A few years ago, I heard about this new lifestyle that has taken everyone by storm. That lifestyle is, of course, minimalism, I think it was made even more popular by that popular Netflix show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. Suddenly, everyone from your grandma to your cousin to your next door neighbor could be seen throwing piles upon piles of clothes on the bed and getting rid of things that no longer fit in multiple ways than one. Suddenly, everyone was getting rid of things in their house from lamps to books (the horror!) to furniture. I watched from afar as I saw an increasing quantity of perfectly good furniture being deposited curbside leaving nothing but a trail of dust and a bare floor. There have been books about decluttering and minimalism, always suggesting that the way toward less chaos and a “better” life was by getting rid of things, and in some cases, almost everything.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t tempted to join this camp of minimalists. After all, peer pressure is pretty strong and powerful. When we see our peers do things, then we feel this natural compulsion to join in so that we don’t feel left out. That is why certain fashion or TikTok trends can take off in a heartbeat. No matter what it is — whether it is beneficial or detrimental — if nearly everyone does it, then many do it because of an underlying fear of being different from the fray and ultimately excluded.
So, you see, part of me does want to become a minimalist, and many of the tenets of this lifestyle does make sense particularly in a society that is infatuated with buying things and equating wealth to owning materialistic things that don’t create any real monetary value. But, there was always something stopping me from crossing that line. I didn’t realize what it was until this blog post about extreme minimalism got me thinking. And I realized that it’s OK for me to not want to be a minimalist, or an extreme minimalist. I realized that it is up to the individual to define what minimalism is, and what boundaries they will set when pursuing this lifestyle.
So, thanks to that blog post, I no longer have to feel guilty for not wanting to become a minimalist. Here are four reasons why I will not be a minimalist… at least not anytime soon anyway.
I like having stuff
So, the first reason why I will not be a minimalist is that I like having stuff. I like having a sofa, a TV, and a table to sit, to relax, and to eat at. I like having a bookshelf full of books, even if I haven’t read about 50-60% of them. I like having a closet full of clothes, even if I probably don’t wear about 50% of the articles (it used to be 90%). I like having lots of dishes and kitchen appliances to cook with. I like having more pencils and pens than I can count. I just like having stuff, because of the simple fact that every one of my belongings has a memory attached to it and so each of these items makes me happy, content, and fulfilled.
I don’t want to live in an empty house that is lacking in stuff, particularly stuff that has been bought or given. Whenever I touch or pass by those items, there is a memory attached, and suddenly I find myself wrapped in a wave of sweet nostalgia. Witness the popcorn machine that I got a few years ago and every time I use it to make popcorn, I feel warm inside, remembering that first moment when we made popcorn. Or that old journal that I used to keep a decade or so ago and how every time I look at it, I am instantly transported back in time. Or, that dress I bought, and how every time I wear it, I feel shivers of excitement at my luck at securing a good deal. Almost every item in my home has a memory attached to it, each of which infuses a positive emotion within me, as well as a purpose that it serves.
Because every object in my home has its purpose, I won’t be getting rid of them on a quest to become a minimalist. Okay, maybe you can argue that not all of my clothes are getting worn or all of my books aren’t getting read. But there’s no denying that a full bookcase makes my heart happy, and there’s nothing that can make me part from my collection of Jodi Picoult books. All of these things that I have makes me happy so how can I part with them just to have less stuff on a mission to find happiness when that very stuff is already bringing me happiness?
My love-hate relationship with labels
My second reason why I don’t want to become a minimalist is that I have a love-hate relationship with labels. First, I do love how labels can give you power. It can give you the sense of belonging to a community. It can make you feel as if you are not just a nameless, faceless person on this Earth, but one with a purpose and motivation. When used in that way, labels can be good.
But, there is negativity in labels too. Labels can be detrimental when people use them to make judgements or stereotypes on someone without getting to know the person. Sometimes when we see someone who appears to be of a certain race or ethnicity, a set of stereotypes flashes to the mind. We immediately adjust our persona to reflect that. It is as if we become a different person entirely because the mind thinks that we need to in order to deal with that person the “right” way. It is why, despite identifying as hapa, I don’t like racial labels. Or rather, I don’t like it when society tries to give someone — particularly a multiracial person — a label and then treat them based on that label.
