Why we can not win on 100 things minimalist race! (4 comments)
Being minimalist is “IN” things to do right now and seems to be around everywhere in past few months on blogosphere and news. Are you a minimalist or want be one? Everyone’s definition of minimalist is different and sure thing as minimalist can come in various colors, shapes and sizes. For example, one well known blogger claims to write minimalist blog, where one can clearly see, she is in to shopping, fashion, jewelry and pushing minimalist products, other famous blogger wants everyone to change to his way of minimalism and asked non-believers to unsubscribe his blog! Are they minimalist or not?, that I will let you decide. However, I will tell you one thing there is NO one size fit all solution for minimalism, we all can be minimalist in our own ways without judgment from others.
Although I do not call myself expert on minimalism, I grew up minimalist, as my parents raised us that way. I had 2 toys in my childhood, and my siblings and I shared room, books and sometimes used clothes too. Everything was reused, re-purposed or handmade, and somehow we hardly felt deprived as kids. Sometime after I moved out from my parent’s house, I had became a perfect consumerist, however, I have been on simplifying my life and getting rid of stuff for past 7 years slowly, even before being simple or minimalist was “cool” and “IN” thing.
With 2 small kids, preschooler and 1 year old and having a few consumerist minded family and friends has not been easiest, but that does not stop us from selling or donating items periodically to maintain normality and sanity at home. I may not be a minimalist in traditional sense, as we have too much stuff and crap at home, I like to call myself “rational minimalist” as Joshua Baker of Being minimalist have said.
When I first read “100 items minimalist list” (search goggle for the term) by well known bloggers such as Leo of Zen Habits and many other popular and upcoming bloggers, I was charged and inspired to reduce more items in household. The “100 things minimalist” movement has become more controversially popular as many bloggers joining in the movement and making it like a race to see who can have less items, as some are even boosting owning less than 50 personal items!! Original minimalist 100 things movement bloggers like Leo and others had no idea it will spread so fast and controversial. It has root in great intention to improve life with less and help your finance and save the earth at the same time so I am not surprised of its popularity.
Now, I think it has become a type of a race or competition of who can be “more” minimalist? That defeats the purpose as being minimalist means who can be “less”! It is not like comparing apples and oranges but like comparing apples and carrots!! really! Why do I think so? Let me tell and show you why it is silly, as like I said earlier, that minimalism comes in all shapes, sizes and colors and depends on where you are in your life journey and can not be compared together.
1. Infants and children
When babies are born, they are the truest minimalist ever in the whole world. All they need is few clothes, breast-milk or formula and lot of love and caring. We as a parents and relatives buy all things that we think babies need, such a stroller, swing, excersaucer, baby walker or any other toys. I know this well, as little P is happy exploring grass, stones and nature and does not care for his expensive fisher price toys that his uncles have bought for him. Now that he has learned to walk, all he want to practice walking and follow his big brother R around. It amazes him all day and does not tire him, he simply loves be held, cuddled and being talked to.
Until R turned 3, he was simplest kid I knew, whenever someone got him a present of toy, we will open up the box, and he would play with cardboard box, leaving playing toy behind. Now he knows some TV and movie characters and has his likes and dislikes. However, he is still happiest when he uses his imagination and draws beautiful things and imaginary people on paper, or on ground with chalk. I imagine many preschoolers you know, will be similar in a way, enjoying lot of creative and imaginative play if properly encouraged. Many toddlers, preschoolers also want simple things and they are happy and eager to learn new things.
I am hearing teen years are toughest as peer pressure increases to buy materialistic stuff and looking like popular and perceived cool kids from movies and TV! It even harder as we are living in consumer minded world, specially in USA and western world. Story of stuff goes further to prove it, how our consumerist ways are killing off natural world here and throughout the world.
2. Single Guys and Single Girls
Most of the 20 something guys will have less stuff need compared to 20 something girls. I know as I have been 20 something girl before, not so long ago. However this group of people would have least amount of items or stuff as we call it, why? Because, they are freshly starting out in life, with new college degree, new job or searching for a job. Maybe some of them might be started to live on their own recently or do not have much money saved up to buy big crazy materialistic things just yet.
I know this group, probably spends more on personal stuff and gadgets items such as ipods, blackberrys etc, compared to other high priced materialistic things. They may like to buy designer shoes, clothes, purses and looking good is important still. Hence, they may have less furniture in apartment or studio or at home. Does it make them minimalist? I am not so sure.
