Things have value based on their scarcity. When there is an abundance we assign little value, but when there is scarcity we assign a high value.
In our modern society we live in a superabundance of physical things. In America, even a person of modest means can fill their lives with things to consume; more things than they could possibly use in one lifetime. We are drowning in stuff.
We see evidence of this in our supersized malls, clearance sales, and outlet centers. We flood donation centers with our discarded items trying to make room for new stuff. So much so that the tidal wave of discarded clothing alone overwhelms the tailoring industries of third world countries, with local jobs and prosperity being swept out with the tide.
Time, however, is limited. We only have so much time, so many years of good health, and so much attention that we can devote to pursuing our passions.
Why then do we place such a high value on physical objects, which are abundant beyond belief, and such a low value on scare things like time, attention, and companionship? Why do we spend so much of our resources on that which is abundant and spend so little of our resources on the scare but valuable intangibles?
To me, minimalism is an attempt to correct this imbalance. By purging my life of that which is abundant but worth little, I can devote more time and attention to that which is scarce but infinitely valuable. This attention to what is important not only benefits me, but it creates positive ripples throughout the entire economy.
When I choose to purchase with intentionality, I can afford to pay the true cost of that item. Instead of purchasing 5 shirts made with sweatshop labor, I can purchase 1 shirt made with fairly compensated labor. And grown on a farm that uses sustainable practices. And sold in a store that pays its employees a living wage.
Minimalism is not only beneficial to me, it benefits everyone that I choose to do business with. It is a win/win that flows through every sector of the economy.