Chapter III: Minimalism Is a Double-edged Sword
“Minimalism is downright harmful to you, your ambition and our business.” ~ Peter Shallard
Pundits state that minimalism is more than living with less and radically reducing the amount of things you purchase and own. It is freeing you from modern “keeping up with the Jones’” attitude, and continually trying to acquire more than you can possibly use. Freeing yourself from possessions comes down to living from a cardboard box, or a home with little in the way of décor. Your life is seeking experiences over objects.
Minimalism is looking for that elusive feel-good anti-commercialism vibe. However, as you dig deeper into minimalism, the philosophy can become dangerous and destructive. Seeking to have less is a reverse snobbery attitude that can ruin your relationships, family life, and if you are a business owner, it can ruin your business.
Minimalism is Toxic to Businesses
The minimalistic philosophy specifies that you get rid of stuff that cause clutter, stress, and distress. Perhaps you believe your marketing program needs revamping and de-cluttering. You begin to skimp on marketing. You don’t bring in customers, and you can’t earn the profits you need to stay in businesses. Minimizing on what you think are useless marketing strategies will put your business in the red.
When employing minimalist tactics to your business, maybe you should get rid of those perks that lift up employee morale. These perks are expensive and take away from the simplicity of your company. Your employees quickly lose their job satisfaction and loss of job satisfaction will break your business. Low morale and loss of perks can translate into reduced productivity, higher health care costs, and high turnover. But you have lower employee costs and your business looks much more streamlined.
Minimalist business practices mean you might operate unethically to streamline your inventory. You no longer go into work as often, and you begin selling expired products, refuse to update, and stop carrying enough inventory. You do other unacceptable things that will tarnish your company’s reputation. All streamlining and de-cluttering are in the name of minimalism.
You begin to become very lazy, and this is one of the worst habits you can develop. Laziness affects motivation and your willingness to meet deadlines. Productivity suffers, and you are not able to meet clients’ demands. In fact, you don’t care. You feel your clients are too materialistic, and they need to adopt a minimalist attitude.
You do not take the risks that you need to move your company beyond your competition.
As a minimalist, you refuse to reinvest. You keep the profits you have made and hoard them. You do not reinvest in your organization; you do not fix what is broken, and you let vital equipment fall into disrepair. An unsuccessful business is what can happen if you try and employ minimalist tactics to your business.
Minimalism can be Lethal to Your Relationships
If you are determined to be a minimalist, you need to invest time in certain relationships. Determine who is worthy of your time, and who you consider to be lethal. The entire precept of minimalism is to de-clutter your life including your mind, relationships, and emotions. Minimalists say that the process of becoming spare requires a change in perceptive and determining what people contribute to you quality of life.
When considering minimalism and relationships you need to determine how to be generous and kind to others but at the same time distance yourself from those you don’t want to be a big part of your life. It is easy to develop a connection with a coworker or roommate or someone who is always there, but these may not be the people who had value to your life.
Everyone has had a “friend” or someone who doesn’t deserve to be in your lives. They drain us of emotion, and are high maintenance. There is always someone in your life who isn’t supportive and who takes and takes without giving back to the relationship. Those who contribute very little and prevent you from growing needs to be decluttered from your lives.
In the world of minimalism people and relationships are the most important part of the plan. If minimalism does not help the relationships and causes more harm than good, it needs to be used in a different way.
When developing a minimalist attitude and need to decrease the tensions try these simple ways:
Change yourself first. Be positive and focus on things that you are yours fist. Forget their stuff or stuff that is both of yours.
Explain your way of thinking. Discuss how it will benefit your relationship. For example, “When I get rid of all my computer games I will have many extra hours just for us. Might work if you are a game-aholic!
Time changes people in different ways. Let the other person take the time they need to be okay with getting rid of their stuff.
Make it a team effort. If you are trying to minimize an entire family, it needs to be a team effort.
If your relationship or friendship is suffering because of your minimalist attitude, the relationship should win.
If acquaintances react negatively to your new lifestyle, then they can be de-cluttered from your life.
Try to explain your reasoning in a very clear and concise manner. List out the pros and cons of your new lifestyle. Chances are others are considering the same lifestyle or live a minimalist life and you don’t even know it.
