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I find it so interesting that “minimalism” is a trend today, but was simply a way of life a few decades ago. Sort of like a “Back to the Future” kind of thing.
It all began when life as we knew it experienced dramatic change after the Great Depression and WWII. Prior to that, what we describe as “minimalist living” was pretty common place.
In the 1930’s and 40’s, agriculture was at the core of the local economy, and everything about life at the time was connected with the seasons and the crops. The weather and the moon would dictate each day’s activities, as well as celebrations and ceremonies.
Prior to the 1940’s, most communities were based around agriculture, meaning that people were outside working, planting crops and caring for animals, most of the day. The home itself was used for eating (real and whole foods), communication between family members, bathing and sleeping. That’s it. People weren’t entertaining (in the way we do today), they weren’t watching the game in a fancy family room with big screen TV’s, and they weren’t cooking in large, Food Network type kitchens.
The home was used to sustain the family, period. The rooms were small and the possessions minimal. There was no desire to impress.
People took care of what they had and took pride in their families…not their things.
As the century went on, the economy moved away from agriculture as it’s primary focus, and moved towards oil and petroleum. Oil was not only cheap, but plentiful, and it accompanied “The Industrial Revolution”. It was at that point in our history that everything, including the American family changed.
Factory jobs and the salaries that came with them lured farmers away from their farms. Women were also needed in the workforce during and after WWII, because so many of our men were overseas fighting in the war. The traditional roles of mother and father began to change. Soon, the home didn’t serve the same purpose as before.
Money and possessions became the “status symbols” that many Americans gave years of their lives to acquire. They exchanged the “best days of their lives” for money and possessions. Don’t get me wrong, we all need some money and some possessions, but not at the cost of our families and sanity.
Thirty or so years would go by before the “Back to the Land” movement was born in the 1970’s. I was just kid during this time, but I remember it was all about peace, love, Woodstock and the Vietnam War. A new magazine came out during this time, called “Mother Earth News“. Actually, my father had a subscription.
As you can imagine, there was a small demographic of people who rejected the change in American culture, primarily because of the damage being done to the environment. “Back to the Landers“, few as they were, departed from modern life and embraced a more simple life. Many moved to the mountains, built off-grid cabins and literally, lived off the land.
But, most of America continued the status-quo. They bought into the thinking that if they had a good job and worked really hard for 40+ years, they would be able to buy everything they needed in life and then retire wealthy and happy. But, at what cost?
Oh yes, there’s a cost. There’s always an exchange of sorts, regardless of what lifestyle we choose. The cost for the American dream would include stress-related illness, degenerative disease, broken families, depression/anxiety issues, unsustainable debt and overall disillusionment.
Fast forward to the 90’s when the internet is introduced to the public and everything changes…again. Communication becomes a global experience. Everything from the way we do business to the way we find spouses has gone digital. It was now possible to talk to and read about all types of people from all different walks of life. Terms like “voluntary simplicity” surfaced for discussion, and once again, people began to reflect and ask the age old question “What’s it all about?”. A new generation of “Back to the Landers” was born…and they call themselves “Minimalists“.
And now, what was old is new again. The old ways are the new black. Minimalism is cool….again.
Many have come to realize that industrialized living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even the most “successful” among us see the flaws in the way we do life, some even leave it all behind and move to that cabin in the mountains. They realize that money doesn’t bring happiness and that things aren’t what matters in life.
Exchanging the rat-race, which didn’t always deliver what it promised, for a simpler way. A way that provides peace, meaning, limited possessions but abundance in life. Minimalism.