Although minimalism traces its roots to visual arts and music of the 1950’s and 60’s in the western world of, actually, the concept is thousands of years old. In fact, it emerged from the tenets of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Despite being an ancient way of life, it remains shrouded in ambiguity and misconceptions. Like all lifestyle choices, there are those who can’t stop raving about the benefits of minimalism.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who dismiss it as inverted snobbery and a style of living that is hardly practical or even possible.
But, as with all things in life, there is no absolute black or absolute white in this case either. So, if you are toying with the idea of embracing minimalism, you should look at both the pros and the cons of this lifestyle choice.
At the end of the day, you will have to live with both sides of the coin. Plus, you certainly don’t want to discover the demerits of minimalism after you have given away the gorgeous dress/shoes/chair or whatever was your last gratifying purchase.
So, continue reading to know what awaits you on the road called “Minimalist Lifestyle”.
Wait, but what exactly is minimalism again?
No, being minimalistic is not about turning into a new age/urban monk. Yet, it does call for some serious restructuring and even trimming of your possessions. In a nutshell, it is about living with what you absolutely need, and no more.
Sounds easy-peasy, doesn’t it? In truth, this is one of the hardest things you will ever do! Why you wonder?
Let’s step back for a moment here and take a closer look at all our lives – Haven’t we been constantly overfed the doctrine of “more”?
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we are addicted to the ideology of “More”. From food to clothes and from money to toys, as well as most other aspects of life, we have been programmed to go for more.
And why not, every time you get something that gives you pleasure, your brain gets a dopamine shot. In time, you come to love and even crave for that flood of dopamine.
Minimalism is all about detoxing yourself from the dopamine rush that consumerism offers. And that is why it is all the more important to understand the true and complete impact of minimalism on your life and on the lives of those you love.
Minimalism – The good side
1. You will save tons:
Admit it; few of us can exercise restraint when something that we want is on sale. After all, it would be stupid to not buy a brand new “something” when you are getting a killer deal on it. So, what if you already own an x-number of that something.
That’s the justification I gave myself every time I bought something that I did not really need, and I am sure you do the same.
But if you choose the minimalistic way of life, you won’t buy that extra something, which means you are going to save yourself the regret as well as a lot of money.
2. Minimalism could be your get out of debt card:
I don’t have to tell you that credit card debts have the highest interest rate of all your borrowings. Yet, according to CNBC, more than half of the Americans who own credits cards are grappling with debt.
The worst part is that the culture of credit has habituated us to living beyond our means. Of course, that was going to come back to bite us one day, as it did.
No, I am not selling minimalism as your way out of your debt problem. But, it is definitely a firm stride in the right direction, and the internet is riddled with stories that attest to this.
3. Less stuff equates to less stress:
The more things you own, the more stress you build in trying to maintain and hold on to those things. Also, more stuff means more clutter, which in itself is a major stress-creator. Because you will removing all forms of excess from your life, stress will leave with them.
4. When you are not distracted, you focus more:
Because minimalism leaves you with only the essentials, it effectively rids your life of distractions. And when you are not all over the place physically and mentally, you get more time and mental bandwidth to invest in things and aspects of life that really matter.
5. You get to do your bit for the environment:
Minimalism is a sustainable lifestyle choice because by choosing to buy and consume less, you inadvertently reduce your carbon footprint and the burden that you impose on the resources of the world around you.
It also goes without saying that fewer shopping sprees also equate to fewer boxes and bags and less packaging material.
Also, when you lower your consumption, your contribution to the requirement for higher manufacturing goes down. Along with it plunges the waste at the back end operation of the manufacturer, which would stay put if you were to continue using goods (whatever they may be) at your usual rate/pace.
6. You finally get the reason and the justification to be frugal:
A lot of us do not personally subscribe to the excesses of modern day living. But we consciously try not to be too frugal lest it alienates our friends and family. When you go minimalistic, you will have no choice but to go sensibly frugal.
That’s when you buy good things at reasonable rates with the diligent intention of owning no more than what you absolutely need, and making what you own last for as long as reasonably possible.
Because your attempts at frugality are backed by a conscious life style choice, nobody can blame you for being a miser (if that even matters at all).
7. You get to pass down sound values to the younger lot:
I don’t think anybody can deny that the world today has become superficial and materialistic to the point of fault. Life, for everybody and particularly for youngsters, is dominated by what they can show off on social media.
Minimalism allows the whole family, including the children to shift their focus and their idea of self-worth from the external gilding of clothes, accessories and other possessions.
Personally, I feel this is a fantastic way to temper down the entitled attitude that I see most preteens and teens displaying. Plus, it gives everybody a new sense of gratitude for what they have as well as appreciation for what really matters.
