What if minimalism and simplicity are about more than how things look?
In my last post I wrote about how I understood the difficulty of organisation and of letting go. In this post I want to expand a little on what I mean by minimalism and why the image often presented on social media, especially Instagram, is not that helpful.
I think that when most people hear the word minimalism a certain image is conjured up. Grey or white stylish interiors with empty spaces and the occasional splash of colour from a green plant or painting. Maybe a few state of the art gadgets neatly positioned (normally Apple) and a note pad or pen alongside. This image is meant to convey simplicity, ease, peace, balance, order and beauty.
But what if minimalism and simplicity are about more than how things look? What if minimalism and simplicity are less about the physical and more about the relationship we have with the physical.
So, let me explain myself a little. I think that much of the recent movement toward simplicity and minimalism (in the West) has come about as a reaction against unconscious over consumption. There are numerous articles, books and studies that have been written on the damage to our mental and physical health from a society that consumes too much. (Let alone the environmental impact). Affluenza by Oliver James and Stuffocation by James Wallman are two recent examples. Both are worth a read if you want to see a more detailed discussion of this and the data that backs up the arguments too.
The remedy that these thinkers propose is that if we as individuals are a little more conscious and intentional in our consumption and attend to all aspects of our life (not just the material and economic) we may find we gain a little more perspective and balance.
I think that this is a compelling argument. (I would like to explore the history of this idea and its roots in asceticism another day, but to say for now that turning our gaze from the material world to an inner experience is not new).
So, if the remedy is to take a broad lens to our lives rather than a narrow focus lens. If it is to consider the relationship with our personal environment, and what we consider is needed rather than what we are compelled to buy by sophisticated marketing, then the idea of a curated and stylised white and grey minimalist home is missing the point completely. Arrange your home, your space, your personal environment however you want to, but make that conscious decision for yourself rather than what another person has told you looks right.
Organised, simple and minimal doesn’t mean you have to get your home ready for an Instagram photo shoot. It might be a nice secondary benefit that it looks really slick, but I believe the benefits are far more important than the surface layer.
What I mean is that if you take the time to really consider what you want to spend your time doing. I mean really think about it and draw some conclusions about your life goals and what you want to achieve, then take a look around you in your personal environment, you may notice something. You may notice that there is a lot of stuff around you that in no way helps you, it might actually be hindering you.
You may notice that it is not so much the things that are important but what you are going to do with them, the experiences and the emotions that you will feel participating in the experiences. It is therefore in my opinion not the whiteness of your walls or how neat the laptop is on the desk but what you are going to experience.
Minimalism is about realising what you can do without, what is holding us back, and focusing on the essential. To work this out on your own may be easy for you. Or it might be difficult. I support people one to one working through their external environment in parallel with their internal environment to help them focus on what is important for them. If you feel stuck, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org