Essay

The New Minimalism or the New Consumerism?

By Duff McDuffee on July 12th, 2010 1

I’ve just begun tracking a curious emerging trend in personal development, what I’m calling The New Minimalism or Neo-minimalism (which may or may not have anything to do with Neo-minimalism as a movement in art). Leo Babauta, A-list blogger of Zen Habits fame, blogs almost exclusively on minimalism nowadays—both on Zen Habits and a blog so minimalist it cut out some of the vowels. Since he’s such a prominent evangelist for Neo-minimalism, I’ll start with a look at his writing in this article.

What is this New Minimalism? A page called “less” on mnmlist summarizes the lifestyle philosophy:

Stop buying unnecessary things.
Toss half your stuff, learn contentedness.
Reduce half again.
List 4 essential things in your life,
stop doing non-essential things.
Do these essentials first each day, clear distractions
focus on each moment.
Let go of attachment to doing, having more.
Fall in love with less.

At first glance, who wouldn’t agree with this minimalist manifesto? Buying unnecessary things certainly is wasteful. Learning to be content and mindful and free of attachment—isn’t this what the Buddha taught? So is Babauta advocating joining a Burmese monastery, or becoming a forest-dwelling yogi in order to study the nature of one’s mind in seclusion?

From the FAQ on mnmlist Babauta writes that one adopts minimalism in order to “Clear away the noise so we can concentrate on inner peace, on spirituality (if we wish), on our thinking. As a result, there is more happiness, peace, and joy, because we’ve made room for these things.” So far this minimalist philosophy could have been the words of the Thai monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who is famous for encouraging Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to adopt non-violence as a tactic for his activism.

A minimalist 3-car garage

Looking a little deeper there are some curious things about this New Minimalism. A Google search brings up this article from Zen Habits—also written by Babauta—entitled A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home. The picture accompanying the article looks straight out of Dwell magazine. A linked website describes this “minimalist” home:

The Orr House is an addition and remodel to a 5,080 square foot 1970’s stucco clad two-story home, built on a steep down-slope lot in semi-rural Saratoga, California.

Bathed in natural light from a skylight above, a new atrium brings natural light to the entry, the living room, a lower level tatami room and home office, and dramatically illuminates the stairs to the lower level and a beautiful mahogany bridge that spans the two-story space. The kitchen/dining area and the living area all share a beautiful new stone terrace, edged with cantilevered reflecting pool that extends the vistas to the horizon while minimizing views of the driveway below.

One of the most successful aspects of this project is the sensitive combining of the new and old to create a new design that is fresh, unique, beautiful to look at and beautiful to live in.

The contradictions are glaring. Babauta advocates for ridding one’s self of possessions in order to be free of debt among other things at the same time praising a 5,080 sq ft California mansion for its simplicity. On a blog post entitled consumerism vs. minimalism (lowercase letters are more minimalist), Babauta writes:

There is in most of us an underlying desire to buy cool stuff.

It stems from fears and insecurities, I think, but it is exploited by corporations and advertising. Advertising is designed to get us to desire more, to want to buy, and because it works so well, we end up buying way, way more than we need.

Minimalism is the exact counter to this phenomenon, and for some of us, it’s the answer.

The minimalist lets go of desires, slowly, so that she buys less and spends less, gets into less debt (or none at all), and as a result, needs to earn less and work less.

A quick search of homes in Saratoga, California over 5000 square feet shows prices of around $4 million. Your monthly mortgage payment for your minimalist home would run you upwards of $25,000, unless of course you could pay in cash, thus remaining debt-free. But the cool stuff is worth the price, right?

Is Neo-minimalism Just a Marketing Demographic?

Neo-minimalism isn’t exactly the Tightwad Gazette, and I’m not sure that purchasing a 5,000 square foot mansion is “a way to escape the excesses of the world around us — the excesses of consumerism, material possessions, clutter, having too much to do, too much debt, too many distractions, too much noise” as Babauta advocates. Perhaps this Neo-minimalism is just another consumer marketing demographic, an aesthetic popular amongst middle- and upper-class technophiles and hipsters. But then why the air of a political or moral movement to this lifestyle choice?

