Recently I shared one of my youtube videos (yes i have a channel here) with the minimalist community on Reddit. Specifically it was a tour of the living room of my new house which I labeled both minimalist and baby-proof. My youtube channel after all is about living a minimalist lifestyle with a young family.
The video was immediately down-voted not for self-promotion (which isn’t looked on well in Reddit thus I only share a few select videos on there and a lot of other people’s content) but by clearly an individual who also commented along the lines of: “that isn’t minimalist. What would be minimalist would be not having a baby to begin with!”.
Personally i’m not really phased by this although it was disappointing that because it was so quickly down-voted it means it went to the bottom of the minimalist list and thus probably wasn’t seen by many other people. But what this did put into sharp focus was the general conflict that exists both in the minimalist ‘community’ in general and the Reddit minimalist community specifically and how this revolves around differences in the way people define minimalism as a concept.
The reddit minimalist community is shared by people who appreciate a minimalist lifestyle and also minimalism as an art or design style. That is just the beginning of the discord. If you don’t quite understand this let me outline if for you. People who follow a minimalist lifestyle generally are trying to live with less possessions than they might have had prior to a minimalist lifestyle. How they chose what possessions they have and how many that is varies enormously. On the other hand people who appreciate minimalist style or design like the objects they have or the spaces they inhabit or the art they produce to be very simple. Amongst the minimalist style people mac computers are revered for example, Ikea furniture and Scandinavian design in general etc. And of course there is a lot of overlap with many people trying to live a minimalist lifestyle also appreciating and choosing more minimally designed things. I for one love apple mac laptops inside and out and the look of ikea furniture (and the price of ikea furniture!). But someone who is purely a minimalist design follower may own many many possessions and not care how many they have or whether or not they need or love all these possessions, they just care that they are all minimal in look or style. Whereas a minimalist lifestyle follower may have much few possessions but they might have much more elaborate or decorative designs to them so don’t make a room look minimal at all!
Ok now that i’ve defined it let me say I mainly put myself in the minimalist lifestyle camp. But even within that there is a lot of variation in what that really means. Personally i’ve always liked the definition that i try to live a lifestyle that is just what i need or love and in particular the possessions i have. I try to simply things down to what adds value or enriches my life. What I like about this definition is it is very inclusive and allows people to tailor make their lifestyle to their particular circumstances and loves. It does not dictate that someone must only own 5o items and is fully open to someone owning a lot of things for a particular passion or hobby if that is what is important to them.
On Reddit however in the minimalist lifestyle community (or ‘flair’ as it is termed for posts on the lifestyle theme of minimalism) what is held up as the best examples of minimalism are people living on mattresses in empty rooms or living out of daypack while travelling the world or in tiny houses (the kind that are on wheels— i LOVE these by the way and am strongly drawn to this lifestyle but realise it wouldn’t work for my family. I would however love to build one in the future and stick it on our property for guests or WOOFers to help on our farm and that might give me the tiny house fix i crave). While I certainly have an admiration for these people doing these things I really think that if these are the only examples of a minimalist lifestyle presented then it will be a very unappealing choice for the majority of people in society as something to actually live.
This probably leads to the question of if or not minimalism should just be a private affair that is purely to enrich our own lives, or if a degree of proselytization is a good thing. I personally think the more people that give up excessive consumerism the better it will be for the planet as well as for the individuals. That’s probably a matter for another post however.
Anyway back to the video that I posted (below). My living room IS minimalist because it is minimalist to me. Having a toddler IS minimalist because it is minimalist to me. Neither my living room nor my toddler may be minimalist to you as it might not enrich your life and that is perfectly fine. But in my view minimalism is defined as what is essential and enriching to the individual. We are the ones that get to decide when we have paired down our belongings enough, and that is when we are content and no longer weighed down but it. Personally I do think I should be purging a bit more but not in my living room which is currently my favourite room in the house as it is simple, does what it is meant to do and is easy to keep clean. The end.