Minimalism: What is it and where can I buy it?

(EDITOR’S NOTE: “Abundant Living” is a weekly column about health and wellness. It includes topics ranging from health and medicine to exercising at home and making wise food choices. The intention is to shed light on topics that affect the choices we make, explore topics that affect the quality of our lives, and have a few laughs along the way.)

Minimalism, as a lifestyle, is characterized by the elevation of only the most important possessions and the removal of everything else as these things do not contribute to overall well-being.

The idea is to lead a life of simplicity unburdened by material things and to improve in all aspects of life. Though each person might define minimalism differently, the one common trait is the rejection of a life of working more, to earn more money, to buy more things. Minimalism fosters freedom.

Last year my wife Kelley and I had the good fortune to visit our oldest daughter in Bolivia. She was near the end of a year long student exchange and had wanted to show us the country.

Bolivia is a very habitat diverse country due to its proximity to the Amazon rainforest and very significant variations in altitude. Oruro, the city where she had been living, was in the high desert plain, however the word desert does not do it justice. Think Mars.

It was brown as far as the eye could see and almost no vegetation. Virtually nothing grows in this part of Bolivia.

The people of Oruro are proud of their city’s rich mining heritage and especially for their carnival, a 20-hour non-stop party of bright colors and dancing, which is exceeded in size only by the famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

My daughter was extremely honored to be a part of the actual parade. This festival draws people from all over the world and boasts crowds of 400,000 people annually.

The other side of life, the side that lasts for the other 364 days every year is extreme poverty. People would ask my daughter to describe where she was from and she would say, “I live in the countryside.” It took her a while to figure out that only the poorest of the poor live in the country where there is virtually no water and little grows.

Small clusters of adobe huts would house Quechuas and Aymaras, the indigenous people of the region. They might have a postage-stamp sized garden and a few chickens, but other than that, nothing. To get anything else or to find any type of work, these people would have to flag down a passing bus and travel hours.

I have never been materialistic but seeing this level of poverty gave me a whole new appreciation for growing up in the Finger Lakes and now living in Central Pennsylvania. Here, green is not a color left to story books and during a trip to the grocery store a person could find almost any food imaginable.

As most of us do, I occasionally yearn for what I do not have — a nicer car, a bigger house, etc … When I returned home; however, I felt a little guilty for possessing so much.

A small house, my own car, more clothes and food than I need, clean drinking water, and all of my children in school. These people had none of these things. They would love to have what we would consider cast-offs. Old clothes, a rusty bicycle, leftover food from the night before. In spite of all of this they seemed happy. They had no understanding of how little they possessed.

I believe there is a valuable lesson in all of this. That minimalism, whether by choice or something you are born into, leads us to focus on what is truly important to us. To understand what it means to be a minimalist one just has to read the quote by Spencer W. Kimball, “Love people, not things; use things, not people.”

Bellomo has a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, is a certified strength and condition specialist and performance enhancement specialist with 24 years in the fitness and wellness field.