The kinds of homes Babauta praises—“the ones with almost nothing in them except some beautiful furniture, some nice artwork, and a very few pretty decorations, are the ones that appeal to most of us”—are not praised by all of us. The very popular Unhappy Hipsters blog mocks such homes as alienating and pretentious by giving satirical captions to photos from Dwell and similar magazines:

Babauta is an Apple fanboy, and until recently was an early adopter of using Google to store his emails, documents, and other files instead of using desktop software and hard drive space. Google and Apple are both high-tech consumer companies with a minimalist style. Is there anything inherently better—aka ethical—about this minimalist aesthetic?

When Babauta went “Google free” I retweeted and added that the problems of Capitalism are not solved by changing IT providers. He replied to me wondering if I had a better solution. I admitted that this is a complex question, but that my point was that Google did not invent ad creep or privacy concerns and thus switching to other companies will not solve the problems they didn’t cause.

Let The Poor Eat Minimalism

I saved my biggest concern for last, however. In an article attempting to address the claims (like mine above) that minimalism is only for the affluent, Babauta writes…

In fact, there isn’t a requirement for minimalism. You can invent your own version, and if you’re more worried about how to survive until the next paycheck (I’ve been there), then cutting back on the unnecessary will help you get there. Look for unnecessary expenses (like eating out, going to the movies, buying junk food snacks, or renting DVDs) and eliminate them, finding ways to have fun that are free.

Eliminating unnecessary possessions also means you’ll need a smaller home, which will save on rent and heating/cooling. Buying fewer things means less debt. Spending time with loved ones or doing things you love means you spend less. All of these things are good whether you’re wealthy or not.

It’s true that the poor are often thought of as not having the luxury of even thinking about simplifying, or minimalism. They’re too worried about putting food on the table, or where the rent is coming from, or how to avoid creditors until the next paycheck. And there’s a lot of truth in that. But it doesn’t have to be true: anyone can pause, breathe, and decide to live differently.

Anyone can make the decision to do without the unnecessary, to cut off cable TV, to consider doing without a car, to only buy what’s absolutely necessary and to rethink what’s necessary. I’ve been deep in debt, and I know the feeling of drowning with no way to get out. I got out, mostly because I cut expenses to the bone while looking for ways to increase income. Minimalism helped me to get out of debt, and to get out of poverty. It’s not just for the affluent anymore.

The message here is whether you are cutting back by living in a sparse 5,000 square foot mansion or deciding between electricity or food for your children, we can all embrace minimalism. It’s not unjust for society to be structured in such a way that one person has millions or billions of times more resources than another—it’s all good as long as we are all “living simply.” I imagine a future blog posts’ suggestions for poor minimalists:

Try eating every other day, or going without running water for a few months until you can save up enough to turn your utilities back on. You’d be amazed at how long one can go without food and water and still survive—in fact, it can be a downright spiritual experience!

The poor hardly need to be told that they should cut back in order to get ahead—every month they make impossible no-win choices in an effort to merely survive. The poor in developed countries are often eating the only food that they can afford—junk food which is loaded with calories but no nutrition. Saying they should cut back on junk food is asking them to starve. Meanwhile the “bottom billion” live on less than $1/day—not because doing so is more aesthetically appealing or a hip lifestyle choice, but because of the structural inequities that force them into such abject poverty, structural inequalities that make it possible for us relatively wealthy folk to be reading blogs on laptop computers and other gadgets. Notably, I have yet to find a minimalist who advocates for increasing taxes on the 1% most wealthy. The reason may lie in the “lack of requirements” (i.e. “lack of ethics”) of minimalism as stated—telling others what to do is the ultimate taboo.

While most people who read blogs online could probably save money by cutting back, this Neo-minimalism of the rich is clearly built upon the forced “minimalism” of the destitute. But those poor people are better off “living simply,” right? Without all the stuff we have, they must live lives of peace, contentment, and beautiful minimalist aesthetics. And if the poor don’t want to be poor anymore, they should declutter and stop buying unnecessary things to save money so that they can lift themselves up by their bootstraps…so that one day they too will have a minimalist mansion, sitting on a cream-colored couch reading minimalist blogs on their iPads.

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79 responses to “The New Minimalism or the New Consumerism?”

