My minimalist tendencies are just a result of my generation

Technically, I suppose I’m a Millennial.  I actually am not really a fan of the term and the association and don’t really want to identify as a Millennial but considering what year I was born, I suppose I just have to accept it.

I saw an article today about Why millennials are trending towards minimalism and it pretty much hit home 100% for me.  I’m not really a minimalist yet (so many hoarding tendencies), but I think I’m starting to get there.  And I absolutely agree with several points in the article:

  1. Technology – I remember growing up and owning a ton of CDs and DVDs in my early 20s.  Now?  Why would I?  Netflix and spotify.  Done.  I used to buy books.  Now I have a kindle.  There is no longer a need to keep media.
  2. The value of experience – this isn’t just my generation – my parents are definitely this way and this is how I was raised.  Experiences have always been more important than “things” – even when I grew up in the middle class midwest (aka as a part of the great consumer class), my parents definitely instilled the values of camping/travel/spending time outdoors more than shopping and stuff.
  3. Mobility – living overseas and knowing that you will probably undertake several more overseas moves in your life definitely mean that having a lot of stuff is impractical.
  4. Debt – having a ridiculously huge student loan from 7 years of grad school makes the thought of any big purchases seem silly.  When you’re already paying the equivalent of a mortgage each month, why would you add a car payment or an actual mortgage to that?
  5. Economic uncertainty – Yes, I absolutely am convinced I am living in a very different economic world from my parents and grandparents.  I feel quite lucky that I left the job market and started grad school before the huge crash (sure I have those huge student loans, but at least I didn’t buy a house in 2007).  Sure I’ve spent many years where I’ve technically not really been earning – but those years were the years that many of my peers weren’t really making much economic headway.  So maybe I’m not as far behind as I once believed I would be.  It’s starting to seem the grad school might actually not have been such a bad decision after all.

How much do you think the year you were born and your “generation” shapes your beliefs and values?

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8 thoughts on “My minimalist tendencies are just a result of my generation

  1. The time I was born shapes it somewhat but for me it’s more being an immigrant and the child of immigrants (and the child of a single mom). My parents want me to have a better life than they had growing up but at the same time, they had hopes and dreams of their own. When they separated, my mom worked really hard to keep a roof over our heads and it was really hard on a grad student budget. We moved a lot. That made me want to buy a house of my own and put down roots and never move because I had moved like 12+ times growing up. And it shaped the way I think of money. Because we had so little of it, now when I have money I want to spend it on things I enjoy (I’m bad at saving it). This is a very interesting topic to me. Along with minimalist vs not. I’m definitely not, I’m an avid collector of antiques and this and that. I wonder if this because of being raised by my mom (who is a little too fond of things and collecting) or if it’s because having so little growing up and now I can afford the things I want, so I buy them? Hmmm…..

    • I think priorities can change with time. My husband and I really like to travel, so that is where we spend all of our money. I definitely still have a huge wardrobe – I think making it smaller and more cohesive will be really good for me. Not only will it become more travel friendly, but hopefully much more functional!

      And the fact that for the last 9 years I’ve moved house so often – I actually can’t believe how much stuff I have. Since I don’t see myself settling down anywhere permanently anytime soon, it makes sense to try to keep the things to a minimum (instead of all the effort and expense of lugging them around). 😀

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. In addition to what you said, I think our generation is also the first generation to really think about the environment and how our consumer habits contribute to climate change. Our generation is generally more informed about every purchase we make and considers many more factors when shopping. Its more thoughtful even of out of necessity.

    • I know I’m not the only one. Definitely minimalism seems to be a trend, but only time will tell if it’s actually a trend, or a long term lifestyle change that a lot of people are starting to make now.

      Though I’m a little jaded as to how much impact individuals can have on climate change – I think we need to have wide sweeping government and regulation changes, and enforce corporate accountability to make any actual progress. Every little bit helps, but until we get our governments and corporations on board, I don’t think we can really make significant impact. 😦

  3. Not entirely sure I agree with the article 100%, but there is a lot of truth to it.

    I think the way the internet, in addition to lessening the need for meida-suff has also shifted us to a more global world. That’s a big impact too- that we see how our things are made and that changes how much stuff we want, for one. Seeing the number of possible experiences to try (and therefore making people more mobile both in the job market and just to travel for fun) is another.

    Side-note: I actually like the term Millennial. but that might be because I disliked the other two terms I’d heard of for our generation even more (“Gen Yer” and “Digital Native”). Its also pretty descriptive of the time period one is coming into adulthood as most put the “start” of that generation at 1982, meaning the high school graduating class of 2000. Though yes, a lot of both unpleasant and conflicting things have been written about the generation group.

    • You’re right, the internet has made the world seem a lot smaller, and the sharing of information makes the number of possible experiences to try seem endless! It’s changing us – and I’m still not sure if it’s a good thing or not. I worry that pinterest makes us all a bit homogeneous, but I suppose what is really happening is that the information is travelling that much quicker. There will always be trends, but now they are shared faster than any time before!

      I also feel that as Millennials, we have a stronger “online” presence than previous generations. SO I suspect we spend more time cultivating that. This would also work to lessen our connection with physical objects – we don’t need them to show our “status” (in a very base way, physical accumulation of wealth has always been linked to status). Status is now determined through likes and followers instead! 😛 Ah, what a crazy world we live in these days.

  4. I think that the article certainly sounds accurate for many people I know our age, but does not reflect my personal experience, and that is of course the problem with sweeping generalizations. I realize that I am somewhat of an exception as both my husband and I escaped from college debt free. This was a privilege afforded to us by a combination of generous parents and relatives, scholarships and of course, our own work ethic. We have followed a more traditional path of marriage, kids, home-ownership, etc. (and I’m OK with that!) but I think, and hope, we remain fairly open-minded about how others choose to live their lives. Having kids, of course, makes you take a hard look at how you are living your life and what kind of example and values you want for them.

    As far as valuing experiences over things, I think we were also raised similarly to you, Becca. Family trips were camping at state parks, and we had to save up our own hard-earned money from doing the paper route or other jobs if we wanted to buy anything name brand. This is not to say we didn’t have many, many other privileges, but it did give us some sense of frugality and values. I remember as a kid being jealous of my friends who were allowed to stay up late, had the newest gaming system, and expensive clothes, but I now have a great appreciation of what our parents did for us.

    The internet and social media are both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand I think they have opened up a world of discussion and awareness to all kinds of amazing things, and in some ways help unite people and make powerful statements about things that we wouldn’t have access to in the past. But at the same time it has fostered narcissism and a false sense of community and righteousness so I think it’s only fair to be a bit cautious about the things you see and read online.

    • Nice thoughtful comment. Everyone’s experiences are different. I just liked the article seemed pretty relevant for me (though it points out minimalism isn’t just a Millenniul trend). I think more than anything it’s the whole “living overseas” factor of my life that means collecting a lot of material possessions isn’t really practical. But some of the other points in the article appealed as well. I thought it was very interesting since I feel the US is pretty materialistic – not necessarily my upbringing but just sort of “generally” – at least compared to NZ. So the trend of people living more minimalistic is quite fascinating – especially its appeal for me personally since I would consider myself to have been a *very* materialistic person up until maybe a few years ago.

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