What Is a Minimalist Lifestyle?
Lifestyle is the attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, and cultural orientations of individuals, family, group, or society. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his 29th book, The Case of Miss R. with the phrase, “life-style being a mere mask for the soul”. It was initially intended to refer to an aspect of psychology, but has now been in use by many other fields including anthropology, sociology, health, nursing, educational research, management, marketing, law, communications, and entertainment.
The word lifestyle was taken from the word Ludwig, which meant a type of hunting. Later on, Alfred Adler used the word to refer to the preoccupation of the cross-dressers in the theatre. The word became synonymous with secret societies, clubs, and so on. It has also come to denote social status or “life style”. This definition has been widely applied to various aspects of modern human life and it includes not only members of political organizations, business organizations, occupational groups, religions, military, and social media groups but also ordinary people who follow their own set of social routines or habits.
Some definitions in the field of anthropology and sociology consider lifestyles as a cultural system consisting of the norms, values, practices, beliefs, and activities of a social group. It is also considered to be a behavioral complex, where there are cross-generational interactions, power relations, and a deep need for ritual. Similar definitions are given in psychological theories, in which lifestyles are specified as distinctive patterns of individual and group behavior.
In his book, The Dialectic Process, Alfred Adorno suggested that all contemporary trends are shaped by three elements: the ‘virus’, the ‘parasite’ and the ‘host’. According to Adorno, human beings are susceptible to virus and parasite attacks because they are caught in an ongoing cycle of imitation. People are exposed to these parasites through various cultural patterns and social practices. They can be brought about by mass medium and social media, entertainment, advertising, and other sources. This circle is self-reinforcing and tends to become problematic, leading to mass culture, which according to Adorno is characterized by:
A more recent trend is the so-called minimalist lifestyle, which is at the present the most fashionable mode of life in Western countries. It consists of smaller scale and simpler things like owning a car for transportation, having a flat or small apartment, having less clothing, eating healthy foods like organic food, living a stress-free life, and using the least electricity possible. Adorno called minimalist lifestyle’s a return to nature and a break from the ‘matriarchal’ society.
Stili Di Vito is a lifestyle designed by Guido Maranini, who is a Milan based artist. The design is taken from ancient Indian Ayurvedic texts, which Adorno said were the prefigures of Western technological advancement. According to Maranini, there are five basic elements of a good Stili Di Vito lifestyle. These are: purity, simplicity, connectedness, ecology, and authenticity. He describes each of these aspects of the lifestyle as aspects of his art, which he says is all in the way one perceives and responds to the world around him.
In his book Stili Di Vito, Guido Maranini introduces six concepts that describe a minimalist lifestyle, including the word lifestyle. Each of the six concepts, he says, is a reflection of the need to move away from the ‘mastery’ of daily life and to experience a ‘new relationship’ with nature. For Maranini, a minimalist lifestyle is also a type of diasporic existence, a way of life that happens ‘in the moment.’ Since his books often focus on the aspect of spirituality, it is not surprising that his minimalist lifestyle and the concept of lifestyle as a word are closely linked.
Although it can be argued that Adorno’s ideas about the ‘mastery’ of everyday life and the necessity for change has become a part of mainstream culture, the word lifestyle is still very much associated with Adorno’s vision of a postmodern society. For this reason, many people, while they may not have adopted a lifestyle similar to Adorno’s, still tend to use the word lifestyle when they refer to their own individual lives. Some people, such as some religious fundamentalists, would also have a difficult time defining what a lifestyle is. In fact, one of the most common characteristics of religious fundamentalism is its strict adherence to what is considered a lifestyle, or life style, as defined by the leader of the organization. This includes their rejection of any kinds of lifestyles, such as vegetarianism, child bearing outside of the marriage, and other such lifestyle related issues.