  1. In my view, the minimalism that most would benefit most from, is minimizing the minimizing of others, or the telling them what to do. That includes what they should or shouldn't do with possessions or lifestyle.

    I find the idea that either accumulating, owning, or giving away possessions affects our actual worth or spiritual enlightenment, well, ludicrous. Taking action in that regard might temporarily affect how we feel about ourselves, and may even prove therapeutic in that regard (I think of the tradition of potlatch practiced by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast.). But aspiring to minimalism as a life strategy doesn't feel very organic or connected to Self to me. Like anything else, if it comes out of the heart, it's one thing, if you read it in a blog and decide you need to be a member of that club or need to do it to influence someone else or save the world… well, I'm not sold on that approach.

    I'm for doing what fits and feels appropriate, possession-wise. I'm for charity, when it feels appropriate, and from the heart. I care little for labels or the approval of others on either count.

    Thought provoking post. Thanks!

    • Are you then opposed to raising taxes on the wealthiest 1% in order to create and sustain social programs that support the poor? In fact, any and all taxes are telling people what to do–right?

      • DesireEngine says:

        In spirit, and conceptually, I don't believe in enforcement of any taxes, no. My vision (fantasy) of a spiritually-attuned, ideal world includes appropriate contribution of an appropriate percentage of personal wealth by self-aware, spiritually-attuned individuals. Said contributions put to causes the individual finds are in alignment with who they are and what they find valuable. Those who distrust the nature of humankind or have beliefs that do not include humankind's eventual realization of generosity and charity as a natural expression of self-value and self-love will think this is a silly vision. So be it. LOL.

        Back to our present reality: when we elect a government that believes tax and spend is a solution, and *we* believe that is a solution, then in effect, we have co-created that approach. To my way of thinking, this is a bit different than me looking at your life, judging you, and then telling you that you ought to live like I do, and have my sensibilities.

        In my view, the latter practice does damage to the one doing the judging, and I perceive it as general waste of energy in the long-term. My preference is to live a life of example and uplift, and if someone sees value in my example, they may *choose* to emulate it.

        As for taxing the top 1%, I suppose that the approach itself is well-meaning and sounds good on paper, yet history shows that most of that money doesn't go to social programs, the social programs that are created by our government often have only temporary positive effect, and often that effect in the long-term is outweighed by encouraging further dependency.

        Said programs eventually achieve a life of their own, and persevere far beyond their usefulness. One could be forgiven for suspecting that almost all government programs, created by all parties, are tainted by an imbalance of desire: the desire to get a vote outweighs the desire for a truly effective, sustainable, empowering program.

        I am a huge believer in social programs that "teach a man how to fish" — those that enable disabled, re-train the jobless with new skills, assist in affordable education, etc. I am huge believer in voluntary philanthropy, and folks like Gates and Buffet show that voluntary philanthropy can work. I am huge believer in assisting others to either develop, or recover their personal authority. I am not a huge believer in telling someone they MUST live or believe a certain way. 🙂

        Thanks for this chance to clarify!

        • In spirit, and conceptually, I don't believe in enforcement of any taxes, no. My vision (fantasy) of a spiritually-attuned, ideal world includes appropriate contribution of an appropriate percentage of personal wealth by self-aware, spiritually-attuned individuals.

          I have to admit, I find this vision terribly naive. But then again, I read recently that in Denmark the residents LOVE taxes, and feel that their very high (relative to the US) tax rate goes to contributing to the collective. On par, they are very happy about paying taxes.
          http://contexts.org/socimages/2010/04/15/guest-po

          So taxes and "spirituality" can go together.

          As far as forcing individuals to conform to my personal inclinations, I am mostly hands-off and feel that we should have enormous freedom (which we do in the US) to pursue different individual lifestyle choices. For instance, no one here must wear a burka under punishment of death.

          I strongly disagree that social programs encourage dependency, and I have seen a LOT of evidence to the contrary. For instance, our unemployment system is totally broken. It is almost impossible to fill out the forms correctly (at least here in Colorado). There is no one answering the phones because they are so overloaded (and that was 3 years ago when I had a stint of unemployment). You receive less than 50% of your wages, which is enough to make the poor become the hungry and homeless. People almost universally immediately go for jobs when they find one that they are actually skilled to do, but this process takes often 6 months or more in a GOOD economy. If someone unemployed applied for jobs they are overqualified for, it pollutes the economy with service workers, massively increasing competition and decreasing the efficiency of the job market. Etc etc.

