What is minimalism (for me)?

Minimalism has been trending a lot lately.

To me, it’s a philosophy. A philosophy of life. And as such, there are a lot of different ways to experience it — as many as people, indeed.

I feel there may be two different mainstreams — in a very simplified way — : an aesthetic one and a “thingy” one.

This morning I’ve been watching a documentary about the topic — more “thingy”-oriented — titled Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and somehow I found myself disappointed. To me, this documentary wasn’t about minimalism itself, but about people with shopping problems and empty lives which, together, made an awful cocktail.

These people were constantly talking about decluttering their wardrobes and maybe their living rooms. Less shirts, less dresses, less jackets, less shoes; no TV, no coffee table. You know, things like that. They all agreed that they had too many stuff that somehow prevented them from being in touch with the important things. That stuff somehow sucked their lives out of them. That they had a lot of things but they weren’t happy at all. And I think I should reformulate this sentence and say “they had a lot of things and they weren’t happy”.

I’ll explain myself. It seems to me that the whole point of this documentary is that things make you unhappy. But I think this is not true. This is true for the people chosen for the documentary and I think minimalism can help you find happiness if your life is tied around buying, owning and throwing away stuff. But to me — and I’m sure that to many other people too — , minimalism is not about that. Or at least, not only about that. I know a lot of people to whom minimalism is no more than a style in photography or in dressing that they see a lot in Instagram but still are happy and live full lives — and they even own a TV set and check their emails everyday!

I’m aware that if you create a documentary you focus on your point of view and tell it to the world in a specific way; your way. But to me it wasn’t realistic — and realism is something every documentary should be in search of. But this one isn’t; it doesn’t offer the opposite view, or simply a different view. It’s all the same. And I think it’s trying to transmit some kind of universal truth that I don’t feel identified to.

For me, minimalism — in the thingy sense — is owning what you need. Nothing more, nothing less. And it includes the “sentimental need”. I mean, I’m not wearing my grandmother’s collars but of course I’m keeping them forever; I’m not using my forty notebooks but damn, I love them, I wrote a lot in them and I’m definitely keeping them. But above everything else, to me, minimalism is not something to freak out about. If one day I find myself in want of a beautiful shirt and I already have a few that make their role perfectly but I still want to buy it, I will — you know, if I have the money. But I won’t freak out, I won’t blame myself for being a terrible minimalist because I think it goes further than that. A philosophy of life should be something that makes you happy, not something that makes you worry.

Lately I’ve been reading about the topic on the internet, and it’s sad how some self-claimed minimalists are basing their advices on “throw away all your stuff, you don’t need it, stuff is bad; stuff keeps you away from people, stuff won’t let you see the important things of life; if you need stuff, ask it borrowed from your friends, it’ll get you both closer”. I feel it’s a bit hypocritical and I feel it goes further than that. One should talk about what minimalism is to him/her, but not create a whole dogmatic religion around it. I think we all have a lot of that already.

To sum up, my point is: if you’re interested in minimalism, read about it, play with it, discover it at your own pace, keep it if you like it and throw it away if you don’t.