Here at Oak & Soul we believe in the power of simplicity. We believe that possessions do not form the foundation of our happiness and that our worth is not determined by the clothes we wear or the cars we drive. We’re certainly not alone, the concept of minimalism is becoming more discussed and prioritized but it’s still very much a countercultural viewpoint.
Why is this? Why don’t more people see the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle?
We live in a consumerist culture that absolutely overwhelms us with marketing messages and hype urging us to buy one thing or another. Companies are constantly trying to convince us that our problems can be solved with the simple action of forking over a few dollars. Not pretty enough? Smart enough? Outgoing, thin or stylish enough? Successful enough? There is no crisis of identity or confidence that can’t be resolved with the swipe of a credit card.
Of course on some level we realize that it’s all hype, but here’s the thing… the acquisition of something new usually does give a quick boost to ones ego or confidence. Whether it’s the fabulous new shoes that make your girlfriends drool or the new car that outshines your neighbour’s there can be a momentary burst of positive feeling from material things.
But it doesn’t last.
There is always something newer, fancier, more up to date, more coveted… If you’re staking your personal value on the desirability of your possessions you are in for a rough ride. What’s trendy and up to date is a moving target, it’s constantly changing. You will always be playing catch up, always be chasing the newest and best. And there will always, always be things that are out of your reach.
So if consumerism can’t actually satisfy our happiness, why aren’t more people aligning their lives with a more minimalist outlook? Why aren’t we purging our closets and garages, banishing our possessions and staying out of the malls en masse?
Why do so many people consider minimalism ‘inspiring’, but ‘impractical’?
A big part of it comes down to misconceptions about what minimalism is and isn’t. There isn’t one formula for minimalism, it’s a spectrum. What minimalism ‘is’ or ‘looks like’ is different for different people. Your own individual definition of minimalism isn’t even static, it will shift and develop over time too.
So how do we define minimalism then? What are we actually trying to achieve? The best definition I’ve come across is from this post from Becoming Minimalist.
Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts from it. It is a highly personal journey that forces you to identify and articulate your highest values. Because of that, it is always going to be practiced differently by each individual.
– Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist
Misconceptions of Minimalism
What are some of the misconceptions that keep people from embracing minimalism? What makes the concept something that’s OK for some, but just not practical enough to be mainstream?
The Idea That Minimalism is About the Wholesale Rejection of Material Things. It’s Not!
Think that minimalists can’t have cherished possessions? Of course we can! Minimalism isn’t defined by not enjoying beautiful things in your home, lovely clothes or having sentimental items. The fact that I have a box full of useless trinkets doesn’t make me a bad minimalist. I’m allowed to have a box of things that are saturated with memories, items that make me smile when I rifle through them occasionally. But that small number of items that I cherish get a place of honor in my home because I’m not overwhelmed with useless stuff for the sake of stuff.
That You Have to Have a Certain Number of Possessions to Truly be a Minimalist
Some people approach the concept as a numbers game. It may be an attempt to own less than a specific number of items or a call to rid yourself of a particular volume of stuff. While that may be a good way to set a goal, embracing minimalism as a lifestyle is more about a readjustment of our priorities.
If you par your wardrobe down to X number of items you may technically reach some definition of being minimalist, but if the fundamental way you value your physical possessions doesn’t change then all you’ve done is empty your closet. You’ll just refill it with more purchases because you haven’t changed what motivates you to seek your value from your clothes collection in first place.
Purging for the sake of it won’t make you a minimalist. You change your perspective, then you change your physical surroundings to align with that new perspective.
Why Minimalism is a Better Way
It Encourages You to Evaluate and Consider Your Priorities
When you start the process of asking yourself what to eliminate from your life you automatically have to decide what’s important enough to stay. The simple act of reflecting on what gives you joy and fulfillment is a powerful exercise. Minimalism encourages you to actively evaluate what is necessary, useful or beautiful. If something doesn’t serve any of those three purposes, let it go!
Allows You to Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
When you adopt a minimalist mindset you can focus more on the quality, sustainability and ethical accountability of the items you do purchase. If we decide that we don’t actually need to buy twenty T-shirts a year we afford to ensure that the few we do buy are produced with environmental and social accountability.
Promotes Environmental Sustainability
There’s a huge environmental benefit from people consuming less and consuming more consciously. Our purchases have an environmental cost in their manufacture and distribution and a social cost on the communities and workers involved in the supply chain from raw material to finished goods. When we consume more consciously we can support companies that handle environmental and social issues in a way that aligns with our own personal ethics.
Then there’s the environmental toll of the waste from the huge amounts of poor quality, worn out goods we dispose of each year. By buying only quality things that we need and actively use we can make a huge difference in the pressures we put on our waste disposal systems.
You Have More Time for the Important Things
In the same way that minimalism frees up needlessly spent money that can be redirected towards better things, it frees up needlessly spent TIME. Our possessions suck a lot more time from our lives than you may think. All those hours spent shopping, buying, maintaining, organizing and cleaning unnecessary stuff adds up. We’re a society that never seems to have enough time, are we really willing to spend any more time than we have to on STUFF?
There is no shortage of amazing bloggers who write about the minimalist lifestyle. Here are a few promoters of simplicity that inspire us. Have you stumbled across these lovely people yet?
// Becoming Minimalist : Joshua Becker’s blog is overflowing with information and inspiration on living a more minimalist lifestyle. A great resource!
// No Sidebar : I love how this site looks at minimalism from five basic perspectives; Digital (web and social media), Mind (positive thinking and clarity), Home (relationships, family and finances), Life (simple living and the pursuit of happiness) and Work (productivity and creativity).
// Zen Presence : A great blog that promotes meaningful living through the concepts of minimalism, simplicity, mindfulness and personal development.
// Minimal Millennial : I just recently came across this little blog but I really enjoy the creators writing style and perspective. Well worth spending some time clicking around her site.
“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”
– William Morris
Do you think you could benefit from a more minimalist mindset? Do you have any reservations about decluttering and simplifying? Feel free to share your thoughts, we love hearing from you!