          I am highly skeptical of voluntary philanthropy and of Gates and Buffet in particular (Gates more than Buffet, who did in fact live simply).

      • DesireEngine says:

        I should add that I believe that we will always have a way of showing a human exchange of energy on our planet. Right now, money is *one* such way of showing that exchange. Barter is another. A hug is another. One day, we may evolve to a point wherein money is no longer needed as one of the monitors of exchange. I can't pretend to know what kind of system would replace it, or if we will ever get to that point.

  2. I see a business opportunity in "minimalism offset" in which we broker units of minimalism between those who already have nothing and those who need to have less. In doing so, we bring new meaning to those who have nothing, while serving the market needs of those who have everything, while looking after ourselves at the same time (after all, as Smith said over on my Integral Life post, "money always follows making people's lives better").

  3. Evan says:

    You seem confused Duff.

    Why discourage the rich from consuming less because the poor exist.

    Why discourage less consumption because capitalism is evil? (We agree that it is evil.)

    The poor do take up options like breathing to reduce stress (much can be done with options that are free). The poor should not be reduced to an economic category. Neither should they be lectured on their moral short-comings by the wealthy (and which the wealthy are very prone to do).

    There is a phenomenon called "Downshifting" almost entirely ignored by media and politicians. A report on it in Australia is here: https://www.tai.org.au/documents/downloads/DP50.p… This is about people voluntarily reducing their lifestyle. And the numbers are huge – 20% of Australians in a five year period (excluding retirement and taking up full-time study!).

    I think there is a move to minimalism – and I for one welcome it.

    Is the kind of neo-minimalism promoted on these things likely a fad? Yep. Trivial and superficial? Often. And we can respond by opening a discussion about living more sustainably for ourselves, families and planet. And usually the cost of doing so is minimal.
    My recent post Time to Move

    • I am neither encouraging nor discouraging consumption as such, just expressing my concerns that a movement that claims to allow one to escape from consumerism and aligns itself with spiritual values explicitly ignores questions of justice.

      If minimalism is purely a matter of taste, than nothing can be argued for or against it. If however, as is often claimed, it is good to be minimalist, it must include questions of what is just and right.

    • I should also add that I'm not at all convinced that the minimalist aesthetic involves consuming less. A $4 million, 5000+ sq ft mansion still takes a lot of fossil fuels to heat and cool. Buying lots of songs on iTunes still involves consumption physical and otherwise (including server space in some server farm somewhere, rare Earth metals that may come from conflict-ridden Congo, etc.).

    • NellaLou says:

      Downshifting is something I've taken up. Living on less than half the wage I had at my "peak earnings" period. It is a lot less stressful and I have a lot more time to do the things I enjoy rather than trying to get a few more hours of overtime in every week. It's been beneficial to my relationships as well as my spiritual practice. I even have time to meditate now.
      My recent post Genetic Diversity-a Green Heritage

    • EricSchiller says:

      The problem is that this "downshifting" is fetishized as a consumer act itself. We appreciate minimalism so we buy a Macbook, we buy organic, we buy a Mini Cooper? It's still just about consumption and *which* objects we buy.

      To exit the sphere of consumerism minimalism needs to be defined in another way, beyond how we make money, beyond what we buy. Leo and others define it very clearly by consumer choices.

  4. @ericnormand says:

    Excellent article, Duff.

    Leo is just a marketer. He promises spiritual contentment, material comfort, and guilt reduction. What he practices are the same marketing techniques that he seems to oppose.

    Thanks for pointing out some of the horrid inconsistencies in his body of work. And just to be sure, you did not hit all of them in your good article. Leo is one of the more annoying bloggers because of his reach. I tend to throw things when I read his stuff.

    People often confuse his success with authority. Yes, he sets the tone, but most people who listen to him are probably just trying to figure out how he got so big in the first place. They think: "I can be a successful blogger if I get rid of three quarters of my stuff, too!" I think a lot of what he says makes sense (many of us can reduce our expenses), but a lot is philosophical refuse that plays on frailties in human thinking (ie, marketing).