8. You save space and that could also mean a lot of money:
It’s a no brainer that the fewer things you have the lesser is the space needed to accommodate your possessions.
But, this is not just about a new walk-in closet or a more space for the new crystal and chinaware. If you choose minimalism, you will be cutting down on your overall space requirement.
In fact, you will find several minimalist who boast that everything they own fits into the trunk of their minivan. That may/may not be you a few months or years down the line, but you sure will cut down your space requirement by at least a half.
And I am not just talking about actual storage areas here but your entire living space. Think about how much that could shave off from your rent and mortgage payments if you are actually comfortable in a smaller apartment/house!
9. You have more to devote to causes that are close to your heart:
Be it the environment or underprivileged children, animal rights or any other social cause, you will have more time and resources to devote to it once you shift your focus away from materialistic excesses.
10. Moving around will be a breeze:
The less you own, the easier it is to pick it all up and move wherever you want. Whether it is changing rental apartments or shifting to a new city/state/town, with fewer possessions, you won’t have to spend on professional movers and packers and even if you do, it will cost you less. Plus, once you are at your destination or in your new home, it becomes so easy to stack things where they ought to be.
In fact, in my experience, just the sight of all those packed boxes sends stress levels and blood pressure soaring. But, if you don’t have as much too pack, there will be fewer boxes and you will spend less time both packing and unpacking them.
11. You will inadvertently enhance your self-discipline:
It is certainly not easy to give up a lifelong habit and letting go of indoctrination that we were literally soaked and stewed in all our lives.
But, when you switch to minimalism that is exactly what you do. You have to make a conscious and profound effort to not reach for everything that stimulates your senses and your dopamine mechanism.
I will be the first to warn you that there will be slip ups but the mere fact that you compel yourself to get back on track even after falling off of it will help you to cultivate the ability to control yourself, your emotions and that monkey mind.
At first the benefits of this may not be obvious, but in time, the self-discipline you cultivate will percolate to other aspects of your life be it home cleaning, weight loss, healthy eating, learning a new skill or pursuing a new hobby. You will find yourself going after it more steadfastly and persevering even when the going is hard or seems impossible.
12. You may rediscover your spiritual side:
There is a reason minimalism is often considered a bridge between you and your spiritual side. Without the glitz and glamor of materialism blocking your vision and your sense of understanding, you inevitably move away from all that is external and start to focus on the internal
And with that comes a deeper and honest realization of who you are and what you really want out of life and what your life’s purpose is. The more you try to answer these questions, the more you move towards inner conditioning.
Also, when you are not focusing as much on the gilding of the world around, you have more mental bandwidth and time to work on practices such as meditation and mindfulness that not just improve the quality of life but also put you on the path to enlightenment (whatever the definition of it is for you in your world).
13. You begin to care less about what others have to say:
Because minimalism is the exact opposite of what almost everybody around you is running after, you will face criticism. There will be those who will openly decry your style of living and others who will snigger behind your back.
While some of you may find this extremely discouraging and even hurtful at first others may be able to take it in their stride. However, regardless of your initial reaction to the rebuke, in the end, you will reach a place where you just won’t care about what others think about your way of living or what they have to say about it.
A sense of acceptance will dawn upon you because you will know that you are following the minimalistic way of life because it works for you and your loved ones, and that is the only thing that matters.
Minimalism – The bad side
1. You may go from spending more time on shopping to spending more time on maintaining:
When you have fewer things, no matter how high their quality and how robust their build, the increased usage will cause greater wear. So, you will have to invest more time in cleaning and maintaining your possessions.
2. Going from one end of the spectrum to the other can be shocking:
As I said earlier, materialism and consumerism are aspects of life that have been drilled into us since we were wee tykes.
So, when on a whim, you set out to flip things over, the radical change in the way you spend your time, money, resources and efforts and how you use what you possess, will be undoubtedly be a shocking experience.
In fact, the initial shock and discomfort experienced over the first few weeks is often enough to send people scuttling right back into the arms of materialism and sometimes even maximalism.
3. Minimalism will be an uphill battle:
If you think minimalism is only about giving up on objects and things, the reality will feel like a sock in the stomach.
Objects are mere objects only till they grace the shelves of a store. The minute you bring them home, emotions and memories inevitably stat getting attached to these inanimate pieces.
So, when you try to give up these things, you also essentially have to let go of those memories and the emotional attachment, and that can be a very hard nut to crack.
4. There is no rule book to follow:
No matter who tells you what on this matter, the fact is that there is no cookie cutter definition of minimalism.
That being the case, there is also no set of fixed rules to follow. This can be both a curse and a boon. The good thing is that you get to tailor your minimalistic lifestyle to suit your needs, within reason of course.
