If you know me, then you know that for quite some time, I have called myself a minimalist. I’ve been into decluttering for most of my highschool years and even went to see The Minimalists, the “founders” of the movement, speak. But I’ve been thinking more deeply lately. I have heard some viewpoints that make a lot of sense, and have reconsidered my stance on minimalism. Without further ado, here are the reasons I would no longer call myself a minimalist:
1. It has become a religion.
I have encountered many people within the minimalist “movement” who believe that once they own 100 things, all their life problems will magically be solved. It has turned into some sort of quest for enlightenment. Over time, I have realized that minimizing does absolutely nothing to fix my broken human nature. I do not want to send a message to those who read my blog or hear about me that anything other than Jesus can transform their lives. I am a Christian, and that is the only identity that will ever truly change me. Courtney Carver, a proponent of minimalism, often describes how she puts her hands on her heart, trying to listen to what it says. I don’t know about you, but my heart is pretty darn unreliable and self-interested most of the time. I’m not interested in faux-spiritualism or vague moral superiority.
2. It fosters a lack of commitment.
Although I thought I loved the book Essential, a collection of essays by The Minimalists, rereading it has shown parts that I could never agree with. I’ll show you what I mean with this quote on relationships: “If you’re unable to change the relationship, end it. This is difficult, but it applies to any relationship: family, friends, lovers, co-workers, acquaintances. If someone is only draining your life, then it’s perfectly acceptable to tell them, “This relationship is no longer right for me, so I must end it – I must move on.” Although this is occasionally appropriate with extremely toxic people, it certainly does not apply to “any relationship.” Again, this goes back to Christianity. Perhaps someone without my worldview would be able to accept this quote, but I cannot. It is essentially saying that if someone is not serving you, then you no longer need to stay committed to them. This is antithetical to the basis of Jesus’s sacrifice for us. He stays with me even when I am running away from Him. When I could care less for Him, He died for me. He did not leave me because I was “no longer right” for Him. And I am called to be like Him, staying with my friends and family in the hard times, in the darkest nights. I certainly would not want to enter into a long-term relationship with someone who wouldn’t stay with me when things get rough. I don’t want to treat people like just one more thing to downsize.
3. Gifts are more than just material.
Many of the movement’s founders have asked others to give them no gifts for Christmas or birthdays. I thought about this, and it again struck a bad chord. Here’s another quote from their book. “Gift-giving is not a love-language any more than Pig Latin is a Romance language: rather, gift-giving is a destructive cultural imperative in our society (…) We’ve become consumers of love.” They go on to write about the specific types of gifts they accept, and how they tell people what they want. This seems dreadfully ungrateful to me. What if the person who wants to give you a gift is a five-year old, who only knows how to make you a popsicle stick log cabin? What if someone wants to give you a gift, but all they can afford is a shirt from Walmart? Are you too good to accept these things? If someone is sincere about their desire to give gifts, then the gesture is a true sign of love. They are using their resources to tell you that they care about you, and it seems quite pretentious to refuse these things in order to maintain some lifestyle.
4. The movement is often just as self-righteous as hyper-materialism.
Even though the leaders of this movement often say that they do not believe in making it an aesthetic choice, it is so often portrayed that way. To be a “minimalist,” you must travel the world with only a backpack, be completely debt-free, and own only 5 items of clothing. If you don’t do these things, then something is seriously wrong with you. That’s the story that is told, and I don’t want to be a part of that. Of course, if someone is able to do those things, then great for them! That is their personal choice. But I don’t want to frame that choice as a moral issue, when some simply don’t have the desire or finances to do those things. People with a low income often have to keep extra items on hand, in case their current one breaks or is lost. I don’t want to be insensitive to this. And I certainly do not want simple living to serve the same purpose as a lamborghini.
So what now? Am I going to become a shopping addict?
Of course not. I think that one of the marks of maturity is being able to admit that I was wrong. And in this case, I believe I was. I will continue to focus less on things and more on what makes life amazing. If I want to dress simply, I still will. (Although I have been thinking about adding more color into my wardrobe.) But this is a choice, not something that I want to convert others to. We should not have to read books on good management of possessions. I want to focus less on living a “minimalist” life, and more on living a good one. Common sense decluttering, a focus on a meaningful life, and a realization that life is more than stuff will always stay with me. But the gospel of minimalism will not.