A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about my recent interest in minimalist lifestyles. While I want to reiterate that I do not consider myself to be a minimalist by any stretch, I’ve found a simple lifestyle with less material possessions to be attractive. Now as my awareness and interest in minimalism has increased, I’ve spent more time reading about it on blogs like The Minimalists. Reading through these kinds of materials, I’ve begun to see one common and glaring absence in the minimalist worldview that I thought would be worth writing about today.
Reallocating or Reducing?
Many self-proclaimed minimalists espouse their simple lifestyles for the financial freedom it brings or the intellectual and relational capital it creates. While extra space in one’s schedule, budget, or mind is a tremendous blessing, I believe that pursuing that space solely out of selfish ambition misses the point of simple living entirely. If your goal is to have more time to invest into yourself or to have more money to purchase nicer meals or better experiences, you’re not really changing your life at all. While your resources maybe reallocated, the focus of your life remains squarely on yourself. You’re not consuming less and giving more, you’re just changing what you consume.
In my opinion, the primary objective of simplifying one’s life should be to increase one’s capacity to give–time, resources, etc.–to other people. While one certainly can and should benefit intrinsically from a minimalist lifestyle, one will almost assuredly be disappointed when they find out that simply changing what you consume isn’t a silver bullet for happiness.
Minimalists Are Rich
It is also worth noting that many minimalists are highly educated, high-income earners. Thus they have a larger internal locus of control, feeling that they are not bound by a given lifestyle but can change at any point in time. Furthermore they can farm out the responsibilities of ownership to others easily. Regular meals at restaurants, heavy utilization of transportation services, and memberships to clubs or recreational facilities are luxuries that are out of reach for most people. Instead most people have to own equipment to store, prepare, and cook meals. They need their own recreational equipment. For many, owning a vehicle is made a necessity based on the costs of life without one. All of that’s to say that not everyone can workout at LA Fitness every morning, get an Uber whenever they need to go somewhere, and eat dinner at a new, trendy fusion restaurant each night.
So the question I pose to anyone hyped up on the minimalist lifestyle movement is this: what is your core motivation? If you truly want to free up your life to give more of it away, then well done. You get it. If you just want to change what you consume without adjusting the volume, then perhaps you ought to reconsider what it truly means to simplify.