A wave of minimalism has gripped the web in recent times. About a year ago, I started soaking in the ideas and advice of some inspiring online minimalists, in an attempt to bring some of that clean and reinvigorating energy into my life.
My all-or-nothing nature meant that I carried decluttering to such an extent that I began to feel restless all the time worrying that I was not throwing out enough junk.
Somewhere in between dumping 15-year-old greeting cards and debating whether to part with several books from my collection, I realized that like many others I chosen to deliberately misunderstand what minimalism is all about.
Is minimalism the right way to go?
You do not have to be a minimalist because of some assumed notion that it will be a cure-all for the problems in your life. No doubt it could be an elixir like that for some people. But you may not be one of them.
Decluttering can be done without taking it to the extreme of minimalism. You could hold on to things you consider precious, without thinking of them as lifesavers. You should do so because there is nothing wrong with enjoying material things, unless that enjoyment turns into an obsession.
Will I take good care of my books because they make for some memorable times? Yes, of course.
Will I try to lug them out of a burning building? No.
There’s my confirmation. I enjoy my belongings for what they are, but I’m in no danger of having an unhealthy attachment with them. But for my own peace of mind, I’m much better off thinking of myself as a thoughtful consumer rather than a reluctant minimalist.
I have come to the conclusion that aiming for simplicity is the best way to strike the right balance between consumerism and austerity. That is how the idea for undustrial revolution was born.
Now when I pare down my belongings, commitments, etc., it is not to get them down to a certain golden number or to practice self-denial for the wrong reasons. It is to discard everything that is not serving me well in some way—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
This is not to say I don’t use magical numbers to make careful choices about what should stay and what should go. As a tiny example, I restrict the number of subscriptions in my feed reader to 15. This makes me think twice while signing up for feeds and keeps me from subscribing to those that I know I won’t take the time to read. If I end up subscribing to fewer feeds or extra ones, I’m still okay with it. The reference point helps ensure that every feed on my list is there for a reason, even if that reason is pure sentiment.
This year-long spring-cleaning exercise has helped me see that many of the things we consider necessities are not those at all. They seem that way because we have chosen to have them in our life for so many years, and not because they’re something we can’t live without.
If you think about it, a healthy survival instinct is perhaps the only necessity in life.
Nevertheless, when we’re not facing life and death situations as they’re usually defined, we’re curious and human enough to explore all that life has to offer. To do so and to make the most of life, we need resources. But many of those resources are not must-haves, even though we’re used to thinking of them as such.
Now that I recognize this erroneous assumption for what it is, I’d like to redefine personal necessities and gradually weed out the illusory ones, to zero in on what really matters in my life.
- November 27th, 2013