my tryst with minimalism
One of our MBA partners this year, Swati Dalal, shares her impressions of Lausanne and new opportunities.
Last year, I came across a beautiful article on minimalism, in which the author eloquently explained how her family had taken a conscious call to follow a minimalistic lifestyle to unclutter their lives. The article really struck a chord with me. It was like looking into the mirror.
More clothes than we can wear, more food than we can eat, more work than we can do, more friends than we can love – maximum life (or minimum) in maximum city. While excessive consumerism has become synonymous with well-being, you don’t need an understanding of welfare economics or Pareto’s principle to comprehend that socio-economic divide is at the helm of most (if not all) conflicts in the world. We love blaming the politicians, the corporate houses, even God, while we hide behind an occasional visit to the orphanage.
I would be a hypocrite to say that I am any different. While the article made me ruminate on my lifestyle, I did not find it very practical. To me, it was an American thought propagated by an Instagram mom. It was her “thing”. Good on Facebook, not so much in real life, at least not in my life.
However, sometimes the Universe knows what’s best for you. A month back, we moved to Lausanne – a new life, limited means. It is incredible how much our context defines our lifestyle. With no family, no jobs and no friends, we had no context in Lausanne to influence our choices. We were “nobodies” and trust me, at times, that’s the best thing that can happen to you!
As we went about laying our new life, I knew it was time for me to embrace what I had been wanting all along. It was my chance at having “less” and living “more”. For the first time in my life, I started differentiating between need and want. And it was not just me!! As I got to know the city of Lausanne, I was overwhelmed by its efforts to reduce improvidence.
This was in complete contrast to my perception of the western world (defined by Hollywood, books, sitcoms etc.). No QSR outlets choking the streets, no big malls luring customers, no under-construction multi-storey buildings, no neon signs glaring in your face. Lakes, parks, walking and cycling tracks, quiet restaurants, antique boutiques. A walk down the lane and you would know that this town is not looking to BUY, not looking to SELL. More people on walk-ways than in the supermarkets, more people in the community centre than in H&M. You already know what the city stands for, and if you don’t, then try recycling! This town does not believe in wastefulness.
I was amazed to see that a city that has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, houses people that consider it a personal responsibility to allocate trash in eight (or maybe more) categories for recycling! From house sizes to recreational activities to food choices, the austerity is evident.
I came across people who make soap at home to protect the environment from harmful chemicals, and those who would feed only whole grains to birds at the lake (no white bread please!). I had never come across this level of social consciousness and it was overwhelming.
Needless to say that the goodness rubbed off, not just on me, but on my daughter as well. From having a room full of toys, she came down to a couple of dolls. And, from having a huge wardrobe, I came down to a couple of sweaters. The change had a purging effect. It was incredible how little we had to choose between, and how much time and energy that saved. I discovered recipes that she enjoyed, and she made paintings, which I put on the wall. We cooked, played, walked, trekked, and we did not need anything to do anything.
Just a couple of days before we left to return to India, we went to a shop which had some toys. As my daughter had not bought a single toy in three weeks, I thought of treating her with something small. I asked her what she wanted to buy, she just looked at me and said “Mom, I don’t want anything. I have toys at home.”
P.S- We are back in Mumbai and trying hard to keep up with our new lifestyle!