Dematerialization is spreading among people of all ages. From Graham Hill's LifeEdited experiments through the rise in collaborative consumption to the extreme minimalism of the 100 Thing Challenge, more and more people are discovering that ownership is not all it is cracked up to be.
But few can have taken this trend so far as Peter Lawrence, author of the Happy Minimalist, whose apartment appears to contain little more than a sleeping bag, a folding chair, a desk, a computer, a lamp and a projector. Yes, there are a few clothes and toiletries, but this guy has taken pairing down your possessions and made it an art form.
I am sure there will be those who recoil in horror at such simplicity, citing it as evidence of radical environmentalism's incompatibility with "The American Way". But as Lawrence himself argues, people all over the world used to live simply and were often much happier for it. In a world where a laptop computer or even your average smart phone can achieve more than people a few generations could ever have dreamed of, surely there must come a point where we say enough-is-enough. We simply don't need more stuff. And if we give up on acquiring more stuff, we can focus our time and resources on the things that do bring us happiness and make our lives richer.
I don't see myself going the route of the Happy Minimalist any time soon, but I suspect I'll be reminded of him each time I feel the urge to dig out the credit card. Simplicity starts one purchase at a time—or, more to the point, it doesn't.