What Minimalists Can Learn From Maximalists

On the nature of want and desire

Since my blogs already cover what one can learn from Minimalism, I thought I’d take a break from the usual flow and get a view from the other seat.

I first read of the term “Maximalist” from Fumio Sasaki, whose book largely inspired me to adopt minimizing. It can be found on sale here.

It describes someone who, like what it sounds like, lives as an exact opposite of a Minimalist, i.e. a Hoarder.

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Of course, I’m not putting down anyone who lives or would like to live such a lifestyle; it’s merely as an example that stands against the minimalist ethos — that one needs the least to survive — although like myself, most minimalists speak of a time when they themselves could be called hoarders.

After all, a change had to come from somewhere and no one wakes up one day and decides to throw away their stuff.

Having gone through that huge transition, a minimalist would naturally be wary of returning to their old consuming ways; indeed, I myself have forgotten what it was like buying junk I knew I didn’t need.

And so we arrive at this juncture where we ponder about whether if there is at all a need to return to our previous lifestyles.

I think it can all be summarized into one key word that will aid us on both sides of the spectrum of having the least, and having the most.

Denial

The most important thing minimalists commit to is having nothing above what they consider essential to their life.

Which means it stands above the bar of survival on the hierarchy of needs; there should be enough for our fulfillment as well.

Hardcore minimalists own little more than a fridge, a form of bedding, a wardrobe, along with some form of electronic device to stay in touch with the world —and to them, even the necessity of these can be disputed.

Although we can admire their commitment, that’s a little extreme.

For example, I still own a (good) bed and end table.

In my opinion, anything that can’t be cut down should be optimized with the highest quality. A mattress is the best example; as a minimalist, you shouldn’t skint on a very good bed.

Anything below that which would satisfy, is denying ourselves of that fulfillment. If you’re considering minimalism, that would be a good measure for what you can get rid of.

For once we deny, we end up craving. When we suppress something, we also inadvertently become obsessed about it.


There is a balance between what a maximalist craves versus what a minimalist needs, and that golden ratio serves to highlight a sort of enlightenment.

Denial is a good way to keep ourselves in check — Should we ever feel this strong emotion of Denial in our life, that would be our indicator that perhaps we shouldn’t do without the things that sate it.

Empowerment

The very reason most minimalists began their journey is not of financial reasons or seeking abstinence, although that was a natural effect.

There was a quiet liberation when I first threw away piles of junk by virtue of not having the guilt of being a slob.

And that’s the best part here; you should feel empowered rather than regretful, otherwise it’s an exercise in futility.

If you think about it, a lot of our burdens are tied to our possessions, or rather the notion of our possessions. Our items remind us of our debts and chores. They require maintenance and upkeep of cleaning.

But if you deny yourself any of these feelings, you also tie yourself to the other extreme of having nothing to care for.

I believe humans intrinsically have a need to look after objects or others in order to fulfill ourselves.

A good analogy for that need is our children: having kids that we can care for is rewarding if you’re inclined to, but too many children and the situation becomes a liability.

Like the mattress example above, the reward that stemmed from Maximalism is that you end up with less crappy items and more quality ones.

The Iris Ohyama Airy Mattress has been a staple among Japanese minimalists. Credit: Monotaro.sg.

We shouldn’t be too caught up with having an empty space to sit and meditate; It’s really about quality of life more than anything.