    Thanks again for bringing this up. There's a little too much praise, awe, and wonder around him. He should be critiqued like the rest of them.

    Eric
    My recent post French politeness is the new black

  5. viv66 says:

    Can't say minimalism as style has ever appealed to me; nature is far from minimalist if you look at a summer meadow in full bloom. Abundance is more the word and to me visually more appealing.
    but that's just me.

    • Right on, Viv. I admit to enjoying the minimalist style of Apple products for instance (typing this on a Macbook), but minimalism as an aesthetic is Modernist–attempting to create clean lines, often boxy and linear, in other words still opposed to natures curves and complexity.

  6. viv66 says:

    I guess the Celtic ancestry in me just loves those curves and tangles and knots. But in art and nature, not my hair!
    My recent post Blue Waterlilies by Monet

  7. J says:

    I did follow Leo and his band of minimalist copycats for a while and as much as I hate to admit this (I am actually cringing at this point!!) I thought that by being a copycat myself I might just find a way out of corporate prison, not through minimalism but through promoting the concept, which my conscience started to question and your post confirmed this and gave me a much needed wake up call!!! Thank you.
    As for minimalism…well, I don't have the luxury of a 5,000 + sq ft mansion. In fact the size of my flat (apartment) is best described as as decent sized hotel room making minimalism (or less stuff) a necessity rather than a choice..
    I do love the minimalist style of the MacBook too or perhaps simplicity is a better word…

    • Hi J, glad my article was a wake-up call.

      As far as being a copycat of other personal development gurus as a strategy to break away from alienating corporate drudgery, that makes two of us! LOL As they say about writers, write what you know about. 🙂

  8. viv66 says:

    Just a little question.
    Why is there a price next to every commenter? I know that I am a pretty cheap date, but 2p seems a real bargain?
    2p or not 2p, that is the question…..
    My recent post Blue Waterlilies by Monet

    • Good questions. Not 2p for me, but I did drink a tall beverage earlier…but I'm sticking with the Power of Now for now.

      But seriously, it has to do with Intense Debate's rating system for commenters. You get a point every time you get a thumbs up (posting a comment with a registered Intense Debate login also gives you a point).

      • viv66 says:

        Aha, it sort of becomes clear, well as clear as strong pain meds can let it. I have had one of those days that started out well(my students didn't kill me) and got slowly worse: the vampires(aka the blood donation services) didn't want my blood despite sitting in their waiting room long enough to fall asleep sitting bolt upright(allegedly I am anaemic), I then did something unspeakable to my spine while NOT buying new shoes and then had to collect my first nod towards old age(ie reading glasses). I've been talking rubbish on the phone all evening and nothing much is making sense.
        But this does at least.
        My recent post Blue Waterlilies by Monet

  9. viv66 says:

    So I can rest easy that one thing makes some sense tonight.
    Incidentally, I find the whole minimalist movement somewhat absurd; it's kind of like assuming that by altering the outer world, the inner world will follow. It's more likely the other way.While my mind is a complex whirling mass of ideas and images and snatches of stories, then my outer world(home, car, handbag etc) will be equally complex and colourful(=a mess, but who's judging?)
    Einstein once said, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what then is an empty desk a sign of?"
    My recent post Blue Waterlilies by Monet

    • I don't find the notion that one can change inner experiences through changing outer ones so strange. Many have found that when they do a little "spring cleaning" they feel better emotionally. Professional organizers and minimalists take this common sense intuition to the extremes (and probably far beyond the point of diminishing returns).

      Similarly, improving economic conditions for the poor does seem to improve all sorts of measures of "happiness."

      • viv66 says:

        "Professional organizers and minimalists take this common sense intuition to the extremes (and probably far beyond the point of diminishing returns)."
        I think that's really what I meant. It's also the push button(do this and THIS will automatically happen) mentality that is disturbing too.
        I don't usually find that tidiness lasts long with me but that's down to the underlying chaos of mind.

        My recent post Blue Waterlilies by Monet

  10. Haider says:

    Hi Duff,

    Question: Is there a group of people to which Leo’s advice is valid?

