The misconception of Minimalism

Today, the term ‘Minimalism’ has been used to describe an attitude ora  chosen path of living one’s life that is often misconstrued as being ‘monk’-ish- devoid of any of  the pleasures of modern life. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, minimalism is actually a form of maximalism.

You see, Western society is deluged with tremendous amounts of excess. Whether it be the size of homes, cars or the size of of your wardrobe, more would seem to be better. But when you look at the time spent trying to earn the money to purchase these seemingly much needed ‘necessities’, you can see how we have become slaves to a grind that doesn’t give most people the reward they seek. More often than not, what is often accepted as ‘the way things are supposed to be’ becomes a senseless race towards more and more consumption of resources, including our time.

The value of developing technology was always understood as a means in which one could gain more time to do the enjoyable things in life. When trains allowed the ability to travel across the United States in one week as opposed to a six month journey, this gave us more time. When air travel allowed transcontinental passage in hours instead of days, we gained more time. When manufacturing allowed us to buy the things we normally had to make ourselves, this gave us more time. Instead of spending our time making our clothing from raw materials, growing/ hunting our own food and building our homes from scratch, we could now purchase these things from other people which gave us more time.

Now,  all of our time that we’ve gained from these technologies is being used in non productive activities such as shopping, infotainment delivered via TV/media devices, travel packages where one never really gets to explore the authenticity of a region and the mindless chatter on pop culture, ineffectual ideologies, political rhetoric, moral ‘rightness’ and whatever other issue that can be drudged up to waste your time and attention.

To be fair, there are a lot of people who don’t see anything wrong with this use of time. They argue that they are engaged, current, hip, up to date, forward thinking and they are happy living in this manner.

But for a few, this is not fulfilling. For them, it’s not an authentic way to live and what they seek is authenticity during a time in which things are sugar coated and simplified into sound bites.  Something is missing and they are willing to examine where in their lives they are spending too much of their precious resources- namely time and money- on pursuits that don’t give back something bigger than what they put into it.

Foregoing the usual huge mortgage for a home built by the lowest bidder and looking at building their own tiny home has resulted in many happier people. They’ve gained time and money with this decision. Purchasing a used car, maintaining it properly and running it into the ground instead of leasing a new car every three years has allowed people to spend their money on other pursuits that make them happy and fulfilled. For them, the trip to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro gave them far more than they would have received paying X amount of dollars for a new fancy car.

In their minds, they are not foregoing the pleasures of life. They are maximizing their two precious resources ( time and money) in such a way as to have a truly fulfilling life. This is an example of what some people may perceive  as ‘minimalism’ really becoming maximalism.

But if a new car every three years is important to you and you gain pleasure from paying for that, then who’s to say otherwise? The problem occurs when these expenditures and the time spent worrying about if you will be able to keep paying for it if you lose your job or whether it will get dented, keyed or stolen takes away from the joy of having it. The worry of maintaining the lifestyle that demands that you have constant monthly income going into paying for it doesn’t allow for you to decide to take 3 months off and sail the Sea of Cortez.

Millions of people are happy with status quo and just being consumers. And that’s okay. We need people like this. Why? Because it makes our choice even more richer by having the alternative squarely in our faces every day. It allows us to be grateful and not to fall in complacence. It reminds us that making room in our lives in order to maximize our time spent on this planet is not a bad thing at all and shouldn’t be portrayed as such.

Pushing away the things that don’t work for you in order to allow the things that do have actual value for you into your life is your right and no one needs to understand why, except you.  If it makes your life more rich and enjoyable, do it. Get rid of what doesn’t work for you and do what does.


P.S. If you are a Hell on Wheels fan and current on the series, you may not know that the actor (Jonathan Scarfe) who portrays “Sydney” sails around with his wife and two daughters on a used 1984 Gulfstar 44′ sailboat he and his wife bought after deciding to leave the rat race of Los Angeles and go out and experience what makes them happy. Pretty cool if you ask me and you can follow where they are on their adventure on their blog site

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