Monday, January 31, 2011
Minimalism: Nature, Nurture, or Choice?
What leads people to living with less?
I think everyone has a bit of minimalist in them by nature due to their own personal approach to life and interests. I'm frequently surprised when I talk to some of my friends & discover hidden minimalist tendencies. One guy friend doesn't own a single CD or mp3; he's good listening to the radio. Another friend owns two pairs of jeans & hasn't gone shopping in 3-4 years. In certain respects, they're minimalists & don't even realize it (which makes me smile really). Life just happened & it didn't result in acquiring stuff in those areas of life, maybe because those areas of life just aren't on their radar.
Everyone can probably pinpoint some of these things. I'm naturally a minimalist when it comes to purses, books, jewelry, movies, magazines, sporting equipment, & hobbies I lost interest in. That stuff doesn't grab my attention & demand to be collected. There are other areas of life though that somehow explode into crazy amounts of stuff to be contended with. I'm not a natural minimalist when it comes to cooking stuff, musical instruments, cleaning supplies & swimsuits.
Other people shape our thoughts and attitudes on stuff as well. Here's a small portion of my 'people & stuff' history. The people we grew up with and hang out with shape how we view stuff, although the nurture factor can branch many ways. For example, if your family & friends are used to bonding by shopping, you might end up buying more stuff too. However, if the shopping trips often ended in hate & discontent, you might be more hesitant to head to the mall.
The people directly in our living situation also greatly affect stuff. The more stuff other people have, the less room exists for my stuff. Perk of living with people with lots of stuff- borrowing!!!
And then there's the free-will part. This is the light-bulb that happens when we're looking for the thing we knew we put somewhere around here, but we can't find it due to everything else in the way. It's the feeling of claustrophobia by being surrounded by stuff, especially stuff you never really liked in the first place. It's also the hardcore reality when the credit card statement comes or the job is lost or the unexpected happens.
Choice is probably most often the clincher for true minimalists since it's generally contrary to societal norms to live with less. Everyone has their own reasons for choosing to live with less: finances, going green, simplification, pent-up anger, wanting open space, etc. Regardless of initial intent, for most the choice is opting to kill the desire to accumulate stuff.
Side Note: I would love to meet a purely natural minimalist some day, someone who genuinely hasn't been driven by stuff or experienced the great purge because they didn't have to. I think I'm adding that to "My List of Life Goals I Probably Have No Control Over."