Say Thank You and Kiss the Traditional Economy Goodbye

It seems like everybody who watches Marie Kondo on Netflix ends up furiously cleaning out their room while mumbling, “does this bring me happiness?” It’s not hard to see that minimalism is a re-emerging trend hitting consumer behavior full force. It originated as an art movement during the 1960s and since then has developed to become a lifestyle; mainly because of financial trauma caused by the 2008 crisis. People were forced to reduce ownership of excessive goods and consciously reflect about their purchases. This is the whole minimalist purpose: to only keep truly useful, beneficial, and memorable items. But why has it persisted in a time when the unemployment rate is 4% and people seem to have a good amount of disposable income? The ideology is now practiced mainly by the middle-income to upper class.

Conventional wisdom might think that under the present economic conditions, consumers would ditch the minimalist mentality to follow the western tradition of over-consuming products to increase utility; but that hasn’t happened. While minimalism may have gained popularity because of the 2008 financial crisis, one reason it has persisted is as a response to the law of diminishing marginal utility. The phenomenon of giving up products for experiences is taking off because people are realizing they can gain more utility from experiences then plain old products.  

As the trend continues to gain traction, competition between product providing firms will increases and flexibility will determine survival. An example of great flexibility are technology firms with update capabilities since they can adapt with changing behavior. Tesla comes to mind since it is constantly adding new car features over the air, which in a way trumps the law of diminishing marginal utility. This is because the product is constantly changing to continually satisfy the consumers. Another reason is the company’s move towards driver-less cars which will facilitate an owner-less automobile ecosystem, effectively catering to the desire to veer away from ownership.

Helpful Sources:

Bloomington, I., Bloomington, I., Bloomington, I., & University, I. (2019). Minimalism:Origins. Retrieved from

Dopierala, R. (2019). Minimalism – A New Mode of Consumption? [Ebook]. London: University of Lodz. Retrieved from http://file:///Users/MaxForgan/Downloads/04_Dopiera%20a.pdf

About mforgan

International Business major originally from San Francisco. Interested in how financial markets create value for individual firms or vice versa and how consumer behavior plays into the equation.

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