What is Minimalism? It ain’t about being polished, and it ain’t about high end glossy fragrant magazines. What it is then Aaron? Whatever you want it to be. What Minimalism is not, is an oppressive disciplined way of life that requires you remove all color and mementos from sight. I write about Minimalism. Therefore, it only makes sense that I read a lot about it too. As I read various authors and other resources I have noticed a strange pattern. There are countless little guys and gals, such as myself writing about and experiencing Minimalism. Our voice is not very loud, but I am thankful for the connections we can make.
Rarely though, are there large feature articles about Minimalism. I have noticed a few articles however published by large newspapers such as the The New York Times. There is a wide range of views that come from all the small contributors such as myself. The beliefs range from mild to wild. Some favored a more subtle approach to Minimalism, while other espouse a more rigid philosophy. Even those who practice the most extreme feats of Minimalism tend to present them as their own beliefs. I have never witnessed anyone bullied because their home was too colorful or displayed too many memories.
I take particular offense to one article published by the New York Times titled “When the Gospel of Minimalism Collides With Daily Life.” This article is everything that is wrong with mainstream views of Minimalism. The author throws words like “oppressive” and “sparse.” A common theme in the negative articles I’ve read speaks to a formula for how many items a person can own, and how people are unable to abide by such oppressive standards. Just when I thought the piece couldn’t get any darker, they took it beyond what was reasonable. Yes, Minimalism often involves living in smaller spaces, but not in confinement. LOL, it is not as though you are a prisoner, or have some minimum square footage requirement to qualify as living modestly.
“Most notable, some studies have linked crowding-related stress to increased rates of domestic violence and substance abuse.”
Surely by this point, the author had entirely discouraged its readers from even attempting a more simple lifestyle. But they weren’t done yet. They go on to mention how experts are concerned about indoor air quality for people living in smaller spaces, but experts say the same thing about others living in larger areas too! I am not sure what they were trying to accomplish with this article. If their goal was to terrify people about what Minimalism is about, then they have succeeded. To make it worse, every time I see one of these slander pieces it’s by an outlet with a humongous readership. So, allow me to plant more seeds so that these grassroots may grow.
Referring to Minimalism as what high net worth people see in a catalog is diminishing to this authentic movement. No, living a more simple modest life is not necessarily a “postmodern consumer” habit or trait of the wealthy. Finally why white? I have to laugh again when I hear fashionista/o’s talk about the oppressiveness of everything being white. I have yet to find the Minimalist handbook that states all surfaces must be painted white, square footage must be below one thousand, and mementos shall not number greater than six. Nonsense.
The question that we have to ask ourselves? Is Minimalism a philosophy or a doctrine. Considering there is no governing body of simple lifers, I will have to lean towards it being a philosophy and not a doctrine. If so, people are free to experiment with it in any way they choose. The idea that living more simply means you don’t display mementos is ridiculous. I believe the exact opposite. Momentos are the essential things that remind us of our experiences. That’s odd because experiences are one of the single most essential elements in a Minimalists life. Read my post “How Much Can You Carry.” Of course you can display sentimental items, and you should. As draining as I found the article in question, there were sprinkles of truth throughout. Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell wrote a book about how her, her six dogs, husband and herself moved to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. The hook was how they’d moved into a 480 square foot cabin, and the challenges they faced. Often I wonder if the people who write these negative pieces have ever tried Minimalism for themselves? I do not believe that many of them have, because people who have lived it for themselves tend to come to the same understanding.
“When we first moved here full time, I tried to write in our 10-by-10 bedroom, but it was like working from an airplane seat,” she said. Then it hit her: People go to offices. Her husband worked outside their home. Why couldn’t she build a free-standing structure on their property for her books and desk? “I realized it’s not cheating on tiny houses or minimalism if I build a little 320-foot detached writing studio,” she said. “You have to make this lifestyle work for you.”
I enjoy simplifying my life. I have no desire however to live in 480 square feet. Twelve hundred square feet I can do, even with my family of four. That’s what works for me, but it may not be what works for you. That is what’s important, what works for you. Remember, Minimalism is a powerful philosophy that can and will transform your life if you let it. Do not lose sight of the fact that there is no doctrine, there are no boundaries, go crazy, or don’t, it’s up to you. Minimalism is a tool, and a tool must be used properly. Nuclear energy is also a tool, or it can be a destructive force dependent upon how it is employed. A lesser-known tool is consumerism. Do you want to be the tool operator, or the one getting worked on?
Live modestly, and live your best life. – A.C.