Balance, Wellness

Why I’m Not a Minimalist

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Why I'm Not a Minimalist

I once dated a guy who was a minimalist. His apartment had some basic furnishings, bare walls, a shelf of some books and DVDs, and not much else. (Actually, looking back I’m realizing that none of my boyfriends have owned a lot of stuff, which might say something psychologically interesting about me.) The first time he came to my apartment, the first words out of his mouth were, “You have a lot of stuff!”

This was after I had already begun consciously not accumulating new stuff, so needless to say I was rather affronted. After further thought, though, I decided that having a lot of stuff isn’t inherently something to be ashamed of.

Minimalism is a buzzword these days, and as a theory it has a lot of merit. In practice, though, most people aren’t starting from zero, so attaining lofty minimalist benchmarks (like having a super-small wardrobe) is unrealistic. If you’ve already accumulated a lot of possessions, to purge all those items just so you can be “minimal” epitomizes a wastefulness that to me seems at odds with the entire philosophy of minimalism.

The main reason I’m not a minimalist is the realization that just because it’s not my problem anymore doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. Minimalism espouses the mental and emotional benefits of living with less. I agree that removing clutter and excess can have very positive effects… on the person losing the clutter. However, you can’t ignore the fact that whatever you get rid of continues to exist, whether in a thrift store, a secondhand market in a developing country, or a landfill. (There’s a good chance your stuff will travel through all three.)

Mindless purging can be just as harmful as mindless accumulation, as it enables further consumption and injects more items into the waste stream. Finding someone who wants what you don’t is a more sustainable solution than throwing all of your unwanted items in a box for someone else to deal with.

Honestly, that approach takes more time and effort, which is another reason I still have some things I don’t really need or want anymore. But I’m fine with that, because I know they’re causing me less of a problem than they might cause somewhere else.

What’s your take on minimalism? Do you also accidentally date only minimalists?

Related: The Minimalist Challenge

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Photo: jesselili via Instagram

Julia Spangler

Julia Spangler

Julia has been pursuing a more ethical lifestyle since 2008, when she learned that sweatshops, forced labor, and human trafficking still exist on a staggering scale. Through her blog Fair for All Guide, she shares her insight into the realities of the globalized economy as well as practical knowledge on how to live in a way that does less harm to the people with whom we share the globe.
  • Molly Lansdowne

    This is perfect. This is exactly why I don’t identify as a minimalist–thank you for laying these points out in such a digestible way!

  • What a great piece! I love your point about mindless purging. There are definitely different ways to be dangerously wasteful.
    I tended to date guys with lots of baggage (in all the ways, haha). My husband has 3x the stuff I do, so I like to pretend that I’m a minimalist around him–until I look at my makeup drawer. I mean makeup drawerS. 😉

  • You present a very fair argument. I’ve sort of touched on these issues even on my posts where I advocate minimalism. I think a lot of people try to combat a certain style of consumption with more (but alternate) types of consumption. Minimalism is not a fashion statement. Well, it is, but that’s not the kind of minimalism I’m talking about. Minimalism is about being okay with what you have. About making things work as they are. The benefits of being surrounded by less “stuff” are plenty. But that’s no reason to just go toss everything that you own. I have, over the past 5 years or so, slowly been dwindling down my possessions to what I actually need. You’d be surprised by how many people are out there on Craigslist, eBay, etc. looking for the things you have but don’t use. Giving them away/ selling them keeps these people from going out and buying new versions of them.

    You don’t need to throw things in the trash just so you can be a “minimalist.” You can be pragmatic about working in the direction of this type of lifestyle, and you shouldn’t be doing it just for “the show” but rather as a way to lighten your environmental footprint.

    http://www.joiedevivreblog.com

  • Jennifer Kurdyla

    I also really appreciate this take on minimalism. The philosophy is one I’ve tried to subscribe to as much as possible, but coming from a family of unofficial hoarders it’s hard to part from all of my baggage and innate tendencies. When I became vegan, I didn’t right away throw out all of my non-vegan things for the same reasons you cite above: my leather bags would just be someone else’s leather bags, or worse end up in a landfill, so why not use them up and properly honor where they came from?

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