When I first read about minimalism, this strange online community of people who pursue the idea of “less is more”, I was instantly attracted. But I was also counting the ways I’m not a minimalist. Ways that I could never be a minimalist. I wrote a post talking about the philosophical and political side of the community, as I saw it looking outside. Fast-forward, and I would say I am a minimalist in many more ways than I’m not one.
I was inspired by these two YouTube videos, one by Madeleine Olivia, the other by Jenny Mustard. They outline the ways they are not minimalists, demystifying this quite exclusive, competitive club of a community.
I do, it must be said, subscribe to the idea that minimalism is different for each person or family, that the general impulse to live with less is an ultimately positive thing. But rather than count the ways that I’m not a minimalist as bad things, I have learnt to embrace them as parts of my identity. Because, after-all, these are things I have not, or cannot, give up entirely. And that includes being imperfect, as well as passions that, inevitably, result in a lot of stuff. So let’s run through three ways I’m not a minimalist!
I also provide minimalist advice about each area. Because, really, minimalism is a perspective that you bring to areas of your life – it is not a doctrine!
I’m not a minimalist because I still own books.
There’s a BIG caveat here. I still own books because, at least right now, they are essential to my job as an academic / writer. The amount of books I own that are in no way related to academia could be counted on two hands. Which is an enormous change from only a couple of years ago.
eBooks and audiobooks are worthy formats, and I use them. But they have not replaced traditional books, and I am not sure that they ever, really, can. Even if it were possible to replace all my books with digital copies, it would cost a lot more time and money than it is worthwhile. I also can get a return on investment, by selling some of my books, many of which hold a great deal of value because of their academic status.
The way that I am a minimalist is:
I rapidly began to declutter my books by following one rule. If I can re-buy or borrow this book from a library with ease, I should let go.
I’m not a minimalist because I collect videogames.
Games have always been one of my main passions in life. I know more about them than any other form of entertainment. I have probably spent more time in my life consuming them than any other. So, yes, I enjoy games and owning a fairly decent collection.
Crucially, however, I am prepared to let go of games that I do not, or will never, play. I am also someone who will replay my favourite games, making my collection something that has a great deal of value. Games, for whatever reason, are easier to repeat than a book. Some would see this as a way that I’m not a minimalist, because I am placing worth in material objects.
Vintage or retro gaming is a very real part of my gaming taste and life. The relentless pursuit of something new is, for me, not a minimalist impulse.
Interestingly, over the last year or so, I have done a 360 turn on the value of digital vs. physical games. My experience is that digital games, on the whole, are easier to forget about. They also take valuable space on hard drives, especially on the current generation of consoles (PlayStation 4, XBOX One etc.). Just because there’s no disc or cartridge on a shelf, doesn’t mean that they take up “no space”. Instead you have bought a license, and you must use it. Because you can never return or sell a digital game on, either, they become semi-permanent possessions that hang around as long as your gaming hardware does.
The way that I am a minimalist is:
If the game represents an experience that I want to have again, I will keep it. If it does not, I let go.
I’m not a minimalist because I love shopping.
I do not just love shopping, I am good at it. I can say with confidence that if you handed me a year’s salary, with the stipulation that I had to spend it all on clothes, I could with ease.
I am going to keep this one short. You can be a minimalist and love shopping. But you can’t be a minimalist if all you do is shop. This is one of those few hard-and-fast rules that I think minimalism has. You can’t continually accumulate (the idea of shopping) and say you like to live with less.
What is key, though, that when we have to shop (which we will, sometimes), it is better to be ‘good’ at it than not. There are plenty of people who are terrible at shopping, and if they care enough, they can spend a great deal of money trying to get good at it (e.g. by continually buying clothes).
And that’s the point:
I am a minimalist because I am smart about what I buy, and what I do not. I am not perfect (nobody is), I can buy things which I do not end up needing or using. That’s the opportunity to let go and learn. KonMari is a great resource!