Written by Conni Biesalski. Follow me on Twitter.
Disclaimer: We Europeans are a bit behind on some trends. Such as the one discussed in this post. Also, since this is an unconventional blog, I can go against conventions and talk about it anyway. Furthermore, I find it as relevant as ever. Let’s forget about Ev Bogue and all bored critics for a moment. Apart from that, the world actually goes beyond the blogosphere.
This is a post on minimalism, people. It’s not about the trend called minimalism. It’s on minimalism.
Regarding the trend: Some of us have been through the hype and through the fuck minimalism phase. For those of you who haven’t heard it: Minimalism is dead.
Now let’s rewind.
I say it’s a lot of BS. Minimalism is alive as ever.
Has consumerism ever been announced dead since its invention? People blog all over the place about material things and buying stuff. So let’s stop this hype about how blogging about minimalism has been overdone. The day the entire western world turns to minimalism – that’s the day it’s been overdone ok?
This is a Minimalism 101 – a summary of what’s out there. This blogpost is the revival of minimalism. At least for today.
Everything you need to know is here. If you want to know more, I highly recommend you follow the numerous links in this post.
I have to write about minimalism because it is a part of me and this blog. I hope parts of the ideology or possibly even the whole nine yards is/are a part of you, too. If not, maybe you just enjoy reading about it.
Ignorance on this blog is not bliss, my folks.
Back to Square One
1. What Is the Minimalist Lifestyle?
a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity. (Need more definitions?)
“The less I own, the happier I am.” (Derek Sivers)
= extension of simplicity. The reduction of modern life’s complexities to the essential. Getting rid of the unnecessary. (Whatever that is, is subjective)
= learning and embracing the act of letting go.
= sustainable and environmental.
= spiritual guideline.
= reflection on materialism and consumerism.
= focus on relationships, things and actions that are most important for oneself.
= freedom of the mind, freedom from grasping.
= mindset – it is especially reflective on the inside.
= not a strict dogma, code or set of rules.
- More time and space to do the things that make you happy – personal passions & social contacts.
- Be more in the present rather than the past or the future.
- Create more rather than consuming.
- To get on the path of self-discovery.
- Freedom to conform to outside influences (capitalism).
- Happiness from life rather than things.
- Less overwhelm. Less stress.
- Focus on yourself.
- Less organisation.
- Freedom from location.
- Lighter finances.
Does minimalism have any downsides? Read about it on Be More With Less.
3. How does one become a minimalist?
Minimalism is a process that starts with a minimalist mindset.
From then on, it’s a matter of practice to extend the concept to a lifestyle.
It can cover many areas and I collected a few ressources in the form of links for you:
4. Who started contemporary minimalism in the digital realm?
Looking at when the concept of minimalism evolved in the blogosphere (2007-2009), we can see the overlap with the financial crisis and global recession in 2008. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Disillusioned from capitalism, people started looking for alternatives.
Tim Ferriss: Here is the first article I was able to find from 02/2008 on his Four Hour Work Week Blog.
Ev Bogue: Far Beyond the Stars 10/2009 (the archives, as he shut it down beginning 2011).
The Unclutterer already talked a lot about simplicity and minimalism in 2007.
Joshua Becker launched his blog Becoming Minimalist in 05/2008.
Colin Wright also started talking about minimalism in 2009, explicitly in this post.
David Damron over at Life Excursions started talking about minimalism in 08/2009.
Francine Jay (yes, a lady!) from Miss Minimalist also started in 09/2009.
This list is not exhaustive. If you know of any other blogs that picked up the concepts of minimalism or simplicity early on, please let us know in the comments.
5. Where does Minimalism come from?
First known use of the word was in 1927. It is mostly associated with design, art, music and architecture.
Minimalism is related to (voluntary) simplicity, which has been a life philosophy and spiritual concept since the Iron Age India (1100 BC). It is heavily rooted in Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism (among others). (FYI: Whereas simplicity stands for the cutting back on complexities, minimalism takes this idea a step further: it’s the reduction to the essentials, getting rid of everything that is unnecessary.)
Let’s not forget the plain people (Christian groups), such as the Amish, Mennonites or the Quakers, who reject technology, wealth and status symbols.
In contrast to the spiritual approach, Henry Thoreau experimented with simple and sustainable living on a secular approach in the 19th century: He went to live in a cabin by a lake for two years and documented his experiences in the book Walden (rewards link).
