mean I need to give up my style? Not at all. It’s all about setting boundaries and knowing when to stop collecting when you start cluttering.
In the US, minimalism has been taken to another level. There has bee increasing interest in tiny (mobile) houses for people who aim to do more, instead of having more. Custom-made 200 sq ft houses are built from scratched to suit their lifestyle. I admire their dedication and sacrifice to leave out many of their material things and only keep the essentials that are meaningful to them, all documented on the TV show ‘Tiny House Nation’.
To answer the question above: no, it’s not a high-end luxury lifestyle. It is often used with a modern house concept but minimalism holds more meaning than just a design concept.
All of these inspirations are great, but the question now is: Are we ready to give up and sacrifice? And a more important question is: Why?
“BE IN THIS WORLD AS IF YOU ARE A STRANGER OR A WAYFARER” – PROPHET MUHAMMAD (PBUH)
A well-known hadith calls us to treat this life as if we are constantly travelling. Now, imagine you are travelling to a place for your holiday. Do you take all of your belongings from home, or just the essentials and few of your favourite outfits? Of course, majority of us, if not all, would say the latter. It’s practically impossible to bring everything anyway, but if it is possible, it would be difficult to enjoy your holiday having to constantly worry about keeping your stuff secure. A dedicated minimalist is like a backpacker.
In Reclaim Your Heart, author Yasmin Mogahed uses the analogy of your permanent house as the hereafter and the hotels you stay in as the world. You won’t be decorating the hotels as much as you would decorate your permanent home. Just as we understand the hotel as a temporary place, we need to grasp this concept the world is temporary and our time here is so short. So, we need to focus on what’s important and invest our time, money and energy in that.