Minimalism for the rest of us

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
~Oscar Wilde

That minimalism video got me to thinking. A lot of the very popular minimalist bloggers are of the commercial variety. They’re not people who blog, they are Bloggers. It’s their job, and without an ever-increasingly minimalist lifestyle, they run out of shit to talk about. Thus the ridiculous things they do to hang on to their audience. It’s not enough to minimize possessions and the square footage of their homes, they also feel the need to minimize their food, their email, and their online friends lists. I can’t imagine the bland things commercial minimalists eat…garlic, onion, salt, pepper, oh shit that’s four and still just the flavor enhancers. Very few of my meals are in the five to ten ingredient range. Unless we’re not counting individual spices as ingredients for some reason.

Extreme minimalism does have it’s place…it can show someone that most of what we live with is unnecessary bullshit. Clean air, clean water, good food, something to keep us warm, and a roof over our heads and we live quite well. The rest is just stuff. Using extreme minimalism to teach oneself this is a useful tool. But, as I’ve said before, it’s merely a tool.

But there’s a distinct difference between owning only one towel to keep your shit under an arbitrary limit, and owning a couple towels so your friends have something to dry with when they come over. I’ve tried the one towel thing and it hasn’t worked out well for me. When your friends start bringing more than a change of clothes and a pillow over to your apartment you have problems. Not that my bathroom has room for an easily accessible set of guest towels right now, but one day there will be. And I’ll be sad because it means I don’t have a roommate and I’m paying the full amount of rent on my own. Ouch.

Extreme minimalism is a nice ideal, but when it starts cutting into your life it needs to go, in my opinion. Eventually you must realize that at some point you’re going to need more than a couple pair of pants and some v-neck shirts. I could live quite happily with a pair of shoes for work, a pair for home, and nothing but t-shirts and jeans, but I’ve got weddings to attend this year, and that kind of crap isn’t going to cut it. It may be a mere social obligation, but sooner or later dressing up is going to be necessary. Board shorts at a funeral is generally considered impolite. Men are lucky enough in this regard that renting tuxedos is easy. Dress rentals are a little more difficult. Of course, I could just opt to minimize my obligations and not go, but I don’t want to be a friendless destitute who doesn’t do anything because everything has to be suited to my minimalist lifestyle.

I’d rather live comfortably semi-minimalist. I pare down to what I really need, have a few things that are creature comforts, a few more things that make social events (be they weddings or couch-crashings) go smoothly. True minimalists must also remember to minimalize minimalism.

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3 Responses to “Minimalism for the rest of us”

  1. Like anything, it’s a process of finding the right balance. Thank you for the reminder that less isn’t always more, especially in extremes.

  2. […] Greer begins one branch of the post by responding to a post by Fox at Tiny Ouroboros, and it strikes me that he misreads her point there. Fox is not “denouncing the idea” […]

  3. In an effort to be an extreme minimalist, I wanted to try the one dress project where you have to wear only one dress for a whole year. The idea seems pretty amazing but then it would have been impractical. Am I supposed to wear the same dress when I go mountaineering with my friends? How about if I get too drunk to wash my clothes for the next day? Stuff like that. They all sound good on paper but applying them in real life, nah.

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