The Fellowship of the New Life was an organisation in the 19th century advocating simplified living (influenced by Leo Tolstoy), as well as pacifism and vegetarianism. (Members included some big names in the artist and political scene back then)
6. What are the easiest and simplest reasons to ‘convert’ to minimalism?
1. Overwhelm. Minimalism then becomes a sanctuary, a relief.
2. Accidental coincidence. Not knowing you are a minimalist until you start reading about it. (I, personally, had no idea that minimalism was a movement until a few months ago. Lucky me.)
7. On Numbers
There is a big discussion in the blogosphere about the amount of possessions of minimalists and whether one has to reach a certain number to constitute as a minimalist. I can understand why some critics have used this aspect to ridicule minimalism.
Some say 100 is the magic number. Colin Wright got it down to 51. Leo Babauta reached the 50 mark. Ev Bogue doesn’t put a number on it anymore, but he’s in the double digits as well. Henri Junttila went radical on 43 possessions. Mike Roberts experimented with 10 things. I could go on and on.
I believe I own around 200, but I’m in the process of uncluttering again. I’m not doing it for the competition, or because I believe a certain number makes me a minimalist. I do it for my own sake. I don’t want to own things that are not on my top usage list. It means I don’t need them. And what I don’t need is superfluous.
It’s not the number, people, it’s the mindset.
(Little interesting link I just found: Rolf Potts actually travelled around the world with no baggage whatsoever. Zero. Only What he had in his pockets.)
8. Minimalism in an affluent society
Let’s be honest, on the outside, minimalism is quite individualistic and hedonistic. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs that it had to come this far, that we have to escape our self-inflicted materialism to minimalism in search of happiness. That there are people who are overwhelmed with what they have or can have, when there are millions of people out there living on a $1 or less a day and owning virtually nothing. People who are actually forced to live on the bare necessities. And then we big fat Westerners come along and voluntarily chose a lifestyle such as minimalism, because we can’t take it anymore. Yes, it’s quite ironic.
But, as Leo puts it, minimalism is just the start of something bigger.
Minimalism is my statement that this world is pretty fucked up. It’s my statement of guilt for having had a life with everything when there are too many people who have nothing. However, just because our system produces things doesn’t have to mean that I need them. Yes, this lifestyle makes me happier and I enjoy the benefits, but it stems for the most part from my political convictions and ideologies. This is MY minimalism, and it makes sense to me this way. With some people, I’m not so sure… (No names here)
9. A note on Ev Bogue
Why Ev untethered from his popular blog on minimalism? I believe it is his way of saying no to anything slightly mainstream and label-ish. That’s ok. He untethers, it’s what he does. But I don’t believe minimalism is mainstream. Yes, in 2011, you can find many, many, many blogs on this movement. But in real life? How many people do you know in your non-digital life that are minimalists out of the closet? I actually know none, and I live in a pretty big fashionista city.
10. Closing thoughts on minimalism
I, for myself, enjoy restricting myself to fight the overwhelm of, especially, mass consumerism and mass information. I like the act of purging things, stuff and s*it out of my life. It makes me feel free. I can focus better. I feel the freest when I’m travelling and living out of a bag.
You know, mass consumerism just annoys me. Having things I don’t really need annoys me. This and so many more things and people annoy me – they have to go. Simple as that. And there I find my minimalist lifestyle. But you might find it in different ways. And that’s the brilliant aspect of this movement: It is bendable. There is not one true god. No reason to be Colin or Ev. But if it helps, like it does for me, then go for it.
I realised I enjoyed simplicity as a basis for my daily life back when I was living on a small island with no roads and traffic in Indonesia (you can walk around it in 90min or faster). At the time, electricity was scarce, water from the shower was salty, my room bare boned, but my daily life filled with people, interactions and being outside. I loved it.
While I was on the road for a couple of years, I lived like a minimalist, but I didn’t know the term. Returning to a temporary static life here in Berlin, I realised, living in a spacious apartment, owning more possessions than I need feels alien and makes me feel uneasy. So, I don’t. Life and the digital world is overwhelming enough. My sensual filters don’t work well, so I have to constantly reduce the noise to feel liberated, to concentrate and focus on what is important to me.
I don’t want to be the victim of my possessions, the media and capitalism.
Two last things:
1. Minimalism can change your life.
2. Be the minimalist you want to be.
Let’s laugh a bit with legendary George Carlin:
What do YOU think about minimalism?
Are you a minimalist? If so, why?
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