Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Common Misconceptions about Minimalism

Minimalism can seem confusing and a bit abstract to those new to the concept. What is minimalism? The very definition of minimalism is fluid, depending on what expert you talk to. To some, it's surrounding yourself with only the things you love. For others, it's a quest to decrease their carbon footprint. For me, it's a combination of things; environmental concerns, a desire for more freedom, and the desire to create a peaceful environment after years of walking on eggshells in a verbally abusive relationship. As I get older, I also realize that I don't want to burden my children with the baggage of a lifetime of my stuff.

Here are some of the misconceptions about minimalism that I have come across that I think need clarification:

Minimalism is only for the middle class and the wealthy.

I'm astounded by the popularity of this belief. People seem to go out of their way to be offended by minimalism, suggesting that it's a form of poverty appropriation. Minimalism, in its fluidity, works at every class level, outside of being homeless. I have lived it. Although it wasn't too difficult for me, grasping on to minimalism kept me from becoming homeless. It doesn't offend me that some wealthy person has decided to downsize in order to leave the rat race and enjoy life more. Why should it? I think it benefits society as a whole.

I shop at thrift stores, sifting through middle class and wealthy cast off's. I have had to put off purchasing new undergarments for myself in order to buy the kid what he needs. By someone's determination, this should make me feel angry. But again, why? The person who donated the Anne Taylor shirt I bought for $2.00 isn't at fault for my situation. Embracing minimalism helps raise people up out of poverty. It is helping me.

You can read more about my thoughts on minimalism and poverty here: Minimalism can help you Break the Chains of Poverty, and here: Why Poor People Making Bad Decisions is a Dangerous Mindset.

Minimalism is About Deprivation 

I think this belief feeds in to the previous belief about poverty and minimalism. Under this misconception, minimalism appears as choosing a life of deprivation, a self induced vow of poverty. But minimalism isn't about deprivation. This belief misses the point entirely. Minimalism is about letting go of the heavy weight that holds you down and embracing what brings you joy. It's about evaluating what you allow in your life and adjusting accordingly.

So many times we hold onto objects with bad memories associated with them or were gifts that weren't really our thing but we don't want to hurt feelings. We fall for the sparkling trappings of the latest gadgets or this season's fashions. We buy storage containers to organize and hide our excessive possessions or drown in clutter because we might need them again someday. Let it go!

Minimalism gives you space to breathe. It's the quiet in a too busy world. Instead of deprivation, you find yourself blessed with the things that matter. Things need care and take up our time. They need carted around when we move and stored when we are settled. Owning only those things that bring us joy or that we find useful ensures we are not wasting our time and energy on stuff that doesn't matter to us.

There is a Magic Number of Items to Own to be Considered a Minimalist 

Like I said before, minimalism is very fluid. It is also very personal. It's less about the number of items you own and more about embracing a concept of joy and beauty. I know without counting that my books alone number much higher than than some minimalists entire possessions. They bring me joy. But I got rid of all the dusty wine glasses that suggested some day I was going to host a rather large dinner party. I kept only enough for a small gathering of friends, which suits my introverted personality better. 

I have a long way to go on this journey. I have been driving around with yard sale leftovers in the back of my Jeep for a month now and I still feel like I have too much stuff that I need to sort through and get rid of. It's an important journey for me, and one I hope will lead to more personal freedom. Your journey is going to be totally different, but that's the beauty of minimalism. You get to define what it means to you. 

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