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Minimalism is doomed ... for a while, at least

Nobody wants to be stuck with an empty house and nowhere to get anything.

Minimalism has suddenly become popular in Turkey, thanks to the coronavirus. While interest in the lifestyle movement was slowly increasing before the pandemic struck, it has apparently skyrocketed in recent months. Hale Acun Aydın, founder of Turk Işi Minimalism (The Turkish Way is Minimalism) told the Daily Sabah that people are more aware than ever of the possessions that fill their homes.

"During our time at home, we have started to notice more what items need to be repaired, or what things are missing or – most importantly – what we have more of than we really need... And during this period, there are so many people who have learned that the things we possess are not our purpose but rather our tools."

Aydın expects this movement to continue long after the pandemic has ended, now that people realize that "it doesn't matter how many shoes we have now, we're only using one pair to go to the supermarket," and as they start to connect the dots between rampant consumerism, resource depletion, and waste generation.

I found this information fascinating because it differs from the reactions I've read about here in North America, as well as my personal feelings since the pandemic began. I wrote a post at the start of the pandemic called "In praise of maximalism," in which I expressed gratitude at having as much random stuff around my house and garage as I do – books, gym equipment, board games, even an old computer. Eleven weeks later, those feelings have only intensified. When you can no longer rely on the outside world to provide you with entertainment and tools, you have to make your own, and that's when a stash of junk quickly becomes a treasure trove.

Joshua Becker, the founder of the Becoming Minimalist blog and author of "The Minimalist Home," has a similar perspective to mine and it's presented as a contrast

to Aydın's in the Daily Sabah article.

"I thought I would see a big increase in interest, but to date, I have not seen that materialize – at least not here in the U.S. There is still quite a bit of anxiety and worry for both physical and economic health and that is taking precedence in peoples' minds right now."

Becker thinks the shift will happen later, once the fear dies down and people can get out of their houses again. Then they might want to purge the items that felt suffocatingly cluttered when they were stuck at home for so long, but right now, when a significant swath of the population is simply in survival mode, the idea of getting rid of surplus belongings could be distressing.

I think it will take a long time before people strive to become strict minimalists again. It feels too risky, not knowing if you'll be able to use a library, borrow or buy tools, go to a gym to work out, or sit on a patio to socialize with friends. I know that I suddenly want to own all those things, just to ensure that my mental and physical health doesn't deteriorate too much – and I'll probably think twice about donating boxes of books and kids' toys in the future. This isn't necessarily a good thing, but it reflects our unfortunate current reality.

While decluttering isn't about to take off, some aspects of the minimalist philosophy may fare better in the long-term, such as buying higher-quality items that are able to last and are less likely to break during an emergency. We've also seen firsthand how much harder it is to replace items during an emergency, with retail outlets closed and online shipping backlogged for weeks.

People will also be more inclined to make do with what they have, as shown by a recent survey on shopping habits in the United Kingdom. I wrote that "28 percent of people are recycling or reusing more clothes than normal and 35 percent of women say they plan to buy fewer clothes once the lockdown ends." That's a positive sign.

People have had their eyes opened to what can happen and they'll be thinking about the potential for disaster in a whole new light going forward. As sad as I am to say it, I doubt this will do the minimalism movement many favors in the U.S. and Canada, regardless of what's happening in Turkey right now.

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