Monday, February 04, 2013

Musing About Minimalism

One of the misconceptions about minimalism is that it requires giving up "everything," suffering with only the most basic requirements for comfort met, and generally embracing a life of sacrifice. Not necessarily. I like the explanation offered by Ryan Nicodemus, co-author with Joshua Fields Millburn of the book Minimalism: Leading a Meaningful Life:
I had an interview this morning . . . where the guy asked what does a minimalist's life look like and I didn't know what to tell him because it's really not that different from anybody else's life. It's just more deliberate. If you were to walk into my home, you wouldn't think oh something's wrong with this guy. You'd just think he's tidy. . . . [Minimalism is] more about living deliberately and more about asking what adds value in your life and cutting out the superfluous stuff.

Defining "superfluous" is, of course, most challenging. Akiko Busch writes in "The Art of Shedding Possessions:"

There are many factors ruling our choices about what to surrender. A force equal and opposite to the impulse buy is the precipitous urge to give something up, which can spring from some combination of regret, disenchantment, a sense of failure, even fatigue.

But beyond such hasty and impetuous housecleaning are the simple facts that we outgrow things, our tastes change, and, maybe most of all, our desire for material belongings wanes. Parting with them may only be a matter of recognizing that we need to end certain relationships and understand how the physical objects around us have served as their emotional accomplices.

Sometimes simplified circumstances can be imposed on us by chance. John Stark wrote of discovering "The Zen of a Small Kitchen" when he moved to a new city:
For the first few weeks, I felt as if I were in one of those PBS reality shows where people are made to live in a house from a bygone era. . . . First, I had to acquire the right mindset. 'The original owners of the house had four children,' my landlord told me. If that kitchen was good enough for a family of six, surely I, one person with a Doberman, could make do.
And that, of course, is the answer to all uncluttering challenges: the right mindset. If one commits to simplifying, to mindfully letting go of unnecessary possessions and thoughtfully dealing with the mundane, life will begin to feel ordered, to flow instead of bump along.
Peter Lawrence, author of The Happy Minimalist, demonstrates the extreme minimalist point-of-view in this post from Treehugger. In the 14-minute video at that link, Peter explains that minimalism requires "constantly examining what resources are needed to achieve your objective."
Most of us will feel that we need more than Peter Lawrence does, but how much more? Well, that's always the question, isn't it?
Photo Credit: "Tranquility 4" by Ove Tøpfer, stock.xchng