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Can Minimalism Be Taken Too Far?

Simple Living - Minimalism going too far - toysImage: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know the saying ‘He who dies with the most toys wins‘?

It’s wrong.  …though often times it seems like society lives by the rule.

Then some minimalists, while trying to argue, turn the saying into ‘He who dies with the least toys wins‘.

This is also wrong

Minimalism isn’t a ‘smallest amount of stuff’ contest.

Minimalism isn’t about an amount of stuff you own, it is about the hold that stuff has on you. You see, having or not having stuff can both become materialism.  In materialism the focus is on stuff – whether you have it or not.  Minimalism is removing the focus away from stuff.

Years ago I heard someone talking about love and how the opposite of love isn’t hate – it is indifference.  This is totally true with love and it is also true with minimalism.  It isn’t that we are indifferent to stuff in general.  No one wants to live with no material possessions.  Instead we are indifferent to the accumulation, the amount, and the force stuff holds in our lives.

While standing on a ‘soap box’ talking about the evils of materialism we need to be careful not to take on the same material focused lives.

The beauty of minimalism is it’s ability remove material possessions from our priority list allowing other, more important, things to be what we truly value.

I believe a big part of minimalism is shifting our focus outwards, realizing we are part of a global world, that we are only a  small piece working with lots of other small pieces and the world revolves around none of us individually.  This is the opposite of a materialist world where the focus always is revolving around us.  A reader shared this video with me and it showed this point so well. (you have to click on the link, they wouldn’t let me embed it in the post but it is really good).

Recap

  1. For minimalism to be the opposite of materialism it has to be indifferent to material possessions instead of fighting against them.
  2. For minimalism to be the opposite of materialism it needs to be outward and group focused instead of self-focused.

I love seeing what other minimalists are doing and the way other people are living out simple living. I love sharing with you what we are doing.  However, none of this is ever to compare.  I think we can help each other by helping each other ‘think outside the box’, break habits, or further understand our own tendencies.

Make sure you grab a copy of my new book Simple Living – 30 days to less stuff and more life on sale for only 99 cents this week!

What do you think?  (if you are reading RSS join us in the comments)

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12 Comments

  1. Jennifer G Jennifer G

    As much as I would love to be one of those minimalists with 50 personal belongings, the attempt to get there stresses me out. I do think we, as a family, have too much unloved junk in our home and I want to get rid of that stuff. But I believe that having a few quality items that will last as long as we need them to (good quality clothing, furniture, electronics, etc) is just as important an aspect of minimalism as not owning a bunch of stuff. Think back to our grandparents, most of them didn’t have much but what they did have was the best they could afford, it wasn’t a bunch of throwaway trash like we have now. That was actually the best piece of advice my grandmother gave me when I got married. And the advice was to save up for and buy the best things we could afford so that we weren’t having to replace cheap crap (my words, not hers…she would never have used the word crap) every time we turned around. And we’ve tried to do that with the big stuff. Unfortunately we have still accumulated a bunch of cheap crap (the unloved junk I was referring to above) anyway…and that is the stuff I’m working on purging 🙂

    • Yes, I totally agree. It is sad how much waste gets dumped after only being used for a few months all because it was made so cheaply. I don’t want to support that kind of economy 🙂

  2. Jacly Sisk Jacly Sisk

    Thank you so much for this post. I couldn’t agree more. Being minimalistic isn’t a competition. I could never get down to 50 things, and if I did, I would be giving up a lot of things I love. I can our garden produce every summer and fall. I make soap, and I love to scrapbook. I am a Photoshop and photography junkie. I love to cook and bake, and we have farm animals, five dogs, and my husband hunts. That being said, I am very good about what I call “purging” — keeping our homes and closets free of clutter and junk and “unloved” items. But what I do have…. it gives me a very fulfilling life.

    I found your blog from becomingminimalistic, and I’m looking forward to reading more. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

    • Jacly, great to meet you 🙂

  3. You summed it well it is the “hold the stuff” has on you. If you use it keep it. If it pleases you keep it. If you don’t even notice it.. get rid of it. If you have trouble getting rid of it… you need to figure out what the emotional hold is…

    • Yep, I think that was my favorite line too 🙂

  4. I agree with your observation that being focussed on NOT having stuff can also be a kind of reverse materialism. I think if I tried to have the absolute least possible I would feel like I was living on the edge all the time. I would be constantly dwelling on every item I owned. I have just done a huge clean up of my stuff, and got rid of heaps all at once. I know I could do more, and a few things are earmarked as possibilities, but right now I am having a break. A few extra pots, pans and tupperware containers in the garage are really not bothering me. I am keeping a few “just in case” items, but they are items that I have a realistic chance of wanting in the future, and don’t take up much space. In the meantime I am enjoying less trips to the garage and more reading, writing and socialising. I expect that next time I look at my stuff, when I have a fresh eye, I will be able to do a new level of culling, but its not an emergency.

    • awesome! thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. I think putting a number goal on minimalism is akin to putting the cart before the horse. It’s not a competition, it’s a lifestyle. Once someone decides to embrace minimalism, shedding unwanted/unneeded possessions becomes simple. And the number is not important.

    Much of my clutter was in the form of paper and media. I mean forms, books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc. Technology has allowed me to eliminate most of this. What used to fill two file cabinets and two bookcases now fits in my 7″ tablet.

    My personal goal is everything I own and should fit inside one suitcase and one carry on. I have a dream of working around the world. Obviously household items such as my lawnmower, washer & dryer, car, etc. would not be part of this.

    • We dream of getting down to a backpack too someday, so we can do more traveling 🙂

  6. Trish Trish

    This is one of the best posts on minimalist philosophy I have ever read. I just purchased your book and am looking forward to reading it. Thank you!

    • Trish, you are too sweet! Thanks so much 🙂

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