Do you think you could never “do” minimalism? Do you think minimalism has no applicability to your life? Just not sure what it is? Well, this one’s for you.
Like so many undergraduate students intending to go to law school, my major was Philosophy. Despite the stereotype of philosophers sitting around, debating trees falling in forests and the like, Philosophy class is where I really learned the art of forming an argument. Defining terms to be used is of utmost importance, so defining what minimalism means to me seemed like a logical topic of my first entry when I decided to start a blog.
Minimalism has been a hot topic in the new-age, spiritual community lately. When I started hearing about Minimalism quite a bit recently, I noticed that many of its proponents speak about it as if aspirations of corporate, mainstream success are completely incompatible with the philosophy. Some make it seem like minimalism is “all-or-nothing” and either you’re a total minimalist with four bare, white walls and no furniture or you’re a greedy, corporate shill. This is a false dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be either one or the other and acting as if it does doesn’t help the movement. Many people have a preconceived notion in mind of what the end result should look like, and it’s not compatible with what they want their life to look like so they resist rather than opening themselves to learning more. Who wants four bare, white walls? NOT ME!
As I learned about minimalism, it really resonated with me. I’ve never been a flashy person—My car is nearly 10 years old; I have an engagement ring that many Americans would consider to be quite modest; my husband and I share a small, one bedroom condo with no garage. At around 750-square feet, we’re partly minimalists out of necessity. I’ve nixed conversations about getting a storage unit at multiple points during our relationship and have had to prevent myself as well as my husband from buying things because we simply don’t have the room. That didn’t stop us from accumulating excess. Gifts for birthdays and holidays; those mindless “impulse purchases” we just couldn’t stop ourselves from making; the sentimental things that serve no practical purpose, but we just couldn’t bear to get rid of for some reason. With only 750 square feet of space for the two of us, it all adds up quickly.
In retrospect, I was raised as a minimalist. My parents had their priorities and spent their money accordingly. I grew up in a middle-class household where we never had to worry about where our next meal was coming from and we had family vacations, but we did not necessarily get the hottest name brand clothes or every toy we wanted. School supplies had to stretch a few years. I went through most of college without the capability to send or receive texts because my dad didn’t see the point of it and refused to pay for it. I didn’t have the ability to text until somewhere around 2009-2010 and didn’t have a smartphone until 2014. However, I was sent to college with the newest MacBook to ensure my success. (See? Priorities). To this day, my mom balks at even discount store prices, as she almost exclusively buys her clothes in second-hand stores.
Minimalism is, above all, about mindfulness and intentionality in all aspects of one’s life. We each have limited resources available to us—time, money, etc.—and so how we spend them should be the most important thing to us. We should be very careful what we do with these precious resources since once either time or money are spent, they cannot be recovered. Minimalism is, at its core, about efficiency, and who doesn’t want to be efficient? Using limited resources to maximum benefit is the main goal in a nutshell.
Minimalism applies not just to physical stuff, but to how resources like time are spent. Life is too short to work a job that’s not fulfilling, spend time with abhorrent people, or waste as much time as most of us do watching TV, opening junk mail, or checking the phone for the next important email/Facebook status/twitter update. Time is an even more important resource than money. While money can’t be recovered once spent, it’s a resource that replenishes. There’s more every payday. There’s no such thing as making more time and there’s no life ledger to tell you how much you have left.