Is Minimalism Just Another Way Stuff Rules our Lives?

Most of this stuff will be going bu-bye! But we still won’t qualify as minimalists

Minimalist is a word used frequently in the Tiny and Small House Movement. We take it to mean someone who doesn’t have more possessions than they absolutely need. Some go as far as defining it by saying you can have no more than 100 possessions.

This past weekend, I saw a link to a blog post in my Facebook feed entitled, The Problem with Minimalism.

The writer defines the problems as:

  • Minimalism is for the rich who can simply use smaller (high priced) digital gadgets in favor of a backpack full of items (such as an iPad that can do the work of a notebook, address book, cheaper/older laptop, etc.)
  • Minimalism still makes stuff the focus of your life.

I’m not sure I totally agree with his first point, but can see his argument.

On his second point, I do believe that trying to cut your life down to fewer than 100 items or whatever your definition of minimalism is, does still make stuff the focus of your life.

I see it in the same vein as someone who tries to define the Tiny/Small House Movement in square footage.

At Living Large, I’ve always defined it not in the terms of whether or not you have 500 square feet or 120 square feet, but in terms of what each person/family needs and is comfortable living in.

Living Large is more about the state of mind. Are you happy where you’re at? Are you living the life you love with the people/pets/things you love? Are you living a sustainable life with the planet and environment in mind? It’s not exactly Living Large if you feel like you’re in a box at 120 square feet – or if you feel overwhelmed by space in 500.

When I wrote the article for Mother Earth News, “Making the Most of our Little House in the Big Woods,” someone commented on the article that we really weren’t living the spirit of the movement because we had two out buildings and I have a studio/guest house.

They compared our lifestyle of those living in tiny apartments in New York City, where people have the square footage of their apartments, but no other room to build for additional storage.

Another reader defended our lifestyle by saying people who live on rural land, as we do, have always had outbuildings for the stuff they need to live.

We have to have outbuildings to live as sustainably as possible. She’s right, we need vehicles to get us the 20 minutes into town for work and supplies, we need shelter for the wood that we heat with in the winter, equipment to push snow in case we or one of our neighbors need out of their homes during a snow. My husband is a mechanic, he needs tools.

And I didn’t feel like I was living very large working from our 10 x 10 bedroom for a year, with no storage for documents I ethically and legally have to keep for certain periods of time.

Actually, I felt as if I was crammed into an airplane seat each day trying to work on a tiny space that wasn’t covered in papers and equipment.

It isn’t fair, but rather judgmental, for anyone to compare our lifestyle with an urban one. I feel the same about the 100 item rule in the minimalist movement.

I’m happy for anyone who has fewer than xx number of possessions, if that’s what makes them happy and feel as though they are Living Large.

The author of the above referenced blog post thinks there is a happy medium to minimalism. I believe that as well.

Right now, I still have negative feelings when I walk into one of our out buildings, which is still crowded with mostly junk from our former lives. I get a sense of dread just looking at it and it is ruling our lives, that’s a sign we have too much stuff. We don’t have room to do anything else with that space.

We’re working on that. I hope to feel better about it by this fall.

But once I do fall cleaning does that mean we will be down to 100 items or less? Nope.

But it does mean that I still will feel we are Living Large, not based on anyone else’s definition, but of our own.

Do you think counting your possessions makes people happier, or is it just another way for stuff to rule our lives?  

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4 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    Agree, agree, agree. I’m still working on paring down.
    Unfortunately, the something beautiful sometimes means an unusual rock or leaf.
    I have donated many books to the local library, clothes & excess kitchen items to the local clothes cupboard. That way someone else can use them now and my home is less full of stuff.

    • Kerri says:

      We’re donating a lot of stuff too, Mary. And it makes us feel good to know that someone else can now use and wants an item again!

  2. Pamela says:

    Really good point.

    Instead of minimalism, I like William Morris’s suggestion: “Have nothing in your house that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

    It’s about meaning. It’s not about the amount of stuff.