Minimalism is a great tool that can fast and easily make our lives tailored to us. It’s a beautiful and cheerful path that I’m on for more than five years and I don’t want to change it for any other. Today I want to point out three dangers that can lead minimalists out of their balanced and beneficial way to some other way of… lack. Beware minimalism? No. Beware misunderstanding it.
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Most rules that I’ll write about are described in books about simplicity. For example in Greg McKeown book Essentialism, in which he teaches readers to know our needs, values and priorities and to refuse that other people take too much of our time or attention.
So let’s start.
Dangers of misunderstood minimalism
1. Killing chances and possibilities.
Know your priorities.
Learn to say “no” without explaining yourself.
You probably know such sayings which aim is to focus on what you want to achieve.
Saying yes to everything is of course stupid. It makes you do what other want. It makes your mind occupied with what others think is important… for them. But equally stupid is saying always no.
Yes, it’s easy to have simplistic rules like I always say no, I never commute by car, I never buy in a supermarket. It has some sense but setting such radically simple rules is often childish. The world is not black and white. And this is why it’s good to have rules, forcing you to take care about yourself and about your priorities but with being at the same time open. Open to some of the offers or ideas you get. Open to evaluate them before rejecting.
Rejecting everything can stop or unnecessarily slow down your personal growth.
So set your boundaries and protect what is only yours, like your time, but remain open to people, their offers and ideas. Be also open to your own new ideas that you couldn’t have put on your list of priorities when you were writing it in the past.
2. Killing creativity.
Keep only what you use. (me)
or: Keep only what you enjoy. (Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
or: Keep only what adds value to your life. (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors of Minimalism. Live a Meaningful Life)
And get rid of the rest.
These are the simple rules of minimalism. Simple, easy. But sometimes too simple. So simple that they can limit us.
For years I kept throwing out of my life things that I didn’t use. It gave me many benefits like less cleaning, more free time, calmer mind.
But recently I recognise that I’m choosing to keep some things that aren’t so necessary and which I may never use in the future. For example my notes, my writing, texts in draft, ideas. After my notebooks is full, I may never look into it back. But maybe somewhen I’ll have time not only to read but also to do things that were only ideas. Maybe I’ll come back to this notebook when I’ll feel stuck in my life, empty, with no ideas what to do to go further. I feel good with having such a supply base.
Also Facebook, Pinterest and other beautiful distractions can be sources of new ideas which will enrich what we do in our lives. Some people create right from their minds. But I think for most of us it’s easier and faster to be inspired or to connect already existing things to get new quality.
3. Killing relationships.
Say no to invitations for events you don’t want to take part in.
If you prefer to stay in your armchair, wrapped in a blanket and read a book or play with your kids – do it, don’t accept invitations, don’t answer phones.
Don’t use social media, check your email once a week and answer phone only between this and that hour.
Have you heard similar advice? It’s not stupid. But again: it’s very simplistic.
Sometimes I wrote here about limiting time spent staring at our screens (1, 2). You know that it’s important. Using no social media or checking email very rarely is for me an experiment. A tool that I implement for a period of time to observe my impulses, emotions and real needs connected to those programs or devices.
But for most of us today taking such an attitude to smartphone and computer uses into our everyday lives wouldn’t work. I defend and justify spending so much time with our devices – it is ok, even needed today.
Today people connect, interact and talk on social media, on email and though messages or sending each other photos. You could write letters with a pen and ink using beautiful stationery and send them by post, but who would you be in your community? Someone interesting, someone appreciated, even admired. Yes. But your life probably wouldn’t work as good as others in areas like inviting each other to parties or for a coffee, searching for advice or other contact that needs fast answer.
Should we beware minimalism?
No. But it’s good not to misunderstand it.
It’s like eat fruits doesn’t mean eat only fruits nor eat fruits all the time.
Simple and slow life is not allowing everything (every information and trend) to pour into our life.
Simple and slow life is choosing and using things and information we want to have in our lives and giving up useless and needless information, clutter, commitments.