I know a friend in real life from my corporate days who claims to own only 48 items and very proud of it. Is he minimalist? I do not think so, as he lives in extended hotel room with rental furniture, rental car and rental household items. He eats out for every meals, so he does not own any kitchen or cooking items. Reason he says this lifestyle gives him freedom to live, work and travel as he wants. Technically he is right, he own only 48 items, rest 283 are rental items That is oxymoron for being minimalist in my eyes. What do you all think? I have told him so in face but he still insists that he is minimalist, and I am no judge to prove him right or wrong but I am entitled to my opinion just like he has.
3. Recently married and working on career/business people.
Now this group of people may have little more items compared to group 2, as they are now two people living together. However, I have seen many newly married late 20′s age group are so dedicated to get ahead in their career or in their business, they are hardly home. I have been there, until I decided to be stay at home mom, so I know this group of people well. They are ambitious and hard working people, who work 12 plus hours including commute time. They are mentally exhausted so they tend to eat out often and come home very late. They just come home to sleep only and leave in morning after getting ready. Weekends are no better for them, as sometimes they are working during weekends or out socializing so this group is hardly at home.
That might be the reason they may not have expensive furniture, bedding or even cooking items as they hardly cook or entertain at home. Their groceries, utilities expenses are almost minimum, because they are out all the time. Are they minimalist? In a way yes, but not really. This group may be spending more money on eating out, car fuel, and other entertainment type of stuff. That is not true minimalist.
4. Family with young kids
I am there right now, so I can talk about myself here. This group of people have a hard time being full time minimalist, as smaller the kids, bigger the toys and items they need and want. As kids gets older, they want expensive small things including money. My preschooler R does so many arts and craft projects that our house is filled with papers, wall drawings, door drawings and all. I recycle some papers, give some to grandparents but still maintaining toys, papers clutter is the hardest. We are waiting for both kids to grow up before repainting the walls
Other biggest problem with this group might be that we as a parents and relatives keep getting them new toys and new items, that means we have two big declutter events during Christmas and birthdays. For P and R, both of their birthdays are close to Christmas time, so during December to February, our house is overloaded with toys and gifts no matter how many times I tell uncles, grandparents not to buy anything, as I have talked about it before, please check out Celebrating Meaningful Birthdays.
We also have relatives, friends as a overnight guests at our place often, so we need to keep extra bedding, towels and extra big kitchen pots to cook at home for more people. We tend to have gathering more at home or potluck settings, compared to in eating out in restaurants like we used to. We are also using more groceries, utilities at home as we are home more during the day and night.
I am also doing a volunteering teaching at R’s preschool and we home school at home, so we have tons of educational books, science stuff at home and we do use most of it. Are we minimalist? No way, we have too much stuff, but we use 80% of the stuff we have often and that is not bad in my opinion.
I did not understand life with kids can become chaotic until I became a mom, so there are many single folks who will not know it either and insist on their way of minimalism, meaning, leaving in 1 hour to anywhere in 2 bags or less. Is that minimalism? Yes, but is it for everyone? No, it is not. We all can practice in our own ways.
5. Family with grown up kids (Empty Nesters)
This group of people can minimize and give away most material to kids or other charity and really concentrate on doing something for themselves as they have raised the kids, most of them may have married their kids off and if they have planed their retirement a little better, they can work only if they want to and travel or enjoy life.
One of our elderly neighbors are like that, they still keep some stuff for their grand kid’s visits but their own needs and wants are very little. They are happy spending time in their beautiful garden and always have gardening tips to share with me and Zenguy. My own parents are in a way like that, my mom likes to still keep things to give to her kids (us), but my dad has reduced his possessions to minimum. I imagine more simpler and minimalist folks would be it in this group.
As you see, we can not compare who is most minimalist or simple that easily. I know there are lot of generalization in this post and there will always be an exception case. If you think you are minimalist, then you are. Do not judge or look down on others just because they do not have 100 or less items or they are doing differently than you. I know I never will be 100 items person in near future, and that is fine. I think many people are like me, doing their part to simplify their life as much as possible.
The key thing is to use most items you have in your daily use, if you do then you are minimalist in my eyes, even if you have 1000 personal items. For example, shelters or hospitals has so many beds, linens and stuff, because it is needed, not because it is wanted. If you use the 80-90% items you poses you are minimalist, and my friend who own 48 items only, is not true minimalist, because he is renting rest of the items instead owning them.
This is very long article, but I wanted to share my own thoughts on this whole issue which is something I am passionate about. A very few are true minimalist like Mohandas Gandhi, who actually had less than 10 items when he passed away. That is true minimalism, without the hype!
Where do you fall in minimalist movement? I sure would like here other perspective on it. Thanks for reading.
Note: I am not judging or telling anyone how to be minimalist nor it is criticism. I just simply wanted to share my thoughts on it that we all can co-exist and do our own style of simplicity and minimalism. Every little bit helps us financially and environment! And that is a good thing (In Martha Stewart’s style!).
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