Can Minimalism be Measured?

Just yesterday I read a post with a very interesting statement:

There’s a fair amount of talk in Minimalist circles about the prospect of Living with 100 Items…

Some want to live more consciously, some want to escape the stranglehold of consumerism, some want to lighten their footprint, some want to live out of a bag and travel the world, some want to break their attachment with anything considered materialistic (and there is a whole spectrum that measures the magnitude of this).  All are worthy, and I won’t dare judge or question anyone’s motives.

What I want to be careful of is that it doesn’t become the litmus test of whether one is a minimalist or not.

Let me first say that I really admire the people who manage to live with 100 things or less, especially if they’re married/have children etc. which no doubt makes it a bit more difficult to do so. I also really admire the people who are minimalistic in the way they act – they are mindful all (or most) of the time – and constantly practice awareness and focus.

But I would be saddened if these things do become litmus tests for whether or not one is a minimalist. Of course it’s possible for everyone to get rid of stuff until they have 100 things, or forcethemselves to slow down and be mindful all the time, but the simple truth is that it would be so difficult for some that it would distract them from the things they really want.

Right now I am trying to earn a degree – I want to have fewer things so that I can focus but I still need to use paper, stationary, books, utensils and clothes. I want to slow down and take my time but I’m being bombarded with work and doing so will almost certainly cause me to fall behind.

I may sound like I am trying to make excuses, but I am just being honest. The line between ideal minimalism and practicality is different for everyone. However, I still don’t buy nearly as much as other people, and I try to slow down and focus whenever I can or need to. In other words, I try my best.

I think what I’m trying to say is that there is a time and a place for minimalism; where, when and to what degree it applies to every person is arbitrary, and I don’t think it can be measured with numbers like ‘100’.

I think of minimalism as a lifestyle that you adopt because it makes your life easier, not so that you can spend your time constantly obsessing over it. It would be a shame if ‘minimalism’ was defined by how many things you don’t own instead of how may things you’ve achieved because of it.

Justin, hit the nail on the head when he made a comment on my last post:

In my opinion, the value of minimalism is dependent upon the context of the individual. For that reason I don’t think the absence of things necessarily constitutes a minimalist way of life; instead, the ability to understand the value of what is and is not important to you and your life will ultimately (hopefully) lead to a more “free” way of life. In other words, I don’t think a minimalist way of life is determine by the absence of “things” or “stuff” – instead, I think it depends on understanding them and their personal value – and then getting rid things that don’t have as much value or purpose.

So perhaps you haven’t managed to get everything down to 100, or even 200. What matters is that you have what is valuable to you, you are not attached to things that are unimportant and you are doing your best for your situation right now.

This summer, I will be going abroad for a year. I have no doubt that my needs will change and I will shift towards more minimalism – which means it’ll be just me, a few clothes, a camera and my laptop. In the mean time though, I am going to play my guitar while I can still carry it and read all of the books that I can stuff onto my shelves.

I’d love to hear what minimalism means to you, if it can be measured or what you think about the ‘100 things’ challenge. Leave a comment below!

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