As a wanna-be / aspiring / kinda already minimalist I had to work through many versions and misconceptions of what it means to be a minimalist. Minimalist can be a rather daunting topic or state of living to achieve. Just like faith or religion there’s various people with their own ideas following and preaching what they think minimalism is or what it means to live or become minimalist. Saying that there’s also many versions and ideas of what minimalism is when in fact it has nothing to do with minimalism at all. This makes it difficult to explain to people when they already have an (different) idea of what it means and they hear you are trying to live minimalist.
I came up with the following list of things that should clear a few thing up and help explain what minimalism is not:
1. Minimalism is not a fancy designer house with white or gray colored items only
Google the word minimalism now and chances are you will see a white room with a designer white or wooden table in the middle. On the table is a black or white vase and a small flower in the middle. Clean, cold, apparently its “minimalist” . Yup. you know what I’m talking about. This is NOT minimalism. I noticed there is a big difference to what it means to live in a minimalist house and the internet’s idea of what a minimalist house is. Designer companies have obviously jumped on the “minimalist” band-wagon and taken the phrase to a new meaning. Minimalism is not limited to color or design.
You can have your pink star-wars Darth Vader toaster standing on your multi-colored plastic kitchen table and it can be more minimalist than that the table with the white vase on it.
Remember it’s all about whether or not what you have adds value. If your Darth Vader toaster adds value to your life then keep it, the look, color and design has no bearing on the word, phrase or meaning of minimalism.
=> You can like all the colors of the rainbow and like type of design and still be a minimalist.
2. Minimalism does not mean you hate “things” or despise materialism
People tend to make the association between the two: You’re a minimalist therefore you must not like owning things or having many possessions. Wrong. I love owning things and have lots of possessions. I collect old Tolkien books and legacy boxes of old PC games, they’re all stacked up nicely on a book shelf in my man-cave. Once again it comes down to whether or not those possessions add value to your life or whether its wasteful items taking up space, thought, time and effort that should be going to more important things like people, family and other higher valued things in your life.
There is a thin line between the two. They do tend to be the exact opposite: Owning less as a minimalist and owning more as a typical consumer. The point I’m trying to make is you don’t have to live in an empty house with no possessions as a minimalist. You can keep your bedside lamp and getting a TV is just fine. Remember the deeper concern here is you as a person; there is a definite link between the time we have for things that matter and how that decrease based on how cluttered our lives are with “things” and possessions we don’t need or value.
=> You don’t have to become a monk owning nothing, you can own many things and still be a minimalist.
3. Minimalism is not a self sacrificing life of permanent fasting and denying oneself any pleasure
Yup, this is another idea of minimalism that’s out there. The idea hat because I’m a minimalist it means no extra cheese on that pepperoni pizza for me and only 1 sugar in my coffee. Wrong. Being a minimalist does not mean I have to withhold myself from enjoying life whenever it comes to spending money or consuming anything. It’s not about being greedy or self-sacrificing. I like the comparison with church people whom fast. The entire fasting process is horrible as you are letting go of something you dearly rely on or enjoy for a certain amount of time. This is not minimalism. It does not mean I can’t order seconds, have that third expensive coffee from the barista or order that fillet steak with blue-cheese sauce.
It does mean however that we don’t waste or consume just because we can. Again…if it adds value then keep it/ continue with it. The entire topic of consuming is much bigger than I can post here now, but when it comes to being a minimalist then consuming is very much a constant conscious thing. Becoming a conscious consumer. I am constantly aware of what I’m eating, where it comes from, who I am supporting when buying food, is it enough and not buying too much.
=> you don’t have to hate life and say no to everything while being a minimalist.
4. Minimalist does not mean a lack of identity
This is a very real and serious lesson I had to learn. I almost became another person by wanting to become minimalist. I had this idea of changing my clothes (to be more minimalist I thought it meant you wear the same clothes every day). I changed our house and my look to be that of what I thought was minimalist. Gone were my metal T-shirts and in were gray/white/dark T-shirts. Man-cave walls were now empty as all memorabilia and collector’s items were packed away (Luckily not donated (yet)). It is then after a while that I started to miss myself. I love expressing my love and passions for things/life and I love putting them out on display for people to see. It never was cutter for me, it never was just stuff. I then realized the things I removed where who I am. My identity. I then replaced all the items and got my old T-shirts back and I felt more like myself again. I was challenged in a big way to keep my identity…if you’re not careful you may get a completely warped idea on minimalism and become a bland drone with no identity.
=> You don’t have to be a dull white and black dressed sheep living in a empty house to be minimalist. Keep your identity.
5. Minimalists are not selfish
With living a life of less it is easy to think that there is a certain level of selfishness going on among minimalists. I am now selfish with my purchases, my possessions, my buying habits and my time. Nothing could be further from the truth. By living a life less cluttered with stuff we don’t need or value we open ourselves to having more time (unselfish) for people and things we do value. Basically it is saying no to the things we feel are stealing our time, joy and happiness and saying yes to the things that do give us joy, happiness and love.
=> Minimalists are freeing their lives of stuff in order to be less selfish with their lives towards those things they value and people they love.
What do you think?