Minimalism may be trendy, but it certainly isn’t new

Minimalism chair
© Pablo Scapinachis

From Aristotle and da Vinci to van der Rohe, thinkers and creatives have been praising minimalism for millennia.

Decluttering, simplifying, becoming minimalist – whatever you want to call it, it's all the rage. And for many a great reason, from reducing our consumption and carbon footprint to increasing our mobility and peace of mind. But while given the wealth of attention it's been getting one might think it was a brand new concept, we've been drawn to the virtues of not drowning in stuff for ages. Consider this a story told in quotes.

Aristotle (b 384 BCE) "One can with but moderate possessions do what one ought."

Socrates (b 469 BCE) “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

Wumen Huikai (b 864) “If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.”

Leonardo da Vinci (b 1452) “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

David Hume (b 1711) “This avidity alone, of acquiring goods and possessions for ourselves and our nearest friends, is insatiable, perpetual, universal, and directly destructive of society.”

Henry David Thoreau (b 1817) “Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”

William Morris (b 1834) “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Bertrand Russell (b 1872) "It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly."

Francis Jourdain (b 1876) “One can furnish a room very luxuriously by taking out furniture rather than putting it in.”

Will Rogers (b 1879) “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”

Mies van der Rohe (b 1886) via Robert Browning's poem Andrea del Sarto: “Less is more.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery (b 1900) “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Peace Pilgrim (b 1908) “Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.”

Elise Boulding (b 1920) “The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”

Pope Francis (b 1936) “If you hoard material possessions, they will rob you of your soul.”

Richard Foster (b 1942) “We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.”

Marie Kondō (b 1985) “The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don't.”

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