Minimalism claims that you must own less stuff. Sounds good, but why do you own stuff in the first place? Owning stuff is awesome. From the beginning of time, people have sought to own stuff – tools, fire, animal skins for clothing, etc. It is a natural tendency to create better tools for living. Where would we be without our ancestors seeking to own stuff? “This means we’ve all evolved from the proto-consumers who had the best tools. Our ancestors loved their stuff!” (Shallard, 2015). Ask yourself, “would you be comfortable living in a home without stuff?”
Getting rid of stuff has its advantages, and minimalism stresses that there are three areas that will profit from getting rid of stuff:
Environment. By reducing consumer habits, there will be less impact on the planet’s resources. Man’s footprint will be reduced by you buying less, manufacturers making less, valuable resources being left in the ground, and poverty increasing.
To provide the environment that minimalist long to promote, consumerism seeks to find new ways to keep the environment clean while developing materials and efficient energy. People are not going to cut down on owning stuff, and there will always be demands on the environment. The key is conservation and finding ways to safely dispose of waste. Minimalism by its very philosophy demands you declutter which adds to the landfills.
Financial. If you consume less, you don’t need as much money. You won’t need to work as hard earning money and will have time for other pleasures. You won’t however, have the money for movies, quality food, and travel.
The economy depends on the law of supply and demand. When consumer demand is high and corporations produce huge quantities of products, jobs are created and the economy flourishes. Not purchasing products can have a devastating effect on the economy. Without goods to purchase people be unable to purchase goods, have choices, pay their rent, or buy food.
Seeking more and trying to live a commercial life keeps the economy growing. Perhaps if consumers had adopted a minimalist mindset decades ago, the economy would be in a less wasteful shape, and there would be no need to de-clutter lives.
Learning, working, innovating, and wisely using the earth’s resources gives us the opportunity to learn more, to create, and to explore. Minimalism equals stagnate learning and stifling creativity.
Aesthetic. Reducing physical possessions will provide you with a clean and manageable living space. You can clean your home in under an hour. Now, what do you do?
Where are you going to dispose of your unwanted possessions? Decluttering equals landfills that are environmentally poor options. You load up your garbage can with unwanted items, take them to the curb, wait for garbage day and watch your excess stuff head off to the landfill.
Minimalism also claims that its purpose is not to dispose of beautiful or user things. Minimalism supposedly prompts you to determine what is of value and what isn’t. It urges you to get rid of those things that are useless in your life. Where do these unwanted items go? To the Goodwill so others can use them, to the landfill to get them out of the way, or to the incinerator to cause more air pollution.
Minimalists state, “If something is available in a shop, it has been ‘permitted’ and is therefore unlikely to be worth owning. Subscribing to libraries and tinkering with free hobbies make us rich. Owning things makes us financially, spatially, intellectually and spiritually poor” (Wringham, 2015). What a scary premise. Are we all spiritually poor because there is consumption, hoarding, purchasing, and re-consuming?
Commercialism is the manufacturing and consumption of “stuff” that is geared toward personal usage, methods, aims and free enterprise. It is intended to generate profits. Materialism and commercialism to some people are the successes and progress you achieve; the highest values in your life.
Minimalists claim that commercialism is a question of belief. It is a simple idea that focuses on material things as opposed to the spiritual or intellectual. You live in a world surrounded by having and holding possessions. It is claimed that you become distracted from intellectual pursuits by material things, and yet you continual to invent, innovate and produce measurable goods. This is a cycle of creativity, production, and usage that would be lost if we tried to live a minimalistic life.
There is an old saying that money can’t buy happiness, but money gives you the opportunity to provide your family with experiences.
Commercialism or holding possessions is not as terrible as the minimalists claim. Commercialism has definite redeeming values since the world’s economy is based on physical goods.
Materialism is holding possessions for physical comfort, but having stuff is meaningful. Like it or not, finding meaning in stuff is important, and finding stuff you love is important. Citizens find creation through possessions. Mankind has always been on a quest to find and create meaningful objects. Possessing and creating is what inspires human achievements. The human mindset always quests for stuff - magic rings, beautiful artwork, the Golden Fleece, and so much more. Without materialism, there would be no creativity.
We thrive in a materialist society. Children learn and flourish when they live in a steady home with their possessions around them. Their possessions give them psychological security. Having things around provides a comfort zone. You can rest and recharge your batteries and energies when you own physical items that are significant to you.
