Consider this my response to the 100-thing minimalist debate started one week ago. If you are not involved enough in the minimalist blogging niche to follow the debate, you have two choices. First, you can get caught up by reading a few articles: Minimalism Rethunk, How to Find Your Minimalist Edget. Or alternatively, you can skip the background and just continue reading. Either way, I wrote this post so that you could follow along.
I have withheld my thoughts on purpose (other than one comment and one tweet). I’m a family guy who enjoys living a simple, minimalist lifestyle. I have never sought out to become a leader or a voice in the minimalist movement. Secondly, Dru Pagliassotti may have been a bit blind-sided by the ensuing conversation (that began two months later) and was yet to further clarify her thoughts concerning the new developments. And since she wrote a post the following day commending this blog specifically on its approach to rational minimalism (Rules for Stuff)… I thought it would be courteous and worthwhile to allow her to speak first.
However, over the past few days, I have received numerous emails from readers and fellow bloggers asking for my comment on the topic. My hope is that this public comment will slow the number of private conversations that I have been having. Secondly, because Dru posted a thoughtful response two days ago, I feel ready enough to make some comments. Thirdly, I have something to say that I hope will encourage us to move on.
With that background, I would like to make some comments on How to Keep the Minimalist Movement Attractive to the Masses. But before I do, I should mention a few assumptions that my comments are based upon:
- The Minimalist Movement is growing on the web and in society. When I began blogging about minimalism two years ago, there were very few bloggers focusing on the niche. But today, new blogs dedicated to minimalism are sprouting up every day. This is an indication of society as a whole – minimalist practices are on the rise.
- Minimalism will never go mainstream. Despite its growth, minimalism is always going to be a subculture. Society, consumerism, and advertisements have so fed the natural selfish tendencies of humanity… minimalism will never go mainstream. Environmentalism can go mainstream… industries can sell Green. Simplicity has gone mainstream… industries can sell simplicity. But minimalism, by its very definition, can not be marketed to a world built on consumerism.
- Minimalism should seek to attract the masses. I have been questioned if minimalism is something that should seek to grow itself or if it is better to keep the “true and faithful” small so that it does not become watered-down. I vote we throw the doors wide open and invite in as many willing people as possible! There are minimalism benefits available to those who choose it and numerous benefits for society as a whole. It would be downright selfish to keep it to ourselves.
So then, to turn the page on this debate and move forward, how do we keep the minimalist movement attractive to the masses? I have identified some important keys to remember as we move forward and listed them below (more or less).
- More communication of the benefits. At every turn, in every post, and in every conversation mention how the minimalist lifestyle has benefited your life. People outside the movement don’t know what they are missing. They are seeking a free, happy, stress-free life just like all of us. They are just looking in the wrong places. They are hoping that their next purchase will bring it to them. Unfortunately, it only takes them further away. Speak of the benefits of minimalism. Often.
- More inspiration. Less competition. I realize that competition and inspiration are not mutually exclusive. And in many cases, competition may result in inspiration. However, it would be a more profitable pay-off to use your limited energy to inspire others (inside and outside the minimalist movement) rather than compete against them. Let’s remain a team… unified around a common goal.
- More principles. Less rules. When I began the journey towards minimalism, I read two articles: A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home and How to Become a Minimalist. Both Leo and Nicole offered a succinct, simple approach to minimalism. The principles they laid out in those articles was all I needed. The rest is history (and splattered throughout the first 18 months of this blog). They did not offer rules or countless formulas. They just offered simple principles to get me started. People will always achieve more following principles than obeying rules.
- More contextualization of minimalism. Minimalism is always going to look different from one person to another. A family of four in the suburbs is always going to experience it differently than a young couple living in the city. That’s okay. People should be allowed to adopt the principles to their lifestyle and find a rational minimalism, not extreme minimalism, that works for them.
- More encouragement. More challenge. But mostly, more patience. There are times when we need to encourage one another. At other times, we need to challenge one another to find a new edge of minimalism. There is a time and place for both (this is where the benefit of the 100-thing challenge enters). But the one remaining constant is the need for patience. Patience with each other as we try to figure out minimalism in our own lives. And patience with those outside the movement who have yet to walk through the doors. Remember, a small step is still a step.
- Less Over thinking. I am in favor of more blogs dedicated to the practice of minimalism. I am in favor of more and more minimalists sharing their experiences and inviting others to participate. But I am against over thinking minimalism and making a simpler lifestyle more complex. The danger of more and more blogs on the topic is that more and more words are needed to full the pages and posts. And I’ll freely confess that I am just as guilty as anyone else in trying to brainstorm a new slant on minimalism just so that I have something fresh for my readers. Offer new ideas. But don’t over think minimalism. Keep it simple and sweet.
- Less harsh words, please. They are meant to communicate passion and emotion. Unfortunately, they just turn off most of your readers. Trust me, there are better adjectives to use.
- No profiteering. I am not against using inspiration to make income. There are numerous e-books that have been published about living a minimalist life (A Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life, The Art of Being Minimalist, Car-Free Living). I even wrote one myself that I am quite proud of (Simplify) and have begun the initial outline for my second (due out this fall). I am not against making an income for your work. If you have invested time, energy, and effort to produce something that people want, you should be compensated. However, let’s be very careful. As the minimalist movement grows, there are going to be people who jump in just to make a dollar. Their motives will be selfish. And if the future voices of minimalism are in it for financial gain, there will be no winners.
I invite you to help me swing open the doors as wide as possible. If we don’t keep minimalism attractive, we are doing a great disservice to everyone we seek to inspire. Let’s represent it proudly.
And hey, I’d love to have you follow me on twitter.