The bad thing is that you can never be sure if what you are doing is enough or correct. For instance, people interpret a bit of frugality as a complete minimalistic transformation, which it isn’t.
But, as long as you live by the cardinal tenet of minimalism- “You will only own as much as you absolutely need and no more”, you should be fine and on the right path too.
5. Minimalism can be particularly hard for parents:
It is one thing to deny yourself the so-called luxuries of life but when it comes to the children in the household, it can be hard to explain the concept and benefits of minimalism to them. And it is even harder to deny them the objects of gratification they seek.
I mean, ponder over this – How do you convince your 5 year old this Christmas that he does not need that new fabulous toy/game/bicycle or anything else that he has been writing to Santa about?
Come to think of it, one of the most emotionally jarring aspects of minimalism is getting your family to follow in your minimalistic footsteps.
So, be prepared to face criticism and even a revolt from your loved ones. But, if you stick to your belief system and are patient (whatever you do, don’t lose your temper or your patience), at the least, you will be able to get your family to see things from your point of view and curtail their spending and their need to possess more than what they need.
6. You won’t be competing anymore:
Recently I read an article that discussed the psychological impact of social media and one observation that struck me was this – One of the psychologists said that people now need public verification of all that they experience and enjoy. He went so far as to say that now people are not sure if they enjoyed a vacation unless their followers rant and rave about how beautiful the place is or how lucky the vacationer is.
At first this observation may seem unrealistic but isn’t this what many of those challenges are about? You show off your clothes because it pleases you when people tell you how good you look, how expensive the dress is and so on.
In other words, it is us living our ‘mirror, mirror on the wall” moment. Now, this is what happens when you go minimalistic, you won’t have much to show. So, no more competition and no more adrenalin rush that you get from being the “fairest of all”.
Minimalism – The ugly side
1. Your quest to be minimalistic may take you straight into the arms of materialism:
I bet at some point you will hear about the minimalist who gave away all her expensive furniture and did up home anew in a minimalistic style.
You may also come across the minimalist, who donated her expensive clothes and bought herself just a few pairs of designer jeans and shirts.
Yes, that is a bit of an exaggeration but I am sure you get the point I am making here. If you think that you have to buy something to go minimalistic then it certainly isn’t minimalism that you are practicing. The idea here is to keep only as much as you absolutely need of what you already own; use it up entirely and then buy only as much as you absolutely need.
2. You could be walking down this road alone:
While you may find many who are happy to walk with you on an easy road, you will often find yourself alone on hilly paths with their jagged edges. Minimalism is no different! In fact, don’t be stunned if many of your friends are so unwelcoming of the idea that they shun both your minimalism and you.
Unfortunately, for those who find a support system in their friends, this can be a psychologically traumatizing experience which will leave them feeling off kilter.
Even if you are a strong-minded person, the change in the attitude of your friends, family, coworkers and other can be a very bitter pill to swallow. So, it is important that when you embark on this journey, you expect this outcome and be prepared for it with a contingency plan.
3. Minimalism is not the magic pill that will sort all your problems:
And last but not the least, a lot of people venture towards minimalism in the hopes that the lifestyle choice will make all their problems go away magically.
I am going to digress here and give you an example. You have probably seen or heard about the infamous “Catwoman” of NY. The billionaire’s wife who spent a lot of her alimony in plastic surgeries to look like a lion just because she thought doing so would win her the affection of her ex who was fond of the big cats
Of course that plan did not work out, and just like it, nor will minimalism if you expect it to solve all your financial, emotional, personal or professional woes. So, it is crucial to understand and accept minimalism for what it is, with all its pros and cons and its realistic impact on all facets of your life.
Finally, the most important question of the day – Should you adopt minimalism?
Nobody can answer that for you except YOU! But here are a few hard facts. Minimalism is not for everybody and everybody who has embarked on this journey has fallen of the track a few times. Also, if you choose minimalism, you will have to pass a lot of things that you liked and even loved in the past.
So, now that you know the pros and cons of minimalism, think over it carefully and evaluate your reason for choosing minimalism. It is imperative to not think of minimalism as a goal because if that is the way you feel, once you have achieved the goal, there will be little to hold you back on that path.
Minimalism is about personal growth, it’s a conscious decision and an intentional choice that you should make only if you feel that it can enrich your life and make you happier and more satisfied with what you have. If you are not sure, go for a test ride with minimalism by incorporating it only in one aspect of your life.
Remember, nobody is going to give you an award for the fastest transition to minimalism, so take your time allow yourself to completely register and fathom the effects of minimalism on that one aspect of your life. If the experience sits well with you, go ahead and take minimalism to another aspect of your life and so on till you reach the point where you are minimalistic all the time and with all aspects of life.