    In other words, are there people who *are* in debt, not because they live in a developing country, but because they don’t know how to manage their money, and are wasting it on luxury goods, rather than save it to bring their financial situation under control?

    What you did in this critique is drop context, and undermine Leo’s outlook because it doesn’t apply to every person on Earth. Leo isn’t addressing people who can’t afford an Internet connection. He’s addressing the people to which his advice applies. Those who are in financial difficulties because they aren’t managing their money properly (like Leo before he turned minimalist).

    I think it’s important to consider situations where an outlook is valid, rather than condemn it because there are people who can’t live by it.

    • Yes. I believe I already included this possibility when I wrote "…most people who read blogs online could probably save money by cutting back…".

      If Leo was not addressing the poor, why did he write an article entitled "minimalism isn’t just for the affluent" where he specifically addressed the poor? If he had said it was only for the affluent, I would have agreed.

      I quoted as much as I could to include sufficient context.

      • Haider says:

        I think Leo meant to take it a notch or 2 down the economic scale. You pushed it all the way to the end! 😛
        My recent post Is The Rise In The Divorce Rate A Problem

        • In that case minimalism is for the middle class–and in fact I think that is the best place for minimalist-type decluttering advice.

          (And yes, I do have a tendency to take things to their logical conclusions.:)

          • Michael says:

            I know this is late, but I don't think you pushed it too far. There are plenty of people who have access to Leo's site, access to the internet, etc. that lack the academic sophistication AND the economic ability to take his advice.

            If everyone took to heard what he wrote, we would have a nation of people vying to live in "minimalist" 5000 sq ft homes. I don't think the overwhelming majority of the middle class can afford this. Read: http://www.good.is/post/americans-are-horribly-mi

            The structure of the economy and the relative price of computers and communications technology means that people who ARE struggling to finance modest lives are also reading this stuff on their laptops.

            And the message they get is "look now, you could be so much happier if you did this, and not this this and that. PS, 5000 sq feet is about the comfortable yet modest sized home you should look for"

          • Thanks for your thoughts, Michael. Glad some agree that I didn't push it too far.

  11. DesireEngine says:

    Hi Duff,

    Not sure what happened with how the comments are handled. Did you disable Disqus and others???

    Anyway, if my vision is naive, it is intentionally so, for I recognize the difficulties with what *is* and acknowledge them, yet choose to focus my intent in a direction which assumes the potential good in humankind. I freely acknowledged it is a fantasy (from the perspective of most in the current reality), but from *my* perspective, the biggest breakthroughs must persevere first in thought, and these thoughts wouldn’t be mired in the same thinking that created the problem in the first place. Therefore, some playfulness and “out there” vision might drive humbler, incremental steps that are closer to now, but that would not have come to fruition without the pull of the grander, less probable focus. Also, you seemed to want an answer to a philosophical question, and so I tried to give you one that was not dependent on or relative to current conditions, but was very abstract/conceptual. My mistake. 🙂

    As I posted, I am also for social programs that make sense (and I believe I listed some examples), but many (not all) of the programs I am aware could use some “tuning” or even evaluation for current relevance and effectiveness, and continuing feasibility. There is another kind of naiveté out there, you know? It’s the kind that focuses on one or two problems as the assumed root-cause for social injustice and or unfairness and forgets systemic interlock of everything. It’s that kind of situation where someone tries to eradicate one evil, and ends up creating 5 more.

    That’s why I prefer to give attention, focus and energy to what a vision of a solution, rather than what is. As I wrote before, I *acknowledge* what is—but only long enough choose the direction to a solution—then begin devoting energy to the that direction. I may need to return to the problem several times, but I won’t dwell in the energy of he problem. This may appear “naive” to someone who is not aware of the reasoning or method, and especially if I jump to a big solution without first leading the reader through the incremental steps to it’s creation. But I have to tell you that I can’t site a single time that I’ve successfully made any progress to a sustainable solution while continuing dwell on the problem. The best solutions always seem to come some time after I’ve analyzed and acknowledged the problem, perhaps while I am distracted or playfully approaching a solution.

