Minimalism is the lifestyle equivalent of a gluten free diet. Prepare to get skinny. Like, reaaaaal skinny. If you’re a minimalist — a true minimalist — there are some rules you must follow: you must drive a Smart Car (it’s a good thing you’re skinny now, right?), eat one meal of tasteless boiled wheat per day (seasoned only with the salt of your tears), live in a cardboard box (recycled cardboard, that is), poop in the woods and wipe your minimalist bottom with nature’s green leaves.
We’re being 100% serious. As serious as Heath Ledger’s Joker and Harry Potter’s godfather. That’s pretty Sirius. Obviously this is satirical — which is, by the way, an odd word that makes me think of satyrs (the little goat people with horns) approving of musicians’ lyrics.
So what is minimalism? There’s not an easy way to define it; there are many brands of minimalism, each with their own unique flavor. Let’s start by defining what minimalism is certainly not.
- Getting rid of your things…for the sake of getting rid of your things.
- A religion. A cult. A community of brainwashed hippies that smell bad and never shower and pray to magical unicorns.
- A means to an end.
- Your ticket to heaven.
- An excuse to let yourself go.
Simplifying your life by dumping the excess stuff is an aspect of minimalism. But too often we focus on the process and not the point. If jettisoning your things was the reason we practice this lifestyle, we would all be homeless, smell bad, never shower, and pray to magical unicorns (see notes above).
Even though there are different flavors of minimalism, they share some fundamental ingredients. Allow me to list a few of them.
- Dream. BIG.
- Ditch distractions
- Create > consume
Accept the facts
- Challenge the facts
- Embrace mistakes
- Finish what you start
- Do more. Doubt less
- Live a life unsubscribed
- Experiment with change
We live in a goal driven society. The emphasis always boils down to numbers — the amount of zeroes we can tack onto the end of any given number. Unfortunately, the number we typically add zeroes to in excess are the things we can’t afford to lose: our time, our relationships, our passions. We let ZEROs dominate the things that matter most.
0 time for our dreams. Our family. Our friends.
0 words written for that dusty novel.
0 basketball shots practiced.
0 steps taken.
0 lbs. lost.
Consequently we feel like zeroes when we should feel like kings.
Yesterday I asked a room full of people how many of them felt accomplished. Most of them raised their hands. Then I asked them to do something wild. Close your eyes, and use your imagination. I know, crazy, right?
Go back to when you were just a child. Not a teen, but a child. Nine or ten perhaps. Put yourself in the shoes of ten-year-old you. Back in those beat up Converse. Sporting pigtails or a bowl-cut or some other disastrous do. What was the question you were asked most?
Yeah, you got it: What do you want to be when you grow up? And most of us said bizarre things like firefighter or nurse or lawyer or actor — Jedi if you were as cool as we were back in the day. Ask the same roomful of adults if they became what they once dared to dream of becoming — firefighter? (sales manager), nurse? (business executive), actor? (office worker), Jedi? (accountant). These are none of the things we aspired to be.
So what happened? Did our passions change? Did we become interested in other equally exciting vocations as Jedi Knight or Disco King?
Or did we simply give up on our dreams?
At the cube mind, we don’t practice minimalism to get rid of our things; we practice minimalism to toss the shit — the distractions — that keep us comfortable, because comfort is the enemy of growth. That doesn’t mean we encourage being in a constant state of agony. We simply acknowledge that discomfort can force us into action.
Don’t listen to the myth that less stuff means more happy — it doesn’t work like that. Our particular brand of minimalism isn’t some utopian dream come to fruition; it’s a state of mild discomfort.
Minimalism is like taking a cold shower. It’s not scalding hot — it won’t burn you — but it’s definitely not the comfortable, slightly steamy medium we usually prefer. What’s the difference between a warm shower and a cold one? Well, you’re more likely to get out faster when the water temperature isn’t comfortable. This is what our flavor of minimalism feels like. A cold shower. It might sting for a second, but then you acclimate to it, and eventually it propels you into pushing off into warmer shores.