Author: Rachelle Tan
The Capitalist Propaganda
We couldn’t help but to notice that this world is full of capitalist propaganda to own more. We often see advertisements and offers that promote more purchases, such as ‘Buy 1 get 1, FREE’, online Flash Sales, and Black Friday Offers. Such methods are used by companies to internalize our subconscious minds that owning more belongings is beneficial to us. So, it’s not really surprising to see people pitting against each other in malls just to get the Black Friday Offers or buy unnecessary items from Flash Sales. Ultimately, this phenomenon gives the vast majority of people instant gratification as well as fulfillment from owning items that they never needed. We’re programmed to compete against each other to own as many things as possible.
Like the vast majority of people, I complied with the propaganda. It made me want to own more things: new clothes, new books, new art supplies, and the list goes on. Meanwhile, I didn’t need any of them. I tried to convince myself that all of my purchases are necessary. Nonetheless, I still bought notebooks, art supplies, stationeries, and hair ties in bulks only to forget about them and proceed to buy even more bulks of things.
The culture of hedonism and consumerism that are entrenched from capitalistism subconsciously made people want to buy more than they need, despite having a low purchasing power. The reason for this internalized mindset is because capitalist propaganda made people compete against each other in order to mobilize to a higher status to become those who are on “the top of the hierarchy”. This is manifested internally through the envy or jealousy that we feel when we see our peers showing their financial gains. In other words, we get peer pressure to own more. For instance, when we see our friends buying a new gadget, we have the urge to have it or a better one.
Not only that, we’re also surrounded by big companies and small retailers with profit-orientated business models that preys us through online advertisements. They utilize every way possible to get into our heads. For instance, in this era, companies tend to use social media ‘influencers’ to ingrain the idea in our heads that we should buy products we see on our Instagram page. Millions of ‘influencers’ are paid by companies to join the bandwagon of this exploitative lifestyle by uploading reviews, offering paid promotions, and even TV advertisements to get more buyers.
In addition, companies utilize the algorithm in commonly used social media applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok to track our messages, conversations, search history, and even our voice recordings. By doing so, companies can program advertisements that might attract us into purchasing their products or services. In other words, the existing algorithm is here to track us and heavily influence our shopping habits. This is malicious because we’re not actively choosing our own needs, the algorithm does. As a result, those who fall into the trap are unable to hold themselves from the temptations created by the algorithm.
It’s also worsened with the rise of fintech companies that provide loans and credit services. By creating these services, companies can utilize the already corrupted purchasing mindset by giving people more money to buy more things. Some companies would provide loans called predatory lending. Predatory fintech companies offer loans with low interest rates and high limits but they’ll take people’s data and privacy from their phones.
As time went on, I realized that I was still dissatisfied with what I owned and I’m convinced that I’m not alone. There’s always more things that we wanted to purchase. Apparently, discounts and offers attract us so easily. We became so susceptible to this overvalued lifestyle: to own more. We don’t even realize that we’re complying with a capitalist norm that’s actively harming us financially and emotionally. ¹
So, how did I escape this?
A Journey with Minimalism
A few years back, whenever I went back home, I was always greeted with an unpleasant scene: my messy room. Books were scattered, drawers and storage boxes were disordered, and clothes were jumbled everywhere. My inability to keep it organized aggravated the scene. This problem mainly occurred because of three reasons. One, I had a decision fatigue. If I were faced with too many options to choose from, I tend to get tired from thinking about it. In addition, I already had so many things that I needed to do, such as school assignments and projects. Two, my thoughts were cluttered. Because of the mess, I tend to get stressed very easily and then give up trying tidying them up. Lastly, I didn’t know how to handle too many things in a limited space. Ultimately, all these things produced unsolicited junk of thoughts.
However, this cycle of mess came to an end until I bought a book titled Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki. The author is an ordinary man who was at first stressed out with the clutter in his house. In his book, Sasaki shared his story of how he transformed his life with the new Japanese lifestyle: minimalism. In my search of revelation, I found people who went through similar circumstances: Marie Kondo, Matt D’avella, and other minimalist experts and practitioners. From the knowledge I had gained from their exposure, I began to have a mindset transformation.
Not long after my revelation, I decluttered and threw away a lot of my belongings. I thought minimalism was about having almost nothing and that I had to compete against people with a lot of stuff. I went extreme. As a result, my family got shocked and scolded my absurd transformation. From that moment on, I realized that minimalism wasn’t about having as few things as possible as if it was a competition.
Addressing The Misconception of Minimalism
In reality, minimalism is not about throwing away items you deem unpurposeful. Essentially, minimalism is a concept that highlights our effort and willingness to enhance our lives by being more mindful with our belongings. It is about finding out your necessities in life. I thought I had to throw away the books that I had in order to be called a minimalist. Apparently, it is actually fine to own a stack of books that I find meaningful and still enhance my life. Furthermore, minimalism also celebrates the idea that everyone has different ways of living. Some might find meaning in collecting artworks or chess pieces and that’s the key of minimalism: finding out the true meaning in what you own.
Minimalism taught me the art of saying enough and feeling enough. Along the way, I had found a true sense of gratitude from the things that matter and bring genuine sentiments in my life. It taught me how to enhance my life with less belongings. In reality, even if some of those things do matter, I just don’t need to own them. Instead, I find it meaningful by taking a picture of my belongings with my phone and then giving them away to those who need it more. Sasaki wrote that even if some item brings us meaning, we also have to think about the utility of our belongings. Oftentimes, we don’t realize that it’s enough to have a few t-shirts or own a few towels. To a certain extent, I let go of my printed photos and keep them digitally instead.
As Sasaki also mentioned in his book, “Minimalism is not a rite of penance, nor is it a competitive sport. It is simply a means to an end.” However, I think of minimalism as a means without an end. While the norm in this capitalistic realm is competing to own more, minimalism is about becoming better individuals with owning what you need.
Being a minimalist is never the end goal. Rather, it’s a means of figuring out the true meaning of what we own.
¹ Main idea of the popneing: The type of lifestyle that’s currently glorified and how I realized that I complied with that harmful way of living.
Sasaki, Fumio, 2015. Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism.
Rbc, 2018. Asosiasi: Masyarakat Waspada Aksi ‘Predatory Lending’ Fintech. Available at: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/teknologi/20180830144954-185-326182/asosiasi-masyarakat-waspada-aksi-predatory-lending-fintech [Accessed January 11, 2021].
Anon, 2018. Why targeted ads are the most brutal owns. Vox. Available at:
[Accessed January 12, 2021].