Minimalism is a basic philosophy, an idea, a concept. An idea that has gathered a bit of a cult following. Unfortunately for most ideas, as they become popular, they evolve into a standard; a fixed and very specific set of rules and regulations. From what I have seen recently, the concept of minimalism is slowly being perverted in this way.
This is no surprise however, as it is the human condition to take ideas and build on them. Heck, entire businesses, entire empires are all built on ideas, often very simple ideas. This is a very positive thing. It’s the very basis for civilization as we know it.
A problem occurs however when we focus too much on building on the idea, that we lose sight of the idea itself. We often reach a point where if we would just step back, we would realize that much of what we built on the idea, actually contradicts the idea itself. Civilizations and businesses have fallen apart because of this tendency. This is the reason why organizations write down and document the original idea in what they call a “Mission Statement.” And constantly refer back to the Mission Statement with every development, and every decision to see if they are in line with it.
To go just a little broader: We humans have a tendency to get so coupe’d up in the money, politics, competition, and/or power struggle (BTW these are all the same really) that we lose our purpose.
It has come to my attention that many minimalists are being unfairly judged, due to a misunderstanding of what minimalism actually is. I read the comments of ignorant people saying things like “If you are so minimal, then you wouldn’t wear makeup.” or “Why would a minimalist need such a big kitchen.” This has happened so often that many of these minimalists have shut down their YouTube channels due to all the ignorant judgement.
It has also come to my attention that all of a sudden, minimalism is a competition. Always am I seeing podcasts about “minimalists” bragging about how they have reduced themselves down to only (enter number here) possessions. And then two weeks later seeing the same “minimalists” saying “I can’t handle this minimalism thing anymore! I miss having all my things!” (or something like that). Then they quit. These are the people that are no doubt giving the public the wrong idea about minimalism in the first place, thereby generating the ignorant comments mentioned in the paragraph above.
Let me address this problem first by defining minimalism as concisely as possible. Then I will break it down even finer than that by elaborating on a couple focal areas of that definition.
Minimalism: The act, process, and lifestyle of reducing ones life down to only the elements that add value to that life.
(I am intentionally leaving out the “why” part of the definition and just leaving in the “what”, because it’s only the “what” that we are concerned with in this article. For a more full definition, please go to the This Site page.)
The key words in the definition above are “elements” and “value.”
Element: Anything that takes ones time, space, money, and/or energy. This includes our material possessions, activities, thoughts, and people we associate with. So basically, everything in our lives is an element.
Value: A level of personal fulfillment; a sense of purpose. An element gives our lives value if it provides personal fulfillment, or is a means toward personal fulfillment.
“Value” is where things get subjective. What has value to one person will likely not have value to another person. So the only person that determine the value of an element in ones life, is that person themselves. So before one can even incorporate minimalism into their life, there is a huge prerequisite. Ready for it?………..KNOW THYSELF. A person must have a really good grasp of who they are, and what they want out of life.
People who do not have a good grasp on who they are, but wish to embrace minimalism, turn minimalism into a numbers game. It’s easier to do that, than it is to determine what they value. Unfortunately this is not true minimalism at all. It’s really just getting rid of a whole bunch of stuff in an effort to fill some type of void (the anti-hoarding). People who do this are usually people that desperately need a life change, but do not know enough about themselves to accurately determine what that change should be. For these people, minimalism is attractive because of it’s simplicity.
People who do have a strong identity, are attracted to minimalism because of the time and focus it gives back to them.
There are many types of minimalists out there. There are ones that live in big homes, with a spouse and lots of children. As long as everything within the property adds value to their lives, they still qualify. There are backpackers that live out of their …… backpack, and get tremendous value out of satisfying their wanderlust. There are “efficiency” minimalists like myself that live a domestic life on a small scale. We live out of apartments, condo’s, and tiny homes.
So, if a minimalist likes to wear makeup, that doesn’t make her any less of a minimalist. Obviously that adds lots of value to her life. If she has a big kitchen, maybe she likes to cook large scale meals for friends and family. We don’t know her values, her passions, and we can’t determine them for her. Minimalism doesn’t dictate what our passions are supposed to be, only that follow those passions un-distracted.
For those who are playing the numbers game, your doing it wrong. Rather than focusing on the minimizing itself, instead determine and focus on what we want out of life. Once that is determined (and that might take a while, as it’s the hard part), we are in an excellent position to now custom tailor our life on this newfound passion; as we’ve already disposed with the excess baggage. It is even possible that with this new focus, this new passion, that we might even need to acquire some all new material possessions (God forbid). Don’t worry, we will still be minimalists tomorrow.