Of course, materialism, as well as commercialism, has problems. Obsession with stuff tends to make consumers hoarders. It forces you to seek continually for something better, more fulfilling, and emotionally satisfying. You look for instant gratification in purchasing and holding stuff. Perhaps the clue to keeping materialism from taking over your life is to determine when enough is enough. That is not minimalism, however, but practicality.
We live in a world surrounded by composed stuff. C.S. Lewis once said, “God ... likes matter. He invented it.” It is natural to become distracted from spiritual pursuits by seeking to have possessions, but it is equally as spiritual to use your material possessions to obtain happiness for yourself and for others (AllAboutPhilosophy, 2015).
There is nothing wrong with having and holding possessions. The Bible is full of stories of those who own much. How do minimalists reconcile God’s riches with a desire to live a minimalist lifestyle? “God’s home, the Temple, was adorned with gold beyond imagination” (Ps50:10).
Minimalism vs Materialism
Becoming a minimalist and living an intentional lifestyle can be difficult. Before committing your stuff to the garbage, you need to determine why this counter-cultural is for you. Think through the impact that minimalism will have on your family and their lifestyle before you begin on a journey of randomly de-cluttering.
As an example, one young husband decided that his small family would become minimalists. His wife disagreed with him. She had no problem with decluttering or organizing, but she put her foot down on doing away with family valuables, hobbies, and expensive children’s toys. The young husband insisted that minimalism would save their lives. The family could not come to a consensus of how to de-clutter, what to discard, and which lifestyle was best. The family split and went their minimalist and materialistic ways.
There are those who have become minimalists because of constant blogs, newsletters, suggestions, and arguments. One author finally determined that the trend to be a minimalist was the right path for her.
The author decided to declutter her life. She gritted her teeth and cleaned out her possesses to the point where her house was very sparse and very minimal. After finishing this task of de-cluttering, she looked around and realized that minimalism was not who she was. She wanted to be surrounded by things; stuff that moved her to create. Tabletops piled with books and candles, mantles filled with pictures and treasures, and a china closet with all the wonderful keepsakes from her childhood. These were the things that defined who she was. She frantically began searching for her lost goods and let possessions back into her life. Her home is no longer clutter free but filled with wonderful stuff that defines who she is (Roth, 2011).
Minimalism is more than just throwing away possessions and doing away with clutter. It is a journey that could just turn you into a miserable miser.
You must first decide within yourself why you have been keeping stuff. Discovering the reasons for minimalism is an emotional process. It could be very painful. As in the previous example, stuff defines you.
Minimalism is bringing to the forefront the things you most value and getting rid of those things that are nonessential. Prioritize your essential values and write them down. You will probably come to the conclusion you are much happier with possessions than without them.
The world was intended to produce, promote and invent material possessions. These inventions were intended for the good of society. By giving away all your possessions and refusing to acquire things, you are acting totally selfish. You deny invention, production, and employment to others who need to create, invent, and produce.
Once you have set on the path of minimalism, you will rock friendships and relationships. Minimalism will become a topic of conversation and people will initially be intrigued by your new lifestyle. They will ask you how you got to this point of giving away possessions. You will definitely enjoy speaking about the positive impact this decision has made on your life, and you will try to inflict this lifestyle on others. People will not be impressed; they will be irritated.
Think about becoming a minimalist. If you find that really want this lifestyle, then by all means become a minimalist. If you want to be a citizen who follows trends, avoid trying to convince those who love their possessions to take on your new lifestyle.
Materialism and owning possessions are not a complete source of happiness, but they aren’t a cause of unhappiness. When the man on his deathbed says, “I wish I spent more time with my family instead of working so hard,” is not claiming that material possessions are unimportant. He is expressing that his obsessions with material things was wrong. Money and material stuff are quite neutral. Stuff is a very powerful tool in achieving happiness if you take care not to let accumulating wealth hurt those you love.
Take another example of a family with a cabin. Every year they take a long vacation to their cabin. They form great memories and are happy. They get to know each other and learn to play together. The cabin does not make them happy, but the experiences shared at the cabin do. Their trick was not letting work get in the way. It took extra sacrifices to build their cabin, but family relationships were not one of their sacrifices. They worked together.
Most people love their possessions – their families, homes, cars, and careers. Where would we be without our summer bbq on the patio or going out to eat or to the movies? Personally, having things makes most people happy. The statement, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy marshmallows which are sort of the same thing,” is tongue-in-cheek, but it is real. Money can buy stuff that makes one happy.
