I have been practicing minimalism in many areas of my life even before I came across the word. Although minimalism has become a movement in which numerous individuals decide to join, I like to keep it as my own personal lifestyle because I prefer to do it the way I understand it.
The very basic concept of minimalism is to live intentionally and meaningfully by owning things that are essential and which that give value and to eliminate stuff that distract and weigh us down. It is actually at variance with over-consumerism.
Like any other things that are evolving, minimalism can be subjected to many different interpretations. And like any other movements, it can be dragged to a certain extreme thus many who took a shot of it became disgruntled, some considered it as an adversary of dreams and ambitions, and some have blamed it for their difficulty to recover what they got rid off in the past.
Some minimalists purge most of their possessions even their jobs to travel the world. They content themselves with as little as they can fit in their backpacks but fill their cups with memories and experiences. It’s bold and it’s brave. Some sell their big houses to buy an RV or a tiny house but eventually find out that such kind of lifestyle is not for them. Some get pressingly obsessive that they spring up ideas of living with one hundred or fifty or even fifteen items only (I can’t imagine how long they wear their undies before giving it a good wash!)…But that is their personal choice. If that makes them happy, so be it!
When you hear stories that ditch minimalism after having a crack of it expressing their detestation for what have become the result of their endeavor, it is almost convincing not to try it at all. If you eliminate most of your possessions rashly and naively in the name of minimalism, then you have not come up with the right mindset why you want to do it in the first place. Before jumping into it, make sure you are not vaulting into a newest wrinkle. Ask yourself why you want to be a minimalist and what you will achieve from it? What are your goals? Are these in line with your beliefs and values? Are you willing and prepared to make changes? What do you want to simplify? How will this positively impact you and your family and friends?
One thing is sure, throwing away your possessions mindlessly and abruptly will lead to an unhappy break up with the lifestyle you are trying to achieve. If you still want to keep the woolen blanket that your mom gave you, then keep it. If your shoe collection is valuable to you, don’t get rid of them. If you want to live in a bigger house, live in a bigger house. If travelling is not your cup of tea, then stay where you are. If you want to build assets, then go for it. You can still be a minimalist and leave a simple life. Maybe you can pass on the treadmill that is claiming its throne in your basement for years. Maybe you can give away your children’s baby clothes now that they have outgrown them or place the yellowing stacks of papers in a recycle bin. Or maybe, before you purchase another set of towels because they are on sale, remember that there are still rarely used ones in your linen cupboard. Maybe, start having more quality time with your family instead of binging with Netflix.
Do not sell your house and buy a self-contained van only to regret it later that you miss the opportunity of building a large equity in your home. Do not buy a tiny house and capsulize all spaces and live with bare minimum if you find it excruciating to do so. Do not leave everything behind and leave in a bush if you don’t want to get disconnected from the important people in your life. Do not bar some family members or friends because you’ve read a blog that it’s okay to block them if they don’t contribute to your emotional and mental well-being (unless they are really toxic who keep dragging you down). And by all means, do not crop up absolute and unrelenting rules on how you and others should live a minimalist life!
It must be rationally and deeply discerned that minimalism is not for everybody although many minimalists do encourage people to consider this lifestyle to curb the impact of excessive consumerism to mental, emotional, and financial welfare of individuals as well as to the health of our environment. However, one must be careful in embracing such lifestyle especially if the objective is solely focused on decluttering or getting rid of possessions alone. Like over-consumerism, minimalism can be addictive and at a certain extent, destructive if taken to extreme or interpreted wrongly.
So how would you know that your minimalist practice is yanked to the extreme end of the spectrum and is getting quite dangerous?
- If you are keeping up with the minimalist Joneses. Okay, I just made up the words but if you start comparing yourself and gets satisfaction in knowing that you have less items than others, bang! Chances are, you’re loosing control!
- You’ve joined minimalist groups in Facebook and other social media (that’s cool)…but if you keep on posting photos of other people in groceries or shopping malls just to make judgement and criticisms of their loaded carts and big purchases, you’re taking the wrong track buddy.
- If you throw away things just to replace them again! You are missing the point.
- If you get anxious due to constantly thinking and looking of what else is there to eliminate.
- If you are creating arbitrary and strict rules and ideologies of minimalism and if you keep on imposing these to others.
- If your relationships are breaking down because you strongly believe that you have better way of living than your family or friends.
- If decluttering is your only focus and after all the excessive tidying and organizing, you feel empty with the space you created. It will never make sense!
One of the fundamental principles of minimalism is to have control of your own life. But loosing control over exaggerated practice of decluttering is not minimalism at all. For this reason, employ a moderate minimalist lifestyle. Like drinking alcohol, one is in a safe zone if this is done moderately.
Moreover, I think that we can choose specific areas of our lives to apply minimalism. Aside from focusing on eliminating the junks, we can downplay with TV and social media time, avoid multiple commitments (e.g. dinners with friends, hang out with other friends, etc) or steer clear of overthinking and many others. Minimalism is more than just physical decluttering!
Personally, I cannot disassociate minimalism from simple living. Simple living, like any other things, is relative to every person. I am not inclined to living with fifteen or thirty things or whatever at a time. For those who do it, I respect their choice. However, I shun from extremes and radicalism. I don’t bring myself to the edge of the scale where minimalism confusingly becomes a symbol of just surviving. This can be misleading. I want to stay in the middle where I am happy and comfortable.
So, do not be hard on yourself when you want to head to this direction or even if you want to be a part of the movement. Take it slowly and with full comprehension. Practice it with flexibility and sincerity and without judgement at all. There is no one-size-fits-all proposition for minimalism. At the end of the day, when you find it purposeful and it helps you in many ways you can imagine, then it is for you.