Minimalism – slowmamma style. Part 1

A poor person isn’t he who has little, but he who needs a lot.

I call myself a minimalist.  It is a term, I realize, that can mean many different things.  A hasty internet search suggests that it is a style preference – something about clean lines and well-placed objects.  While I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject, I’ve learned a lot about what minimalism means to me and over the years I’ve come to see it’s value in my life, even if the vast majority of my own lines happen to be decidedly messy.

I suspect that at least some of my minimalist tendencies are a familial legacy.  Growing up without a lot of resources, I was able to escape some of the rampant consumerism that has dictated so much of American life in the past few decades.  I had little choice but to appreciate my Christmas gift (almost always singular) and the rare and exciting occasions when a piece of clothing was purchased just for me (I had an older brother and cousins who provided the vast majority of my wardrobe). We celebrated birthdays with a simple family dinner and a cake, which was, to me, exciting enough. It’s only very recently that I am beginning to understand that, thanks in large part to the cultural tendencies of my modest immigrant family,  I may be among the fortunate few who choose minimalism through a gradual journey rather than a dramatic break.

But, economic background aside, I don’t see minimalism as being about things.  Not really.  To me, minimalism is about reducing the TIME that I spend on undertakings that are not important to me.  Sadly, it is true that so much of our time is spent on things.  We spend time to make money to afford things: a house, a car, clothes, etc.  And then we spend more time and more money to maintain those things.

And yet, I don’t think that the most important part of minimalism is the challenge of finding a way to live with less.  To me, the key is to discover the “things” that you want to keep in your life.  It is about finding out what you want to spend your time and resources on. Working to make room for those things becomes a necessary byproduct of their discovery.  So minimalism, to me, is all about identifying what really matters to you and then making as much space as you can for whatever that may be.  It’s about maximizing.

My life, quite honestly, is not all that streamlined. I have far more crap than I need.  And there are many things that interfere with my ability to pursue my priorities. It is, and always will be, a work in progress. But I am convinced that the journey is worthwhile.  And I think it could benefit from a little re-branding.  I think I’m going to call it “maximalism”, slowmamma style.

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6 thoughts on “Minimalism – slowmamma style. Part 1

  1. I read all the posts I missed and am now slowly leaving my Extremely Exciting Thoughts. This one is so close to home for me. I want to say thoughtful stuff, but should settle for random gibberish in the interests of time. Doing with very little is a core value to me, because it’s about appreciation and not taking for granted and being thoughtful about our footprint… And like you say, not focusing on things = more room for non-material matters, maximizing value by minimizing stuff, distractions… Yeah.

    (My kids are wonderfully non-acquisitive, which I attribute to not watching TV or being in school yet, but I recently looked through a catalogue with Bun Bun and she pointed at everything and said “I want that”. It was weeeeeird. Advertising is powerful stuff.)

  2. Your Extremely Exciting comments make my day!

    And yes. Advertising is intensely powerful stuff. Even though I can now identify the way that it affects me, I am still NOT immune! That’s why I do my best to stay the hell away.

  3. “…minimalism is about reducing the TIME that I spend on undertakings that are not important to me”

    YES. To me, it isn’t necessarily about getting rid of *things* (though, that is part of it) it is about shedding what doesn’t matter to make space for the things that do. And those things? Are not things.

  4. Why did it take me so long to come here again (again!)? I finally added you to my reader and I will be catching up on all the posts I missed in the last couple of months.

    I really like this way of looking at minimalism, prioritizing the things that are important by shedding the things that are not. I was just thinking the other day that I have gotten rid of enough things in the house that I CAN get it to a reasonable place (which frankly used to be impossible) and it never gets so bad that I feel panicky about it (though the general mess still bothers me) but I’m not a point yet where I feel like I’m spending the right amount of time on the house. It feels like ALL THE THINGS still take up too much of my time, which is a HUGE change in my attitude, because before it was about not being able to manage ALL THE THINGS, and now I can but just realize that I don’t want to be spending that much time straightening up ALL THE THINGS, because it keeps me from spending 30 minutes on my bed with a good book at the end of the day, and I’m just not okay with that anymore.

    So that is a big change. Maybe I need to focus on that…

    1. I’m glad that you are getting ALL THE things to a reasonable place. The point that I really want to make is that the end goal is to find the things that fill our basic needs so that we aren’t compelled to buy too much in the first place. When we feel content and confident in our lives, we aren’t lured by the promise of shiny new thing #1-100. Of course, I realize that that is no small feat. But I think it can be a helpful framework.

  5. Pingback: Minimalism – slowmamma style. Part 2 | Slowmamma

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