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Op:Ed Piece: "The Filipina Minimalist: Less is More, Less is Now"

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

Written by Rebekah Padua

On the first day of 2021, I rang in the new year with the Netflix premiere of The Minimalists: Less is Now. To a practicing minimalist like myself, I was reminded of the compelling truth that I had the power to define success, satisfaction and joy on my own terms. I don’t need to self-validate with stuff. I don’t need to impress acquaintances and strangers with stuff (frankly, other people don’t care what I do and don’t have). Everything I actually need to live a satisfactory, joyous life can’t be bought; rather, I already have the things and people I need to do just that.

First of all, what is minimalism and who are the Minimalists?

Minimalism is not about owning 3 things. Minimalism is not about white walls and neutral tones. Minimalism is the practice of letting go of things you don’t care about, halting the purchases of things you don’t actually want or need, and finding joy and contentment in what you already have. If you own 100 books and love each and every one of them, keep them all. If you own 80 t-shirts in your closet but only cycle through 10, get rid of the other 70. Minimalism is the practice of freeing yourself of things that don’t bring value to you. By doing so, you experience a freedom from within.

As you’ll learn from the film, Josh Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus grew up broke. Consequently, they grew up believing they had to have it all by getting a 9 to 5 job for a nice, big salary, spending most of their days in the office working their lives away, and going into debt to buy things they didn’t need or want. They quickly learned that such a life was miserable. After about a decade of dragging their feet through the motions, they discovered minimalism – a concept that awakened them from the miserable life of mass consumption and unsustainability.

Minimalism in Filipinx Culture

I argue that there is a lack of minimalist practices in Filipinx culture. I grew up watching relatives buy things simply because they saw it on sale, and that spending habit was on display in their overwhelmingly cluttered homes. I remember going to my grandpa’s house and seeing boxes of randomness lined up against the living room wall and stacked in the bedrooms. I never knew what was in those boxes because my grandpa never opened them. The only other time they were opened was when we were cleaning out his home after his passing.

There is nothing inherent about our culture that encourages the collection of stuff, but I believe this desire for and accumulation of stuff is deeply rooted in generations of lacking. My paternal grandparents immigrated from Ilocos Sur to the island of Oahu with hopes of providing wealth and prosperity to their children. My maternal ancestors worked on the sugar plantations earning less than a living wage. Little did they all know that the American Dream was a façade, and that the life of the lacking would take generations to transform into abundance. In between those generations would be years of re-attempting to live up to the American Dream, which over and over again has heavily masked the reality of discontent, unnecessary consumer debt, and the vicious cycle of generational poverty.

While there is only so much about minimalism that I can evangelize in a blog post, I encourage you to seek and live out minimalist practices. I am not a perfect minimalist; I still own clothes I wear once a year and a yoga mat that’s never felt a drop a sweat. However, mindfulness and intentionality has made me a better candidate for physical, spiritual and financial wellness. I’m so confident minimalism can do that for you too.

About the Author

Rebekah is a Gen-Z-er living her life as a full-time data analyst, practicing minimalist and founder of @morningcoffeemoney on Instagram (personal finance blog). When she’s not thinking about the horrors of mass advertising, mass consumption and capitalism – the three things that scared her into minimalism, she takes care of her plants, reads books on personal finance and behavioral economics, and loves to go to the gym.

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