Minimalism can drive you Crazy
Let’s be honest; minimalism can drive you crazy. Following the full philosophy of minimalism means you have no compulsion to plan for your future. You give away all your belongings, save nothing for retirement and end up living in a cheap apartment and in a very poor area of town. Your books, music, and art are things of the past. Being a minimalist will not give you the joy in taking a road trip or planning for a happy life. You have no car, little money, and no way to travel.
There would be nothing to help you feel secure. You would essentially live a bohemian lifestyle with very little on the walls of your home to prove that you really existed.
Minimalism makes you complacent. You own less therefore you do less. You look to find happiness with very little and this in turn forces you to strive less to upgrade your life. Finding happiness in having little sounds intriguing, but what you are doing is checking out of the race of life, and stifling ambition. You no longer want to win the race; you just move as simply as you can through the years.
Minimalism is squandering your opportunities. You have the ability to have anything you want, but you throw it away in the name of minimalism. Life is meaningless unless you have little. Those who are minimalist due to circumstances think you are crazy for actively shunning all of your opportunities. Those with little would gladly give you their poor and meaningless life to have the opportunities to own something significant.
Minimalism encourages short-term thinking, a loss of investing, and an eventual destruction of the economy. Minimalists claim that possessions should not define who you are. But that is exactly what possessions do; they define you. Are you known as the guy with the awesome car? That is a possession and a definition. Are you an artist with a studio full of incredible art? Or are you are the corporate ladder climber; that is your definition, and who you are. Living a minimalist lifestyle would demand that you get rid of your car and your art or even give up your high-powered job. Go ahead and give up these opportunities and things. You are now without your identity.
Balance Minimalism with Materialism/Commercialism
A true minimalist counts their possessions. They are honest about what they own. They believe you only need a few things you frequently use. This lack of possessions, say minimalists, will ultimately give you an appreciation of what you do have.
Not really. In fact, trying to get rid of possessions will ultimately throw you into a competition with other minimalists. You try to get rid of more than they do. It becomes a cycle of who has less.
Try literally counting everything you own. Counting includes the clocks in your home, your toothbrush, photos, the trash under the sink and the salt and pepper shakers. Count your cooking utensils and the rack that holds your cleaning supplies Count your furniture. Group your underwear, clothing, hangers, and food. Count your books. Just keep going and you will fill up pages and pages of things you own. Now take this huge list and start paring it down.
Throw out duplicate items, the things you found that you no longer use. Determine what you will need and what you will give or throw away. Throwing out stuff and trying to determine what is valuable is a great exercise. It is also highly time-consuming, and depressing.
You can be a “minimalist” without throwing everything away. Live within your means and learn to live with possessions that can shield you from economic shocks and instability. Appreciate what you do have and strive to make your life better by consolidating and decluttering. There are always possessions you don’t need and can get rid of to make your life richer. Determining what is needed and what is not, is not minimalist living; it is being practical.
As minimalism grows in popularity, more and more people are turning to minimalism. They have bought into the philosophy that focusing less on possessions and more on experiences will bring happiness. It also is a philosophy that leads to the mediocre. “What is the least I can do and still get by?” Use that statement as a tool in the core parts of your lives. You have now succeeded in becoming boring, unfulfilled, and unexceptional. Minimalism is a mindset and can quickly become a habit the swings out of control. It is a principle that is never ending. You are always trying to do the least you can do to get by. “What is the least I can do and still get to heaven?” “What is the least I can do to keep my job?” (Fallible, 2014).)
Minimalism breeds a lack of passion. It is a character disease and the enemy of excellence. “Minimalism is a cancer on society,” Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life.
Procrastination is minimalism at its worst. For example if you are not disciplined and trying to get things done, you make up for it by doing the very least you can do. You cut corners and get though using easy and minimalist ways. Being a minimalist and doing only the basics or wanting only the basics brings on the mindset of wanting the fruits of a job or position, but avoiding the work.