    In answer to your question about the murderer. I handle it thus (in this reality). By choosing to break the law, the murderer has also chosen to attract the consequences. Therefore, no matter what it appears like to the onlooker, the murderer has chosen arrest. 🙂 Of course, from my perspective, assuming any effect has only linear, physical, Newtonian cause ignores *available* (though often unacknowledged) subjective experience, wisdom and knowledge.

    Wow, I fear I have initiated, and then collaborated in some woeful thread drift here!

    Back to minimalism… My “minimizing the minimizing of others, or the telling them what to do ” was aimed at any teacher or guru or blogger who is doing that to others, and a bit reflexive on my part. I am not saying that difficulties don’t exist. Everyday, I see some things that are initially painful to behold. I’m not saying that, in our current society, we can ignore crime. I’m not saying that bloggers don’t have a right to write about how they’d like to see things.

    I am saying that on balance, I’d like to see more appreciation and encouragement for diversity, and more focus the direction of solutions. Admittedly easier said than done! Going to be traveling a bit the next few days so *may* prove scarce for a while here with any further replies.

    • There is certainly a time for wild and crazy envisioning of a better future, and perhaps I missed that this is what you were doing. Or perhaps even in my wildest visions I still don't see it likely that we wouldn't have mandatory taxation! 🙂

      I'm not sure I understand the logic of the murderer "choosing" his own arrest, but I'll just leave that for now.

      Anyway, I appreciate your contribution to the discussion!

  12. DesireEngine says:

    Weird, now all the comment stuff is working right, but I've already posted. Odd.

  13. Gina says:

    I just don't know Duff…all this chatter about minimalism…I can't get Lao- tzu out of my head.
    "He who knows does not speak.
    He who speaks does not know."

    My recent post DSM five- Binge Eating now a psychiatric diagnosis

  14. I'm right there with you. Minimalism is a trend being rushed forth by savvy bloggers, and the minimalist lifestyle can only be supported by a certain demographic.

    I like Viv's perspective above – an abundant world is at our fingertips, but that doesn't mean we should be wasteful or live overly-extravagant lifestyles, which is subjective, of course. My family has a simple philosophy: we buy and use only what we need, with an occasional indulgence. Less is more, but what we have is the best we can get.

    One last thing… minimalist homes are boring.
    My recent post Learn the Skill of Barefoot Running

    • Thanks for coming by and commenting, John.

      Barefoot running (the subject of your recent blog post) is an interesting example of minimalism. From what I've read (haven't tried it yet, but was a long-distance runner in high school) it takes more initial training to correctly run barefoot, but the benefits are great in terms of fewer injuries, better technique, and sheer joy. Of course, most "barefoot" runners run in Vibram 5-fingers or some other "barefoot" shoes! LOL So even here we have an example of minimalism marketed as a way to consume better rather than to consume less. (I noticed one of your tips from Barefoot Bob was indeed to run without any shoes including Vibrams.)

      And yes, minimalist homes are boring. 🙂 I just yesterday picked up the kid from a friend's house–they are artists and have beautiful paintings and hand-made stuff and toys and big plush couches and lots of STUFF–but it is all seems consciously chosen, cozy stuff that invites you in. Far from minimalist though!

      • I jumped on the FiveFingers bandwagon last year, but I've only worn them a few times since then – and not at all this year. It's not nearly the same as truly barefoot, and I personally much prefer barefoot running, walking and hiking to anything shod – minimalist or not.

        I think you're right that there's a greater time investment to learn [fully] barefoot running, but it's not because overly-involved training is required. With a good coach, I think you can relearn how to run in a single session. The reason it takes so long is because your body needs plenty of time to adjust to the new variables – your soles need to toughen (this happens the fastest, ie 2 weeks), then the muscles need to develop (4-6 weeks), then the ligaments and tendons (1-3 months), then your bones (3+ months). A few people have contacted me about bone spurs they got because they tried to do too much, too soon.

        What often happens is an ambitious and excited runner starts going barefoot, and after a couple of weeks, their soles are tough enough to handle longer runs without pain. But the problem is that the rest of the body still needs several weeks, if not months, to gradually condition itself to prevent injury. They push themselves too hard, and get injured.

