Minimalism refers to a lifestyle that seeks satisfaction in a non-material world by reducing consumption. Given the increasing popularity of minimalistic consumption (i.e., voluntary simplicity), it is necessary to understand minimalism more comprehensively. First, we provide a categorization scheme related voluntary simplicity, including its conception, dimensions, and measurements. Characterized by a minimal, simple, and responsible lifestyle, minimalism can be defined as the degree to which consumers select a lifestyle to minimalize their consumption and to take control of their life. The practice of simplified living typically entails minimizing possessions, consuming less, and valuing personal growth.
Then, factors that influence minimalistic consumption are presented. The reasons for individuals to adopt simplifying behaviors are manifold. That is, motivations for engaging minimalistic consumption are multifaceted and complicated, including both internal (i.e., personal, financial, lifestyle) and external (i.e., economic, social, environmental) motivations. In addition to consumers who curtail their consumption due to financial restraints, there are consumers who consciously consume, although they are financially well off. The rejection of the concept that one’s success is determined by his/her material goods (i.e., materialism) has prompted interest in minimalistic consumption. In addition, some simplifiers (i.e., minimalistic consumers) are driven by motives of environmental sustainability. That is, when consumers give greater consideration to the natural environment and ecological system, they may engage in voluntary simplicity to live both well and sustainably. Furthermore, people can lead an independent and self-determined life through minimalistic consumption; therefore, a desire to achieve an autonomous life is an important antecedent of minimalistic consumption. Moreover, philosophical motivation (i.e., religious belief) is another factor driving minimalism in consumption.
Moving forward, the potential impacts of minimalistic behavior are shown. Minimalism has a positive influence on individual, societal and environmental wellbeing. Adopting low consumption helps expand mental space, resulting in a feeling of lightness, relaxation, and clarity. A minimalistic lifestyle facilitates individuals’ positive emotions while reducing their negative emotions such as depression. Consumers can also reduce their dependence on the market offerings by curtailing the overall consumption, in search of a simpler but happier life. Additionally, minimalistic practices offer several wellbeing benefits such as meaning and happiness. In addition, a minimalistic lifestyle can improve harmony in communities, as it can help build more connections with others in society. By sharing skills, donating to charities or giving back to the community, simplifiers can experience a sense of community and closeness to others, thus enhancing communal well-being. More importantly, most literature notes that this lifestyle is positively associated with environmental and ecological wellbeing. With a strong ecological awareness, consumers tend to protect the environment through a variety of practices, such as decreasing carbon emissions, avoiding excess packaging, and preserving resources and habitats. Collectively, we categorize antecedents of minimalistic consumption into four types (i.e., demographic, psychological, situational, religious factors). We also summarize the effects of minimalistic consumption in the previous research, such as enhancing happiness and sense of meaning.
In order to understand voluntary simplicity, four theories (i.e., theory of basic values, self-determination theory; hierarchical theory of needs; self-regulation theory) were introduced. By combining these theories, we shed a novel light on understanding the forming process of minimalistic consumption. Specifically, in self-observation stages, individuals generate self-directed values. Based on these values, consumers make judgments whether their needs are satisfied. Lastly, in the self-reaction phase, consumers adopt the results of these judgments, and they evaluate achieve autonomy, competence and relevance from the self-determination theory. Given the important role of minimalistic consumption in the contemporary marketplace, it is essential for both marketers and scholars to know more details in simplifying practices. Several directions (e.g., developing valid measurements, taking cultural differences into account, identifying boundary conditions) for future research are discussed.