The Flip Side of Minimalism

A Minimalist Workspace

In life, and if you are the broody sort like me, you will realise that the world throws back two opposite thoughts at you all the time.

To give you a very basic example, you are flipping through a magazine and you are getting drawn by all the fit models, articles on building a great body and so on. A few pages down the line there will be recipes on making a decadent chocolate cake, there will be advertisements about food brands who use excessive sugar in their foods.

The choice is always yours. People will say what they have to say because everybody is trying to sell you something. Gurus will say what they have to say. Mentors will say what they have to say. Marketers will say what they have to say.

But you are leading your life and you know what works for you. Ideally.  

You choose your path.

So, don’t get swayed by what others are saying or not saying. You own your life and are its own author.

The reason for so much gyaanbazi ( intellectualising) is because recently I heard someone say ‘Minimalism is selfish’.

Being the self-proclaimed Minimalist, I was flabbergasted because I thought minimalism is anything but selfish. And this led to more reading and brooding.

So, I’m presenting to you how there are people who think Minimalism is ‘Bad’.

One man’s minimalism is another man’s materialism.

What is needed is context.

Minimalism had been made popular by Americans in the last 10 years or so – the western world for whom there are no dearth of opportunities. Every and any kind of education, food and stuff can be had. They see something and they can have it.

Enter Minimalism.

A new hobby.

Books are written. Documentaries are made on Netflix. Speaking at seminars and so on.

It’s all great actually – Americans know how to market.

But we as Indians are tasting affluence only now.

We have grown affluent over many generations and decades and appreciate the sacrifices our parents and their predecessors had to make. We, as Indians on the other hand always knew what it is to live with less.

Please do not take this as a way to create a divide between the western world and us. Their abundant lifestyle is a blessing and shunning it is taking it to another extreme. Which to my mind actually silly.

Because even their forefathers have worked hard and earned them this priviledge.

Sidebar – I especially disliked the documentary on Minimalism on Netflix because people in the show took it to another extreme – to the point that it’s outright dumb. (sorry for using such harsh words). To be honest, I couldn’t sit through the documentary beyond the first 30 minutes.

First of all, you create a version that works for you. Because there cannot be a one size fits all.

Minimalism is Selfish

For – Minimalism is harmful. It is selfish. And it’s bad for business.

It’s only keeping things you need. It doesn’t make room for others. So, if anyone needs any help – like borrow a mattress, or some dinner plates, it doesn’t allow you to, because you don’t have it in your resources.

Against – Minimalism means keeping things that you need. Mindless consumerism is when you choose multiple versions of the same thing. Minimalism prioritises experiences and functionality. It does not attach importance to objects or products.

But the thing is that would you hoard products in the hope that just in case someone ever wants your help? Don’t you think that this is a hypothetical situation? To assign value to a remote chance of a person or situation warranting that particular item? And in the process, I build a larger wardrobe and get an extra double-bed?

Minimalism does not celebrate just-in-case scenarios.

Minimalism is just another word for decluttering

For – Decluttering is plain common sense. Getting organized in life is a sound principle. People think they are minimalists when all they’ve been doing is decluttering. One cannot do one, and call it the other.

Against – The thing is that you can’t start your path of minimalism without decluttering.

Now here’s another insight –the readers of this blog, like me, are mainly urban people. We have jobs, we play different roles each packed with their own set of demands. We cannot live a life of hermits giving up our lives for the sake of ‘Minimalism’.

We have come too far into our consumerist journey to go back. And by we, I mean mankind and society.

We cannot not buy.

What we can do is apply it in any way we can. The word is ‘conscious’ and practical.

Minimalism could be seen as another word for ‘conscious consumption’ wherein we exercise restraint in choosing the things we want to buy. A more mindful ownership of things rather than fill it up with more of the same.

To me it’s practical. It also needs to be inclusive.

Recently I went to the home of a movie script writer. I was mighty impressed with his home. Very classy furniture, sparsely decorated, a nice Dining table. The overall aesthetics were fantastic.

But the sitting area in his house had two chairs and a carpet.

Now, it’s great design. But I thought it was impractical. Because if more than 2 people went to his place, they would have to sit on the carpet – on the floor. That’s not very welcoming. Some people might like that concept – the sitting on the floor when visiting, but then some might not.

Minimalism is for the unambitious

For – Minimalism focusses only on your need. And rejects opportunities. The desire to own less makes you do less, and therefore makes you complacent. You enjoy status quo because it satisfies your current needs.

Minimalism and minimal ambition are two sides of the same coin. Minimalists don’t travel and they do not explore possibilities.

Against – Those who say this, according to me haven not understood the essence of it and are getting argumentative for their lack of understanding. That a minimalist does not travel – because they see travel as expensive is a notion. Yes, flight tickets, hotels, skydiving is an expensive affair. It’s not like we are living in the film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’.

Yes, if you want to travel from India to Europe, it is expensive. But instead of staying in expensive hotels, there are options to stay in youth hostels. I have stayed in them myself and they are extremely comfortable, convenient, and budget-friendly, not to mention you get to meet more people.  

Besides, what is ambition anyway? Creating a business empire? Rising up the corporate ladder? Are these the only yardsticks for success?

Being a good Mom can also be an ambition. Having a healthy lifestyle can also be an ambition.

Besides minimalism is not about doing less – because believe me, not giving in to the temptation of buying something is work. Exercising self-control is not easy.

Minimalism means you cannot enjoy the good things of life

If minimalism means living in a 1- bedroom apartment, driving a small car and eating at home instead of a fancy restaurant, it could mean one is living within their means. Which is not a bad thing at all.

It just means that the person is making sound financial decisions.

It is possible that those who live beneath their means are simply being responsible adults.

Besides, having fewer things to worry about means you make room for other things in life.

In fact, I like to believe that a minimalist’s life is an abundant life. Because of lack of attachment to things, they assign greater value to things of the mind – things that cultivate intellectual wealth.

Minimalism places an importance on resources. It advocates a wise use of things. It does not advocate cutting corners or buying cheap things. If fact, our sort usually purchase products that are high quality which would probably last a lifetime.

It is hard to practice.

It is not about giving up things one shouldn’t.

So, if the question in your mind is should you adopt minimalism or not, the only advice I would give is to not get carried away in its pursuit.

It is a concept or philosophy that is not bigger than you.

Like I said at the start of this blog, you are the author.