Minimalism and Freedom From Scarcity
It’s no secret at this point that many of us gather items as a type of primal urge as a survival mechanism in response to scarcity. Resource gathering is built into us on a very fundamental level. Having resources plainly means one has more resilience to weather the storms of life, whether they be a natural disaster or an economic downturn. So how can minimalism and practicing intentionality really alter your sense of scarcity? First, we need to understand the drive that exists.
Scarcity & Drive
This basic drive of resource gathering can be exponentially increased in concert with greater impoverishment in the social fabric. Many of us have known someone who has lived through tough times such as the great depression, the great recession or maybe even someone that has lived under a collapsing regime. Have you ever noticed that a great number of these people have a tendency for hardship to translate into resource gathering? This is not something to frown or judge upon, but something to understand. It’s a natural response to distrust of the social and economic dynamics at play- a mode of learning for survival. Currently within the United States the social fabric is one of great wealth disparities, leaving vast numbers of people living paycheck to paycheck. At no time in the modern era has wealth disparity been as substantial as it is today in many countries across the globe.
This economic reality creates a great sense of scarcity that drives our subconscious to gather resources for survival. This behavior is then amped up by the barrage of endless advertising that we’re subjected to each day, reaffirming our drive to consume more goods that we might not even need or want in our resource gathering. This isn’t all bad, buying products (or consuming) can encourage the development of companies and products that align with your ethical prerogatives and help people in their respective institutions accomplish their life goals. It’s only when we forget to exercise intentionality in consumption that all of this can add up to something that runs right off the rails.
To further compound the problem, scarcity seems to increase competitive behavior in an economic system where we can achieve relative stasis without interacting with others. When resources are perceived as scarce it’s less likely that we are going to be treating each other with kindness but instead enter into the trap that many perceive as the rat race, gathering up our resources and showing them off as trophies to our neighbors, friends and family, stepping on coworkers to climb the ladder and all of the rest. There is an ongoing epidemic of loneliness that only seems to be increasing as we march forward and while I don’t think the scarcity that drives our competition makes up the whole picture, it’s certainly part of the puzzle that makes it up.
Worst Case Scenario
Of course, we are all aware that the real resources in this game are those imaginary numbers that fluctuate up or down in your checking, savings and investments. No matter how bad things get a big enough number means you will be able to buy your way to somewhere else in the world where things might not be so bleak. There are even a number of countries and economic areas that will let you buy your way into permanent residence with enough money. When things crash in your country, if you have wealth in a great enough number it’s easiest for you to just jump ship, plainly stated. The wealthy that opted to hold tight in Venezuela instead of leaving when things crashed did not retain their abundance. The wealthy among them that didn’t jump ship soon enough had no freedom from scarcity, even with their masses of wealth that quickly devalued. This is why I’m specifically concentrating on relocation.
This is it, this is the end of the resource gathering sherrade that gets twisted into endless consumption. For some number of economically disadvantaged (though not all), scarcity can be solved simply by abstaining from unnecessary consumption and practicing material minimalism. Intentionality in consumption through minimalism is a tool that can be put into practice to accomplish this goal quite effectively.
Why then do we act out of step with these obvious realities, or act illogically in our inclinations to gather resources to avoid scarcity? I think it boils down to a sort of game that we all seem to be playing. This might seem anticlimactic but if you really think about all of the disillusionment that goes into flaunting excess, competing with the neighbors, buying new and bigger things just to create this sense of security and accomplishment it’s quite astounding that more people just wouldn’t keep the money invested or in their accounts to alleviate this drive, in particular when they are already indebted. The endless advertisements convince us to fill this sense of scarcity with trash we don’t need, driving many further into debt. In a very real way, this pushes us away from real freedom from scarcity. There’s a very primal part of us that wants to signal to others our lack of scarcity and when it’s drilled into us as the newest car, phone, or whatever product we’re more likely to act congruently with this- even more so if everyone else is.
The true madness when you really look at it is seeing people subject themselves to unsatisfying existences through work that does not bring them joy, simply to buy things to signal to others and maybe more importantly, themselves, that they have the resources and continue to play the game well. This is the big lie and everyone is in on it. When you really dial it in, currency is simply a transfer in exchange for a much more important commodity- time. Time is a finite resource of which we have very little, so just digest for a minute that many of us exchange this resource for money by doing tasks that we find little to no value or personal growth in. Many of us go so far as to put ourselves into soul crushing debt to display abundance that does not exist. Debt that will cost us years and years of our precious time. It’s absolute insanity that so many of us buy into it and shed years of our lives away to feed it.
Material Minimalism, Practicing Intentionality
Material minimalism as a practice of intentional consumption can free you from a sense of scarcity. Intentional consumption has the power to transform how you address scarcity, by encouraging you to act in a more logical and rational way to address scarcity at the core. Through thoughtful consumption and choosing the things you allow into your life, you can really begin to dial back and experience real freedom from scarcity through saving and investing.
If you can honestly sit down and ask yourself how much time you must exchange for purchasing each and every item, you will think differently about consumption entirely. Once you begin to practice this you can begin to think about how much time you really want to exchange for your mode of living, whether that’s a house, apartment or even a camper of some kind. In this way, you can have not only freedom from scarcity but more of the commodity that really matters most- time. Time for community, time for passions and entrepreneurship, time for hobbies, time for family and friends.