What Minimalism Doesn’t Need to Be

By: Noah Thompson

When someone tells you that their favorite color is gray, or preferred dining option is meal prepped stir-fry, then you might correctly assume they were a minimalist. And if you were new to minimalism then you would probably assume this was normal too. Even though there are many different types of minimalism, no two minimalists are alike. Minimalism should be a personalized set of principles and habits, not just some clickbait décor style or color palette. It should be as personal as faith, and like many things, held closely inside until it can hold its integrity against this loud and chaotic world. When we carry our moral beliefs firmly inside, we may realize there is no need to wear a gray t-shirt as some sort of badge like minimalist advocators do online.

However, keeping our beliefs hidden from others is not always the wisest thing to do. When we are given platforms and communities with like-minded people our beliefs are given a place to grow, and sometimes even challenged. This is what makes communities such as Reddit and YouTube so helpful to both beginners and experts who seek answers or a community, but this can go wrong when it becomes infiltrated by those who cannot tolerate differences. Outside the political subreddits, even the minimalist communities deal with those who adhere to the “trend”. One look at several minimalistic subreddits and you will notice gray furniture and walls, refrigerators filled with enough meal prep for weeks, and expensive buy it for life items that most members replace quickly to match their current color scheme (expensive shoes, clothing, and even mechanical pens appear often). This may be where minimalism has become pressured towards the expensive and bland lifestyle of grayness and repetition. When we give into the notion of buy it for life, we allow ourselves to put down extreme amounts of money for simple items. Depending on the use of the person, this will either encourage or discourage use of expensive gear. Minimalism was never supposed to a rich person’s lifestyle. 

To me, it was never about the aesthetic or long-term payoff, it was about the elimination of purposeless decisions and possessions. It was about putting thought to every decision I make and questioning past ones: it went from “why do I subscribe or follow so many people when I don’t watch or care about them?” to “why do I even have Instagram?”. By asking myself these simple questions I was able to point myself towards my own sense of meaning and purpose. Without noise, we can concentrate on ourselves as we develop habits. Forming habits is an active fight, one that should be reflected on and thought about frequently. Eventually, the practice might just become habitual to the point where you no longer need to actively think about it, or it might stray so far to where it has been forgotten about. If the habit has come to the point where all motivation has been lost then perhaps the task isn’t challenging enough, or sometimes even too challenging. 

To find motivation we should consider upping the challenge if something is too easy, therefore making the task less boring, and the same goes when something is too difficult. By breaking the challenge into easier pieces, one can find the motivation to start simple tasks. I learned this from minimalist YouTuber Matt D’Avella who is an example of someone who uses the platform to inspire, not to lead. For the past five years Matt has shared his journey as a filmmaker, YouTuber, and minimalist; his videos, though seemingly clickbait, explain his approach to daily life. With over three million subscribers Matt offers a unique perspective into this habit and is very well known among several minimalist communities, even releasing several documentaries on Netflix, including Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

Even if Matt D’Avella’s version of minimalism is to wear nothing but gray t-shirts, there’s something about having a community to share it with that makes the lifestyle so constructive. Especially when you find the right group of people, these online communities can prove to be supportive enough to defend each other from those few who attempt to preach. Proving yourself mature enough in the lifestyle is another story, and one I am still personally trying to focus on. To me, minimalism doesn’t need to be devoid of color. I have tried the all-gray t-shirts method before and though it was simple, it got really boring. Instead, I’ve thought about my own alternative, one that does not ignore color but one that celebrates it. Afterall, minimalism should be about freeing ourselves from the meaningless. It’s about finding the balance from becoming attached to our favorite brands to eliminating all joy from our closets. Finding that middle ground is challenging, and different for everyone; when we can balance our inputs, we may then tend to our outputs, impacting the world economically and environmentally.

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