February 25, 2010

Complicating Minimalism

One of the things that I like about writing Weblogs is that I can do whatever I want. Part of that comes from pondering things, keeping my eyes and ears open, pondering some more and then being able to write them out. That is why I have done several articles on Minimalist philosophies.

"What is the definition of Minimalist, Uncle Bob?"

Actually, the term really applies to a minor form of art, and also to a kind of music. People also decided that it was a good term for a philosophy of having fewer possessions. It goes beyond simplifying to get rid of needless clutter, and getting to having and doing the fewest things in order to survive. This sets one free because there are relatively few possessions to cling to so that time and energy can be spent doing things you love, and to focus on people and relationships instead of the pursuit of more stuff. A good definition can be found here. Addendum: An excellent resource is here. Even the basic definition of "Minimalist" is up to the user, but there seems to be more agreement on the basics.

Once the basics are covered, further usages of the term "Minimalist" are up to the individual. This is something that attracts me to the movement. It is very individual, and attractive to a cowboy like me.

And this brings me to something that I would very much like my Minimalist friends to understand: It is your belief system. You do what you need to do.

As I see it, your Minimalist philosophy can be complicated in a few ways:
  • Leaders. There are people that Minimalists look up to, if course, but there is no organization, no Archbishop of Minimal or anything like that. If someone acts like a leader, well, remember that he or she is just like you. My advice is that you do not let someone else tell you how to be a Minimalist, because they do not make the rules; there is no canon. You do what is best for you. No need to give the time of day to anyone who will browbeat, harass, coerce, intimidate or heavily influence you to do what they think you should be doing. It is like a tree. Being a Minimalist, owning fewer possessions and so forth — that is the trunk of the tree. What you do from there, what you believe and do, all that can be likened to the branches. All are part of the tree, but branches are not absolutely essential to the tree.
  • Filters. Sort of like rose-colored glasses, or some kind of filter over your eyes. You see the world through this filter, always judging what you're doing, every step of the way. "Does thisWho cares? If "this" that you're questioning is something that you need or want to do, then do it. Otherwise, you can be making yourself miserable by constantly second-guessing what you're doing every minute of the day. fit in with the Minimalist lifestyle?"
  • Excesses. Again, I recommend staying with the basics. There is no need to throw out everything you own and live in a cardboard box under the I-475 overpass. Sure, it could be considered Minimalism, I suppose. But it could also be (rightfully) considered insanity. You can progress in your lifestyle as you need to, but give yourself time to think and experience. There is no harm in doing things gradually. After all, you are tweaking your lifestyle, and you will always be tweaking it. Also, there's nothing wrong with changing your mind, you really do want to keep that book that your father gave you, for instance. Or you really do want to live with a roof over your head.
  • Radicals. Nobody is going to change the world through Minimalism. Remember, your goal is to improve your own life, not coerce anyone with your views, or the views of a "leader" in the movement.
I hope you're catching on to my friendly advice. Again, it's what you want to do, and there's no need to let anyone bully you into their version of Minimalism. Including yourself! You're doing this because you think it's right for yourself, and if you make yourself miserable (or let someone else buffalo you), then there's no point in doing it.


    Josh said...

    "there's no need to let anyone bully you into their version of Minimalism. Including yourself! You're doing this because you think it's right for yourself, and if you make yourself miserable (or let someone else buffalo you), then there's no point in doing it."

    Awesome advice that applies to much, much more than minimalism. I found you through Problogger (you left one of the few interesting comments) and I really like what you're doing here. You've got a minimalist convert, my truest homie:)

    Stormbringer said...

    Thanks, Josh. I'm a firm believer in a concept like, "If you join a club, you have to obey the rules. Or form your own club". Since Minimalism is so loose and varied, it seems to be the most individualistic philosophy that I know of.

    I am still exploring Minimalism, and have been making strides in that direction for quite some time. It seems to have accelerated for me, lately. If you want my other Minimalist writings, the best bet is to do a search, or browse from late January 2010. Otherwise, this Weblog is a catch-all for my thoughts. Hope you stop by again.

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