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The minimalism lifestyle continues to gain in popularity as a rejection of the voice of modern culture that says one’s happiness is dependent on the accumulation of things… that busy is better, and that it is ok to allow technology or devices to run your life. There are positive points that come from the minimalist movement, but unfortunately, it goes a bit too far in some areas and at times in the complete wrong direction.
What is Minimalism
There are a lot of opinions out there regarding what exactly minimalism is. Many minimalist will say that it is more of an internal mindset than it is about any of the external actions. I can appreciate this, but much of what I hear and read from people getting started with minimalism, it often begins or becomes more about the actions.
Some of the popular themes that are associated with the minimalist lifestyle include:
- Simplifying most areas of your life
- Getting rid of your stuff (some even go to the extreme of limiting the number of belongings they will hold onto)
- Living without attachment to things (sentimental or otherwise)
- Living lightly in general
- Holding onto only the possessions that bring you joy
Again, this is a hard concept to adequately define because there are so many different ideas out there. If you are curious to learn more about the movement, I recommend observing some minimalists and how they do things. There are a number of documentaries, books, articles, and entire blogs devoted to minimalism.
Why Should You Avoid Minimalism?
As mentioned above, minimalism was brought about as a counter-initiative to combat materialism. It sounds like a great idea, because when most of us really think about it, idolizing our stuff just isn’t a good thing.
Pride and Suffering for No Real Reason
The problem is that in attempt to do away with materialism, the focus often ends up remaining on stuff. Here are a few examples to illustrate how this ends up happening with a minimalist lifestyle:
- People get so obsessed with purging and pairing down that it becomes a competition on who can live with the least amount of things. They regularly count their possessions, and the lower numbers are touted as a status symbol among other minimalists.
- Some put themselves through a process of anguish and morning as they part with their book collection, old letters, photo albums or other sentimental objects – all for the sake of minimizing their belongings.
Does it Spark Joy
The concept of only holding onto possessions that bring you joy is a whole other issue in itself, that once again leaves the focus on your stuff. This teaching comes from a book by Marie Kondo titled “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.”
In determining “does this spark joy?” Marie Kondo stresses the importance of holding an object in your hands when answering this question because you are not able to feel the energy and connect with the object unless you are physically touching it.
She then goes on to humanize objects… Noting that folding over your socks is cruel because they have such a hard job when on your feet and need a good rest, in the proper position when they are waiting for you in your drawer. She mentions that you should not stack clothes because it is just not right to force the bottom articles to bear the weight of everything else on top of it. She also stresses the importance of thanking your belongings for their service to you (oh, but don’t worry – if speaking out loud to your belongings makes you uncomfortable, you are welcome to do so silently, and it will have the same effect).
I could go on, but I’ll spare you… the point being, once again, the focus is still on stuff, just in the opposite direction of materialism.
Taking it Too Far
A comparison here would be eating disorders and going from one extreme of obesity (materialism) to the other extreme of anorexia (minimalism). You will note that both of these two eating disorders are focused on an obsession with food (or lack thereof it). Materialism compared to minimalism do the same thing with the obsession with stuff.
Hurting Our Children
This is the main reason why I immediately ran away from the idea of minimalism from the beginning. There is a bit of publicity around the idea of taking away all your kids toys in order to solve the issue of them not taking care of their stuff.
I do agree that this is a great first step, but it also misses an essential part of the process of parenting. Our job is to train our children in all ways possible so that they can thrive in the circumstances they live in. The act of just taking all of our children’s toys away (or most of them) does not teach them how to manage anything outside of simplicity.
When they go out into the world and decide not to adopt the minimalist lifestyle, they will be at a great disadvantage, because you have not taught them the skills necessary to be a good steward of what they have been gifted.
Often times, when a generation chooses to parent with extreme concepts, the following generation tends to overcorrect and go to the other extreme.
On the Flip Side
So, we’ve covered the idea that there are aspects of minimalism that can be damaging, but so is materialism. Rather than adopting an extreme belief or moving too far in either direction, I’d like to cover some concepts that are important and that can lead to an intentional and fulfilling life.
When it comes to your stuff…
- Make sure that everything has a home. If you don’t have enough space in your house to follow this rule, you can either get creative with storage space, rent a storage unit, or purge and get rid of some of your stuff. Check out this post on 5 Steps to Keeping a Tidy Home or this post on How to Be an Organized Mom.
- It is a good idea to hold onto things that you will most likely never use. Especially when there is no sentimental value, and it would not break the bank to replace if necessary.
- Don’t stress yourself out over getting rid of things. “Stuff” does not deserve this much attention, one way or another. If you are ready to pitch something, great. If not, as long as it is not hindering resources, keep it for now.
- Understand that possessions do not bring happiness. If you find yourself becoming dependent, obsessed, or owned by your belongings (or lack of belongings), this is something that should be addressed.
- Possessions are a gift from God. We should be thankful for what we have, with the understanding that it could all be taken from us in an instant. The goal is to be at a place where our love of life, our joy, and relationship with God or others would not be affected either way.
- We should be good stewards of the gifts we have been given and live open-handedly. These are two traits we also need to be modeling and teaching our children.
- Overspending and debt are not healthy or biblical habits when it comes to acquiring things.
- Having nice things is ok. Buying for quality over quantity can improve how you treat your belongings and also end up saving you money in the long run.
- Always practice contentment no matter how little or how much you have.
So that covers a few reasons why you should avoid the minimalist lifestyle and consider adopting a few alternative concepts to live an intentional and fulfilling life.
I’m sure there are many different opinions on this idea of minimalism, and I’d love to hear yours. Is this something that you have chosen to take on as a family, or are you staying away from the concept entirely?