When I had my woman-in-the-mirror talk with myself almost a year ago about how I needed to take responsibility for my life and my happiness, I started reading every blog I could find about minimalism and simplicity, because I needed new insights on my information/clutter addiction and the few posts I found resonated with me. I was pretty skeptical at first, because I couldn’t believe it was possible to live in a place like NYC and not consume or be consumed by the excess here. But then it occurred to me that I was already living that way (minimizing my consumption) in certain areas of my life and that there were hundreds of other people, for one reason or other, that were not true denizens of this city because they didn’t take full advantage of what was on offer.
Most people think it’s incredibly expensive to live here (it can be), but it’s only been those people who have an idea of what living in NYC means that they fall into the trap of conspicuous consumption in the name of “making it” in the big city or being a “real” New Yorker (as though NYC represented all of New York State). I have countless examples of friends and colleagues making the most of what they have by creating communities that support their growth and well-being. For some of them, I’d say they were practicing an idea of minimalism, even if they aren’t relating to themselves as such.
There are “anti-minimalists” in the blogosphere who feel that this lifestyle is a farce. They find it problematic that so many of the “so-called” minimalists are single, white males, or individuals who left cushy jobs when they got tired of the rat race and now have the nerve to tell everyone else to reduce their consumption, or are making a killing selling e-books on how to make money off the internet, or are not being completely honest about their lifestyle (reporting how little they have but not counting the household items they share with roommates, saying they only own 100 things but counting 20 pairs of pants as one thing, stuff like that), or they are fucking boring people. Or some combination of all of these things.
These anti-minimalists also believe that you can’t live in the real world – with friends, jobs you have to report to several days a week, or raise healthy well-adjusted children, because they feel those experiences require that you engage in some form of consumerism.
Now, I don’t know that the minimalists who are public about (and making money off of) their lifestyle are in fact not being transparent about how much they own, how much money they had saved up before making the shift, or who they live with, because I don’t know them personally, but the thing that I got from all of them, that I feel these anti-minimalists have missed, is that there’s no one-size-fits-all definition of minimalism.
Several of the minimalists I’ve found online got rid of their stuff and created online businesses so that they could travel more, and created a niche around how to help other people with the same goal accomplish it, too. What’s wrong with that?
I’ve also found minimalist families who own their home and have cars or packed their entire life into a tricked out pickup truck and travel the world together. Their definition of minimalism meant reducing the amount of toys, extracurricular activities, and other things they felt were not conducive to their idea of family or quality time. So instead of being consumed by the idea that good parents give their kids whatever they wanted (especially when they could afford it), or the idea that they need to have superkids who spend all their free time being shuttled from one activity to another, they opted to scale back and allow for some negative space in which they could all simply be.
To define minimalism as just getting rid of everything you own is overly simplistic and misses the point. What I’ve been reading lately speaks volumes about the attachments we have to our stuff, where we think ideas come from, and how we create and maintain friendships and build community. Minimalism is about mindfulness – getting to the core of why you think you need what you have, figuring out what is useful, and letting go of any attachments you may have to things or a person, especially if you are hinging your happiness on them.
When I decided to embrace minimalism, it was because I have too much stuff, I’m trying to be everything to everyone, and I was not making time for the things that interest me. Since I started this endeavor, I noticed that once I released my attachment to the stuff I owned, there was less stress around maintaining the space that holds this stuff, and I missed it less. I also noticed that every time my energy became stagnant or I hit a creative block, a couple of hours of housework, decluttering, or even a walk, alone or with a friend, reinvigorated me. So the idea that minimalists are boring is simply not true.
Members of my online community aren’t being told what to do in the sense that I know what they need and what they need to be doing to get it. They are being offered tools and resources that have worked for me and many others, all in one place. They don’t have to use everything or take all of my suggestions. The information is there for them to go through in their own time and they only have to use the tools makes sense for them.
My insights guide my members on how to find their own sweet spot, by helping them get rid of what’s keeping them from the health, happiness, and prosperity they desire and deserve.
For some people, it may mean getting rid of almost everything. For others, it could mean a new job or letting go of a relationship that no longer serves them.
I invite you to join my online community to learn about how simplifying your life can bring you closer to a more fulfilled life, on your own terms.
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