I know what you’re thinking: please no, not another post on minimalism. And I hear you. Minimalism seems to be everywhere online these days. But I promise you, this is not going to be another one of those posts that will tell you how to simplify your kitchen or how to minimize your cat. Many, many people have already written about that and there’s no need for another post on the subject.
What I am going to write about, is my issues with minimalism as a concept. Because I think people are mixing a bunch of things together and that’s creating a lot of confusion. So let’s start with this:
Minimalism has nothing to do with aesthetics
This will sound a bit confusing since minimalism IS an art movement. But when people talk about minimalism these days you can almost certainly assume they’re not talking about that type of minimalism. The term minimalism is now referring to a particular type of lifestyle but that lifestyle doesn’t have attached visual aesthetics that comes with it. To me personally, minimalism has nothing to do with design but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a “minimalist” and be interested in minimal design. The issue here, I think, is related to the term itself because we’re using “minimalism” to refer to a variety of different subjects that can potentially have nothing in common.
Minimalism has nothing to do with owning fewer things
This will also sound a bit strange because if you spend 10 minutes googling minimalism, you’ll find a lot of articles about owning less than 100 items and decluttering. And again, the two concepts—minimalism and owning fewer items—are not incompatible but are, in my opinion, separate. You can easily own very few items without being interested in minimalism and vice versa.
So the question now is, if minimalism has nothing to do with a visual aesthetic and has nothing to do with owning less, what the heck is minimalism? To me it comes down to two things: simplification and awareness.
My flavor of minimalism
I personally see minimalism as a tool and nothing more. It’s a tool I can use to keep my life on balance. And yes, as a result, I do own fewer things, however that’s not the goal but rather a byproduct. The goal is to live a life that’s less stressful and there are countless little things one can do to achieve that. And I must point out that there’s no magic formula. What works for me may or may not work for you. We are all different after all and we live different lives with different priorities and needs.
I’ll give you an example. I own very few clothes, they’re almost all either black, white, or gray and I bought them in bulk. Let me explain why. I buy in bulk because I don’t want to waste time buying new clothes. Fashion is not something I personally enjoy, nor does it have much significance in my life, and since I work solo and I am my own boss I don’t need to follow a dress code. That means I can optimize my wardrobe. By “optimize” I mean using the same item in more than one “social circumstance”. For example, I own three pairs of identical black shorts. Those are the only shorts I wear during the summer and that means I use them while I’m at home, when I’m out to play basketball and when I need to meet with a client. I bought them specifically because they’re plain and “elegant” enough to be used in pretty much all occasions. The same “philosophy” is applied to pretty much everything else I wear. I try to buy things I can use in as many contexts as possible because that means I can own less stuff overall. I also don’t care about being “pretty”. I want to be comfortable in my clothes and everything is optimized to that effect.
That’s one example of what “minimalism” means to me. It also means following fewer social conventions, and that’s another thing that has nothing to do with owning less or living a life that’s only black and white.
Minimalism has become this bizarre and broad term that encompasses a multitude of aspects that are not really connected. They can be, but they don’t need to. So in the future, try to think of minimalism simply as a way to live a life that’s simpler and more optimized and see how you can apply those two concepts to your specific situation. You can be a “minimalist” and have a life full of colors, and you can be a “minimalist” and own 5,000 items. There’s nothing wrong with that.
And as always, if you have thoughts on the subject, please write me an email. I’m always happy to engage in conversations with people.