My husband often tells a story about how his cat bit him near his eye when he was a little boy. Sad, right? Well, kind of... that is until later in the story when you find out that he loved this little cat so much that he would squeeze it until the cat, who was clearly being tortured and couldn’t breathe, bit him one day.
His love for the cat was unintentionally suffocating it. Now granted, he was three-years-old and had no idea what he was doing. Let’s all forgive the guy.
Why is this story relevant? I’m getting to the punchline…
Like with any new thing or concept that we truly love, it seems even as adults we take it to the extreme. Just look at what we did to pumpkin spice or poor Damn Daniel. We have a habit of squeezing something so tightly that it turns around and bites us in the face. Okay, so maybe not literally but you get the picture?
Minimalism started out as such a good thing. But somewhere along the way the love that we once had for this concept turned into an obsession. It became less about what minimalism stood for and more about the word “minimal.” We started using it as an excuse to judge others, including ourselves, for every clothing purchase or thing we owned. It became a race to own nothing and an alternative vice.
The purpose of minimalism
If we look back at the purpose of minimalism, it wasn’t necessarily to be minimal. Although yes, that was and still is a valid side-effect. Instead, it was intended to help us pursue a very personal, purpose-driven life, one where we focused not on things but on what’s important to us as individuals—so we could find meaning, joy, and freedom.
The hard work isn’t in getting rid of a bunch of junk in the basement (though that is a lot of work). The work is in figuring out what it is that we truly value. If our focus is only on having less things, one could argue that we are in no better place than when we started becoming minimalists, which brings me to the crux of this story.
Minimalism is sometimes just too much.
Growing up, I would often hear my mom say “everything in moderation”, normally after eating a few peanut M&Ms. I have never truly understood that phrase until now. So, to clear up any confusion, maybe it’s time we change the word minimalism to something less fuzzy?
Let’s be reasonable instead.
Using our reason in our lives to decide what is valuable and what is excessive is the very thing that minimalism has often come to ignore. Practicing "reasonablism" isn't actually all that different from what practicing minimalism once was. However, you can be too focused on being minimal, but it's much harder to be too focused on being reasonable.
I love clothing, but I don't think owning more of it helps me live a more meaningful life or makes me anymore stylish. But I also don’t think it’s reasonable to own only 15 items of clothing or live in a tiny house if you have a family of 7.
Let's try buying less — knowing that happiness cannot be bought — and discovering more so we can figure out what we truly want in this life.
Sound reasonable enough? I think so.