I never set out to associate myself with any particular philosophy. When I first downsized people began to ask me if I was trying to be a minimalist. Prior to my downsizing I had only heard the term minimalism associated with art and architecture.
I soon learned that I had created a life that borrowed from many different philosophies. Minimalism, Simple Living and Eco or Green Living.
Simple Living is defined by the Free Dictionary as encompassing a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. These may include reducing one’s possessions or increasing self-sufficiency. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than what we are told we should want. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics. Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice.
While minimalism is a “trend from early 19th century and gradually became an important movement in response to the over decorated design of the previous period…using white elements, cold lighting, large space with minimum objects and furniture.” Using that definition Minimalists have adopted a less is more belief and pare down to the barest of possessions.
Green living often referred to as sustainable living is mainly concerned with environmental responsibility and saving precious natural resources. While I consider the environmental cost of my every day actions, I can’t say I am perfect achieving the greenest lifestyle possible. I still use fossil fuels to heat my home, for example.
There is very little that separates these three philosophies and yet I see distinct differences in how I combined each to create the lifestyle most comfortable for myself.
Joshua Becker in his book The More of Less mentions the Starbucks card in his wallet. By incorporating Green Living practices into my lifestyle I reject the regular practice of take out coffee because of it’s environmental cost in the form of increased trash from the disposable cup (I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that Becker never discusses whether he uses a disposable cup or brings his own). At the same time the daily financial cost to my budget of a take out coffee goes against the grain when viewed through the lens of Simple Living.
Many true Minimalists still travel by air, frequent coffee shops and have little concern for the environment. I have combined the three philosophies into one in which I have reduced my belongings to just those I love and need, strive for sustainable purchases and behaviors, while enjoying the benefits all three have to offer.
Instead of choosing a label and trying to rigidly adhere to and try to fit our lifestyle into the definition of that label. Let’s forget the labels for a moment. Instead start with the issues that mean the most to us, how we would like to be remembered or simply what we truly need to be happy and use those thoughts to create the lifestyle that best suits us, regardless if they nicely fit into the label we think we should embrace.
Minimalism isn’t for all, neither is simple living or green living. Just as each of us is unique so too should be the lives we create for ourselves.
It’s okay to borrow from the philosophies of our time but it’s not okay force them to dictate how we live.