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Can Minimalism change the course of human history?

Minimalism is the thought of reducing your possessions for the betterment of yourself, or for whatever reason the practitioner chooses to do so. This can be accomplished in a number of ways; for instance, some minimalists go to extreme levels of only having 100 personal possessions, including clothing. I myself don't go to that depth of the philosophy, but it got me thinking; What if minimalism was combined with collective-consumerism in a modern urban setting?

Minimalism is trademarked by taking only what you need, and giving back in return. If this philosophy was combined with collective living, with people taking only what they need, more people could be supported under the system. I only buy what is necessary for myself to live comfortably. I volunteer regularly. I even donate ideas to my local government that will change my city for the better. Money that I earn that isn't put into savings is donated to my local orphanage that was down the street from where I grew up.

I choose to live in an apartment. Not because I can't afford a house, but because I don't want to live in the sprawl of suburbia, driving cars to do anything. I much prefer my bike. Minimalism is as much a choice as collective-consumerism is. You have to want to do it to be apart of it. I plan on raising any children (if any) to embrace minimalism, teaching them to make choices wisely. What minimalism does is makes you much more conscious of how much you take and put into this planet.

What I'm asking the TED community is, would a widespread practice of minimalism change the world for the better, and if so, how much of a positive influence would it have on developing nations compared to developed? I apologize now if this wasn't presented clearly enough for you to understand what I was asking.

  • Steve C

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    Jul 25 2012: It doesn't matter how-few things you have if you're still gonna be "me me me!" Nor does it matter if you've got 10,000 things if you're willing & happy to share, (collective-consumerism).
    What will change the "coarse of history" (C) is people caring & considering other people of value.
    Developing nations would probably be helped immensely if they can see our country being more humane. We might then have both the gift & the will to share it.
    (I think you presented clearly enough.)
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    Jul 26 2012: I think everyone in the world should have basic necessities, or standards of living, like good nutritional food, living, education, exposure to social environment and internetz and memes (lol). Beyond that, they do whatever they feel like with their money.
  • Jul 26 2012: I like your definition of minimalism as " the thought of reducing your possessions for the betterment of yourself" and as "taking only what you need, and giving back in return." I truly believe that we tend to accumulate more possessions than what we need and rarely think about giving back in return or even sharing. I think your idea of minimalism is a point to contemplate not only on a personal level but also on a national and business level. We squander resources like hell every day and still worry about sustainability. Thank you!
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    Jul 26 2012: How could a global (estimated) 30 to 60% reduction in consumption not change the course of human history? Duh. Will it happen? Never.
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    Jul 25 2012: Minimalism can be simply a life style choice and not necessarily noble. Many people do grow into minimalism. Just note how many woman around the age of 50 get utterly sick of caring for stuff, For some minimalism though is the mirror image of the sorts of mental proccupation with stuff that comes from OCD tendencies for example. If one is preoccupied with having only the right stuff - as in stuff with the right labels or nothing at all - it is hardly a way forward.
  • Jul 25 2012: Did you ever feel better not having enough time? Or is it so that you felt way better when you had more time than you needed? And did you feel stressed when you where just on time, without a second more or less?
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    Jul 25 2012: While putting value in owning less would suggest reduced consumption of resources and certainly improves the lives of those who before their new stance were consumed by a need to accumulate stuff, I must agree with Steve that there is something in human attitudes that is more important. Like Steve, I think, I have known self-professed minimalists who were among the most egocentric, narrow-minded, and non-collaborative people i have encountered.
    It's not all about the "stuff."