In the last post, I explained how I got introduced to the concept of minimalism. You can read about it here: Me & Minimalism – 1. I was not thrown into the fire pit but rather I warmed up to it on a simmer over a long period of time. In this post, I will try to explain the concept as per my understanding. I may be correct, I may not be. I would love your feedback.
Minimalism as I understand
Minimalism may have different interpretations. The concept at its core is about owning less things and those things being the ones that were intentionally chosen for a purpose. Intentionality is the key. You may consider this as trimming the fat. Letting go of unnecessary things. Not just things but it also extends to people, relationships, goals, ambitions etc. The reason it is considered difficult is because people love things. Consumerism is so prevalent and people are coaxed into buying things that they can live without. Status, prestige, peer pressure, keeping up with the Joneses – whatever you may call it. This is to show, hey, I am worthy because I own these many things. Consumerism has seeped too deep and advertisements are ubiquitous – our phones, tablets, laptop, roads, railways, billboards and buses. Earlier, the advertisers used to pay for placing their ads. Consumer was considered the king. Now, consumers are starting to pay to avoid ads (I am looking at you YouTube premium and all similar apps). People buy a truck full of things and yet, they are not happy. This is why minimalism is picking up everywhere. People are starting to realise that buying stuff doesn’t make one happy other the company that sells the stuff, of course.
People are to be loved and things are to be used. But now, people are being used and things are being loved. – Mark Twain
I don’t know where I read that but anything on the internet, for which the source cannot be found, is attributed to Mark Twain, isn’t it?
While we are on the topic. I also want to clear a few things about what minimalism is and what is it not.
What is Minimalism not?
Minimalism is not frugality
One may often be misinformed that minimalism is about saving money. And that minimalism is to avoid buying things so that you can save money up for something bigger. You find a lot of bloggers and YouTubers who are making videos on minimalism talking about buying things at thrift stores to save some bucks. If you like buying stuffs at thrift stores please do by all means. However, minimalism is not penny pinching. It is not refraining from buying anything but buying only things that you believe truly add value to you. Minimalism is about owning less and not about owning nothing.
Minimalism is not asceticism
You may find many “minimalist” YouTubers claiming that they have sold everything, vacated their home, moved into a smaller condo or they became a nomad, started backpacking and travelling the world. There are people who are genuinely doing that and I don’t deny it. But not everyone has to do it. It is not a requirement that you have to sell everything and live a life of ascetic. You should not be guilty about owning things. The key, again, is intentionality. Do I really need this? Does this really add value to me?
Minimalism is not Apple ecosystem
Okay. This is from my personal experience. When I started watching videos on minimalism, I noticed that invariably every YouTuber has some version of iPhone, iPad or a MacBook. I wondered if I should be in the Apple ecosystem to be a minimalist. I am not kidding. Apple products have a great design and add aesthetics to the video. Also, in the west, it is available for a good deal if you purchase along with plans. So, it is über present. In India, you have a lot of cheaper options in Android and not everyone can shell out money on purchasing an iPhone. Look, the iPhone is great. But it is not required to be a minimalist. You can follow the concepts very well with an Android phone or a Windows laptop. Better yet, you don’t need them. So, don’t get into the delusion that Apple products look cool to be a minimalist. If you like it, you can afford it, go ahead and buy it. Otherwise, don’t fret. You are not missing out on anything.
Minimalism is not black and white
I am sure you would have seen this. You go to any minimalism related content – website, blog, YouTube, book – all are predominantly black or white or grey. Black and white looks great and enhances the aesthetics of the place. But, in countries like India, where splash of colours is the way of life, black and white is not very practical. You don’t need to decorate your home in black and white to be a minimalist. If you can remove unnecessary stuff and have enough space to freely walk and can arrange things a little bit, that works fine. If you want to decorate the walls in black an white, make sure you talk to the house-owner before that. Side note, I love black. I have been wearing black even before I was introduced to this concept. It’s simple and goes with everything.
Minimalism is not being selfish
You have to own less things. You have to be intentional in buying stuff. All this is good when you are alone. But when you are with the family, the chances are that your family is not subscribing to this concept.You can still be a minimalist when it comes to your stuff like your clothes or gadgets. But when it comes to common things, you have to be considerate. If you want to get rid of that dining table to create some white space but you have elderly people living with you, be considerate and let the table be. Letting go is an important part as well. If you want to save some space but your spouse loves reading physical books, then be smart and let the books be. Like it should have been in religions, you value your ideology but also respect other people’s ideologies.
Minimalism is not the silver bullet for happiness
The way minimalism is being projected, you may think this is one silver bullet which would help you get rid of anxiety and make you eternally happy. Nope. You are not Alice and this is not a wonderland. We are talking about life. Minimalism sure does give you some kind of mental peace and clarity and at the least, reduces anxiety about the things you own. But your happiness depends on a lot of factors. Minimalism may help you to reduce the stress to some extent in general but it doesn’t mean it will eliminate all the stress and you will never feel stressed anytime in your life ever. Life has its ups and downs and we have all signed up for it when we came into this world. We have to learn to accept it and move on. In this aspect, Stoicism may be handy.
I poured out what I thought I understood about the Minimalism concept. What do you think? I would love to hear your comment/feedback.
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10 thoughts on “What is minimalism and what is not?”
I’d heard about the term Minimalism but never really researched it, so really enjoying these posts. But I’d like to think I may started venturing on that journey without knowing. In December I went through my phone address book and started deleting contacts I hadn’t spoken to in over 6 months. That was a combination of either voice calls or text messages. My address book looks a lot trimmer and I may repeat the exercise again later this year. I see it as reducing the ‘overload’ in your life which extends beyond objects and into ‘cutting down how much is on your plate’.
That is great. Even i have done that. Reduced the contacts, photos, subscriptions. Yup. Often times we lose track what we already have. It would be better to take a stock of things now and then and get rid of unwanted stuff. Baggage will drag us. Also i have a dream of the world determining the worth of a company by the quality and not on the sales numbers. This at the core is the cause of all this issues. Sell more, advertise more, create more. Year over year one up. Get faulty products out and upgrade again. Repeat business.
I have tried minimalism many times because things just get so cluttered and moving things becomes a hindrance…But the bottom line is, even if I can’t explain it, having a house full of chotchkys makes me feel more content and less empty. I am a yard sale/thrift store fiend. I am aware nobody needs to collect candle holders but I do. Not every wall needs to be filled with shelves and art and stuff. But I LIKE IT,
Does it make me happier? Not really.
Does it make me sadder? Not really.
it’s just individual comfort and maybe because I grew up in a flood area and our childhood stuff all ended up destroyed when mom stored it in the basement…Having things makes me feel better. Even if cheap pointless stuff.
One day that could change.
But if kitschy monkey candle holders make me smile, I fail to see the harm.
To each their own.
Sometimes one of the toughest things to do in life is accept that what you wish you could be and what you are are two different things. I’d like to be minimalist…But I am a pack rat.
It’s so true that minimalism is always misinterpreted and I am glad you wrote a post about it.
If it makes you happy you should. If you have tried it and it’s not for you, there is no harm. It has to already sense to you rather than not knowing how something ended up in your home. I am not a pro in any means, I am making the mistakes myself. Let’s see how it works out for me.
Thank you for the kind words.
PEOPLE ARE TO BE LOVED AND THINGS ARE TO BE USED. BUT NOW, PEOPLE ARE BEING USED AND THINGS ARE BEING LOVED. – MARK TWAIN
The quote was worth reading this article, thanks!