Monday, June 16, 2014

What is Minimalism - Revisited

I have been a self proclaimed minimalist for a while now. However, recently I noticed that my life has been getting decidedly un-minimalist. The clutter in my apartment is growing. The number of friends on facebook and followees on twitter has increased. The number of blogs I read is larger. Life tends to accumulate around you.

Is it time to re-evaluate? Should I cull some of the clutter? What should be thrown out and what should be kept?

A few years ago, Vivek Haldar noted how minimalism is not a viable intellectual strategy. Someone refuted it and then John D Cook collated the two posts. I added my own two cents a few days later.

A lot of confusing seems to stem from the definition of minimalism. Some people get enamored with minimization. This results in hipster minimalism—

The zenith [...] is a calm geek, sitting in a bare room with a desk upon which sits only a MacBook Air, his backpack of possessions on one side, the broadband internet cable available but unplugged, fingers ready to type into the empty white screen of a minimalist editor.

Stories of people who own only 20 distinct items abound - or 10 or even 5. There are articles on how to travel with only a pair of clothes and a toothbrush.

You can own just a pair of clothes and wash them each morning. Or you could have enough for a week and wash them over the weekend. Which one is more minimalistic?

If you do only one task at a time at work, aren't you going to get into trouble for neglecting others?

Do you continue to use a minimalist software or device even if you really need advanced functionality?

Would a guitar with only one string or a piano with only one key be of much use at all?

Clearly there's a point at which minimalism starts being ridiculous. Still, if you read someone like Leo Babauta they don't seem deranged at all. Why?

That's because even though they use the word Minimalism what they are essentially doing is focusing on what's important. Owning things has a monetary and time cost. Using complicated software has a cognitive cost. Getting distracted by low priority work has opportunity cost.

Try to maximize the amount of important things you engage with. Don't get caught in the trap of minimizing arbitrary numbers.

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