Minimalism can be bad for your health. Take for example the minimalist who has very little furniture, but what he does have is polished to such a high gleam that it resembles a show home. The kitchen is so spotless you could operate in it. Such cleanliness and minimalism discourage normal human activity. If you cannot act like a normal human being in your own home, then abnormal behavior takes over. Mildly obsessive or even compulsive obsessive behavior will not allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Minimalist decorating believes that your furniture must remain shop-worthy, and floors touched by only clean bare feet. Don’t let this happen to your home, scuffs and stains are signs of a life embraced and enjoyed. Trying to be minimalist so you do not have to continually clean and pick up causes anxiety (Carver, 2011).
Cons of Minimalism
How you approach your lifestyle will determine the best way for you to live. There are awesome aspects to minimalism, but there are just as many downsides.
Get rid of your television and you have freed up several hours a day. Now you have more time to spend on iPad games, doing nothing productive, or wandering the streets looking for other simple people.
You will have few houseguests. Your home is too quiet with no radio or television, you have nowhere for them to sleep, and you have little food in the house.
Get rid of stuff and declutter. However, the downside is becoming obsessed with counting your stuff and trying to subtract it from your life. You become almost manic in your lack of possessions. You search for more things to get rid of and finally end up getting rid of your happy life.
Who wants to live in a boring house? When you reduce your stuff to the bare essentials, you have nothing to make you happy, pleased, or passionate.
As you live with less, you gain more confidence in experiences and living with less. The downside to this philosophy is the arrogance you develop. You live with less and look down on others who work very hard to have possessions.
Slow down, get rid of the cell phone, find a way to limit activities, and become less stressed. Easy to say, but how do you tell your children that they can no longer play soccer, baseball or take swimming lessons. What will you replace these activities with? Mindlessly trying to remove more possessions from your home?
People will think you are about to commit suicide. This is a shocking reason, but when you quickly get rid of stuff, people think the worst.
You will be blamed for the unemployment rate rising because have less stuff, you buy less stuff, and therefore you cause people to lose their jobs. This is the Law of Unintended Consequences. (This law is the unintended consequences caused by the action of people. It is maintained that each individual seeking only his own gain or lack of “gain is led by an invisible hand to promote an end that was no part of his intention” (Norton, 2014).
Everyone you know will tell you to hold on to things “just in case.” They you’re your to spot throwing away stuff. You feel just the opposite. You want to get rid of stuff and their ideas cause you anxiety.
If everyone cut their consumption, the economy would all apart. The jobless rate would rise. More people would be unable to buy food or pay their rents and mortgages. The economy should serve us, but we make the economy what it is. Without commercialism, there would be no economy.
If everyone created and no one consumed, creativity would quickly come to a standstill. Minimalism as well as materialism hinges on the law of supply and demand. Demand for stuff is high right now so more stuff must be created and produced, creating more jobs.
Minimalism states that stuff needs to be thrown out. Where does it go? Most goes to landfills, some is reused and other stuff is recycled. Consumers, and this includes minimalists, are lazy. They toss garbage into the trash bin rather than consciously recycling. The trash goes to the landfill and causes environmental damages.
Running children to ball games, swimming lessons and play dates are family’s entertainment. What is more awesome than cheering for your Little League Team or being a part of a swim meet? Would you deny your children these experiences so you can live a minimalist life? Your pace of life has slowed down considerably since you have cut the excess from your life. It is less stressful for you, but everyone else in your family is miserable. You really need to get real and understand that life is not about being simple. Life is complicated, full of activity, and fulfilling.
Duplicity exists in everyone’s world. You have one life that is surrounded by friends and family, another life that is dependent on your co-workers, and another life that is your solitary life. You play a different role depending on your where you are at the moment. Minimalism stresses taking all these parts of your life out of the picture. You lose the variety that makes you, you.
People always become someone different as circumstances change. You need to learn how to be compatible. Being a minimalist prevents situational changes. As a minimalist, you are required to be the same no matter where you are. You have no opportunity to be different, learn and grow. Minimalism demands you get rid of duplicity, but now you are a one-dimensional person.
Minimalism does call out for one to be simpler and quieter, and that is good. Do slow down, consume less, but enjoy more. Continue, however, chasing the dream ring that is just out of reach. Striving, chasing, and searching for dreams gives you personality and excitement. Most people realize that life is not movies, books, or celebrity magazines. It is simple and touchable. Becoming a minimalist, however, means you let go of your questing for something better and become flat and boring.
Minimalism is completely achievable. If you desire few possessions in your life, then discard them. Just remember that unless you totally rid your world of possessions, thoughts and emotions you will never be a true minimalist. You will just be confused.