Is minimalism a secret cult?
In recent years, minimalism has become a growing trend. A quick online search reveals hundreds of blogs, videos, books, and websites dedicated to minimalism. And it makes sense.
In a world of materialistic consumption, it is somewhat expected to have a lifestyle that opposes it.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly the issue with some minimalists out there.
They lost sight of what a minimalistic lifestyle should be. Instead of speaking about the values of minimalism, they take a radical approach against consumerism.
I recently found this BuzzFeed video titled ‘I tried minimalism for a week’.
I felt disturbed just by reading this video’s title. The lady who made the video wanted to try minimalism as if it was a diet.
I decided to watch the video. The beginning went like this:
“Minimalism is a lifestyle movement of living with less material items… There’s this whole community of people living this way”
Portraying minimalism as a movement makes it seem like a cult.
Just like veganism, minimalism is a way of life a person chooses based on his or her own values. It’s not some cool trend.
Having said that, it’s important to raise awareness and introduce others to the concept of minimalism. What they to do about it is up to them, though.
Fortunately, the video ends with an important message: “What I learned this week is that there’s no right way to live a ‘minimalist’ lifestyle.”
The true meaning of minimalism
“Minimalism is not about deprivation. It comes down to what is adding value to one’s life. For everyone it’s different and it’s always changing.”
That is how The Minimalists, who appeared in the above video, simply yet accurately defined minimalism. And they carried on:
“Decluttering is merely the first step. The real purpose of minimalism has to do with the benefits we experience once we’re on the other side of the decluttering.”
Minimalism is not about donating all your possessions nor having your whole life packed in a single bag. Yes, for some it might be this ‘Into The Wild’ sort of life, but there isn’t one formula that works for everyone.
Living a minimalistic lifestyle is to live with your own enough.
It’s about paying for and having only items which are valuable to you.
Or as one of The Minimalists said: “get really clear on why you’re doing it. I think we all understand the how-to.”
Those who know how I live my life sometimes ask me: “Saar, are you a minimalist?” to which I reply: “No.”
Because, to be honest, the definition doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is what makes it seem like a trendy movement in the first place.
Your money or your life?
A few years ago, I read a book called ‘Your Money or Your Life’ by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Published in 1992, the objective of this book is: ‘Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence’.
And that is exactly what Dominguez and Robin were set to do. In nine detailed steps, they shared their own experiences, as well as others’ who have followed these steps.
It was the first and only book I read about money. I usually don’t resonate with ‘how to’ books, but I loved this one.
As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but feel that I already went through most steps on my own. So why did I keep reading it, you might wonder?
First of all, it provided me with new insights. Some steps were new to me. Secondly, reading about the steps I already completed on my own, gave me
a huge boost of confidence. It’s empowering to know that there are others who I can share my journey with.
But don’t take my word for it. Here is what two people you probably heard of had to say about this bestseller:
“The best book on money period.” -Grant, Millenial Money
“This is a wonderful book. It can really change your life.” -Oprah
What is enough?
as much or as many as required
Sounds rather vague, isn’t it?
That’s exactly the beauty of enough. It’s subjective. It is up to the individual to decide what is their “required”. Enough is not necessarily living with close to nothing. Enough is a delicate balance you have to find on your own.
Take a minute to look at the image below:
In their book, Dominguez and Robin define ‘enough’ with the above fulfillment curve.
We see how there’s only a little money needed for our survival. With just a bit more money spent, we get our comforts.
Now, look closely. Can you spot the peak of the curve? That peak is enough.
It is the most crucial part of the curve. After that, with more luxuries we consume, the fulfillment curve starts turning against us.
“If you aren’t in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret.” ~Jim Carrey
Our fulfillment is far more valuable than money.
We all agree on that, yet we still chase money more than fulfillment. Why?
Because we can only become aware of our fulfillment when we allow ourselves to feel. To be present and connect with our inner-selves. To face our emotions — the happy and the sad ones, our excitements, and our fears.
I learned that the more I practice my awareness the clearer my values become. This exact clarity is required for defining enough.
Once we know the “why” we can begin with the “how”.
Find your own enough
Here is how I found my enough —
First, I began by defining my survival.
I figured that the only things I need for my survival is food and shelter.
I started calculating: what is the cheapest rent I can possibly find? Which basic foods do I need?
I felt reassured to know that I need very little money for my survival.
There are many (easy) ways of creating that sum of money and therefore —
I know that my survival is secured.
Next, I had to define what my comforts are. What gives me meaning.
It wasn’t easy. I had to be honest and leave peer pressure behind. What first came to mind was having musical instruments and a way to listen to music.
Comfort is that extra step beyond survival. It’s different for everyone so take the time to find what it is for you. Calculate how much your comforts should cost you. Bare in mind, it shouldn’t cost much more money than your survival.
Finally, I started digging deep into my enough.
It’s a challenging task. From my experience, it requires practice. And as you make a progress in life, you will need to do slight adjustments, too.
What I do is simple. I examine my expenses, one by one, and evaluate them.
I ask myself this simple question:
Would my fulfillment grow if I increase or decrease this X expense?
Again, honesty and clarity are essential. Remember why you are doing this.
You might find that you spend too much on renting a big house, but not enough on art. Maybe like my friend, Roger, you’ll realize that you eat out often, but don’t actually enjoy it.
I decided to increase the money I spent on music memberships and live music. I realized that I was paying too much rent, living in a place that did not provide me with any fulfillment, so I actually reduced my rent by moving out.
Minimalism = Enough
“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” ~Steve Jobs
Finding and living up to your enough is true minimalism. It’s the confidence in the “why” and the practice of the “how”.
It’s the understanding that anything beyond my enough is a waste of money and thus — a waste of my time.
Chasing money without realizing it’s just a tool, is toxic. It makes us consume more and work more on repeat. And for no real reason.
Once you find your enough you no longer work for money. You work for your enough. Only for what is valuable to you.
And with a clear picture of my enough, I looked through all my stuff. I sorted it by items that did and did not contribute to my fulfillment. For you, it might be that extra pair of shoes you never wear anymore. A dress you don’t even like. A couch you barely sit on.
You’ll probably end up with many items you can donate or sell and as importantly — find valuable items you forgot about.
Finally, minimalism is not an end product. It’s a life choice. A tool to help you focus on yourself. To give you the freedom to find what fulfills you.
When we value our fulfillment — we value our enough.
Then, and only then we truly value ourselves.
Okay, enough said!
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you want to do 👏