Today is International Minimalist Day, per Karol over at Ridiculously Extraordinary. Throw validity to the wayside, and think about what minimalism means to you. Where can minimalism help you? Where can it hurt you? In the spirit of minimalism (and Tony Robbins), I’m going to simply delve into two categories: perception and procedure.
The perception of any group/movement/thing is only as good as its loudest proponents. Lately, I’ve been a bit upset with some of the main proponents of minimalism. About a year ago, I began to read minimalist blogs and started my own minimalist lifestyle. The problem was, I was doing it for the wrong reasons.
The first minimalist blog I read gave many suggestions that I thought were a bit overboard – like getting rid of my TV. I didn’t go that far – at first – but I did get rid of about half of my clothes and a third of my “stuff”. I’ll be frank – I didn’t have that much “stuff” to begin with, but I got rid of a good bit of it anyway.
As the months went by, I decided that I did want to get rid of my TV. And my PS3. And my surround sound setup. And of course, my Blurays, DVDs, and video games. By the time I sold my media stuffs to a friend (for ridiculously cheap), I wasn’t doing it for the minimalist movement anymore. It seemed as if minimalism had become a trendy fad by that point. I did it for more me-time, not more minimalist points.
The thing the minimalist don’t tell you is that getting rid of your TV is not really getting rid of “TV”. I have a Netflix account that gives me access to TONS of TV shows and movies. They’re always there, ready to play at a moment’s notice. Also, I have lots of videos/TV shows in my iTunes library. I didn’t really lose “TV,” I just lost the big viewing screen. I did lose the ability to play CoD4 (which I do miss occasionally), but I’ve discovered games on my iPod Touch, and they are just as fun (if not more-so – I’m looking at you, PvZ).
So I have less stuff and no TV. What’s different? Not having a TV makes a big difference. When you plop down in front of a TV, chances are good you’ll be stuck there for a WHILE. When you watch videos on your laptop, it’s “easier” to shut it down and switch tasks, so you’re not as glued to it as you are TV. However, I don’t want anyone to think that minimalists are making a huge sacrifice when they get rid of their TVs. They only sacrifice they’re making is twenty or thirty inches. But it is a big deal. You have to do it yourself to completely understand it.
So what is the perception of minimalism now? I see it as a holier-than-thou syndrome. When you get rid of so much stuff that all you can do all day is talk about how much stuff you don’t have, you’ve missed the point completely. Minimalism should be about finding balance in life, not depriving yourself of any joy. Unfortunately, that’s not the perception I have of the minimalist movement right now.
So what do I (you) do about this? This is a lifestyle that can radically improve quality of life, if used correctly. What I’m doing is very simple, actually. I’m living it. If I can help someone by giving advice about minimalism, I do. Otherwise, I let my actions speak for me.
One of my best friends helped me move into my apartment a few months ago. He commented on how easy it was to move my stuff – it only took two trips. He said he would like to get rid of some of his extra stuff, to ease his mental burden. His brain gears are going – my work is done, and I didn’t even (actively) do anything.
Aside: I think a perfect example here is the one George Clooney’s character uses in Up In The Air. Imagine you have a backpack. Start putting all your stuff in it. Start with your clothes, your toiletries, your gadgets. Then move to the bigger things – your bed, your furniture, your tools. Now put your car and your house in it. Squeeze in your relationships, professional and personal. How stuffed is your bag? Could you enjoy your life more if you lightened your load?
Here’s my take on it. If you want to live a minimalist lifestyle, do it for you. Don’t do it for your blog audience. Don’t do it to prove someone wrong. Don’t do it because someone told you to. Do it to improve your quality of life.