If I were to identify as a minimalist, sure there would be so much power in that. I would be part of a wonderful community that supports and encourages each other. But at the same time, by identifying as a minimalist, I would be setting myself up for judgements and stereotypes. And I’ve heard some of those judgements aimed at minimalists. For example, sometimes minimalists are stereotyped as being a hippie or being cheap. When used in a certain way in a certain tone of voice, these stereotypes (and more) can be condescending and hurtful. And quite frankly, I’ve had enough of these negative stereotypes.
I don’t like following the herd
Another reason why I will not be a minimalist is that I don’t like following the herd. I don’t like doing whatever my peers are doing simply because they are doing it. I like to be my own person. When I choose to do something, it is because I sincerely want to because of my personal reasons and not because it is what society expects. For example, society may expect me to be a math prodigy but I was happy to turn away from that subject particularly after I discovered that it was too hard for me. Or, society may expect me to identify racially as a certain way, and I turned away from it. Or, society may expect me to dress a certain way, or listen to certain types of music, but I listen to the kinds of music that sounds good to me.
So, I will not be a minimalist simply because it is what other people are doing. If I do choose to become a minimalist, it will be on my own terms because I sincerely want to. And if I do choose to become a minimalist, I won’t call myself one, but instead create my own unique path that is different from the stereotypical vision of what a minimalist is. And maybe I will be more inclined to join my own version of a minimalist lifestyle when the fandom dies down and people aren’t becoming minimalist simply because it is “in.”
Like that of the lone bear, I will keep doing my own thing. I will not follow the herd.
It doesn’t fit me
And lastly, the final reason why I will not be a minimalist is because it doesn’t fit me. Similar to how I don’t fit in under the traditional racial categories because of my biracial background, I don’t want to follow all of the tenets of being a minimalist. And I don’t want to feel as if I need to in order to fit in as a minimalist. I don’t feel as if I fit in as a minimalist because I don’t have a strong urge to declutter. Now I may have gotten rid of some things over the past few years (like certain clothes, books, and decor) but I am not ready to declutter everything. And I am not ready to declutter every room in my house.
I also don’t like the idea that to be a minimalist you have to get rid of everything that you don’t use. Just because you are not using something right at this moment, or even tomorrow, doesn’t mean that you won’t ever need it. As my mother used to say in Korean, “it is only after you get rid of the item that you discover that you really need it” (roughly translated). What if I get rid of an item and then a few months or years later, I need it? And by buying a new one at that point, I am basically wasting time and money. Because if I hadn’t gotten rid of it in the first place, I wouldn’t have to spend the time buying a new one because I would already have it.
Another tenet to minimalist is that we must literally start over. By decluttering and purging, the minimalism lifestyle states that we are essentially being reborn again as a new person. Well, maybe some people might be at a stage in their life when they can — when they should — start over for the betterment of their emotional or physical health. But, as for me, I am not really at a stage in which I can just start over. I can’t just purge everything deemed useless in my house in the name of minimalism and hope that the empty walls surrounding me will somehow transform me into a better person. I believe that you don’t need to get rid of stuff or embrace a certain lifestyle to become a better person. You become a better person by doing what makes you happy.
So, I definitely won’t be a minimalist at least anytime soon. Becoming a minimalist goes against almost everything that I don’t like. It makes me uncomfortable because at the end of the day it is a label that doesn’t completely fit me and my lifestyle. But I will admit that the only argument for minimalism that I am a strong proponent of is the fact that no minimalist lifestyle is the same. Every minimalist is free to make their own rules and do what they need to do to find that happiness within. Whether that is from getting rid of everything that isn’t nailed down, or simply decluttering and organizing in an attempt to create a more efficient home and life, it is different for everyone. And that I think is the strength and beauty of this minimalist lifestyle that has taken nearly everyone by storm.
Basically, do what makes you happy. Live the life you always imagined with or without your stuff. Don’t follow what others are doing. Create your own philosophy. By doing that, you will achieve the pinnacle of happiness within.