        I spent several months making the transition to fully barefoot running, and I think it was well-worth it. I've since run barefoot for hours (pavement, dirt paths, gravel, etc.), and done strenuous day hikes over varied terrain, and I'm convinced that barefoot is better for the long haul. I feel better, and it's brought a new enjoyment to running and hiking. The only barrier that I'm still trying to figure out is what to do in the wintertime with all the snow we get up here in the Northeast… back to my lab 🙂
        My recent post Learn the Skill of Barefoot Running

  15. Chris Edgar says:

    I do agree that the focus on "simplifying" that looks only at our external environment, rather than the inner sense of deficiency that causes us to create "clutter" in the first place, doesn't grasp the whole issue.

    And, I don't necessarily take Babauta to mean that "cutting back" is the *only* solution for people who want to get out of debt. Perhaps he would also favor some degree of redistribution of wealth, as you would, if asked about the issue.

    At a deeper level, if the government required the redistribution that you favor, I can still see ways in which "minimalist" advice might be useful. If the government mandated that everyone in the U.S. receive exactly $30,000 a year and no more or less, there might still be people who would spend their mandated income on "clutter" and would find themselves in debt. "Minimalist" advice still has some potential benefit as long as individuals have options about how they spend their money. I suppose that if we all lived in collective farms with no individual possessions, this advice would become superfluous. 🙂

    • A balanced response as usual. 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts, Chris!

      Babauta probably wouldn't intend that cutting back is the only solution for the poor, but others *do* say this–they're called Conservatives! There is a common line of rhetoric that implies the poor are just lazy, taking advantage of the rich by "doing nothing" while on welfare, that anyone can raise themselves up by their bootstraps, that the rich deserve it because they came about their wealth through hard work (not structural inequality) etc. that sounded a little too similar to what Babauta was writing to not comment.

  16. Guest says:

    My two cents:

    1) Most of your criticism comes from a picture that was there just for aesthetic reasons.

    2) Most people have a hard time understanding that minimalism is just a framework that is always relative and that it is inherently contradictory. Too much minimalism is not minimalism.

    • "1) Most of your criticism comes from a picture that was there just for aesthetic reasons."

      My argument is that minimalism itself is just there for aesthetic reasons (i.e. not moral or political reasons, despite claims to the contrary).

      "2) Most people have a hard time understanding that minimalism is just a framework that is always relative and that it is inherently contradictory. Too much minimalism is not minimalism."

      This sounds like a way to slip out of making specific claims. If I say "my philosophy is inherently contradictory," I cannot be criticized for making contradictory claims.

  17. Leo says:

    This would be a valid critique — one I'd agree wholeheartedly with — if it didn't confuse my recent posts on minimalism with a single post I did several years ago (on minimalist homes). I've changed since then, as you might be able to tell from more recent posts. I've considered taking down some of my old posts, but I thought it would be interesting for people to see the differences in my writing and philosophy.

    I don't advocate people having 5,000 sq. ft. homes. So any critique of my writing based on that post isn't valid. I actually have written that people should get smaller homes if possible — and the reduction of possessions allows you to do that.

    As for my post on minimalism and the affluent, it was addressed to people who have gotten badly in debt because of consumerism (I was one of those people myself). My thoughts on the poor haven't been made public, but let's just say they'd be more radical than you'd think. I just haven't felt the need to write about them yet.

    I'll let the snarky comments about missing vowels and lower-case letters slide. 🙂

    • While I focused on your writing specifically, I've found the same contradictions in other writers and cultural examples of minimalism. I hope to cover some of those in future articles if my interest in minimalism is more than minimal. 🙂

      I'm glad you advocate for smaller homes. Why do you do so? Is there an ethical or merely aesthetic reason for this? In other words, is it good or merely beautiful to have a smaller home?

      The snark was just there for added humor. 🙂

      I am eagerly awaiting your thoughts on the poor as well, and how exactly these thoughts are radical.

      Thanks for commenting,
      ~Duff

      • Leo says:

        Hi Duff … my point is that the contradiction you write about is not really a contradiction, but a change in my philosophy. I also reserve the right to contradictions, as my writings aren't the final word on anything, but merely a personal exploration of these issues. I don't have the answers.

        I advocate smaller homes for ethical reasons — large homes are wasteful, require huge amounts of natural resources to build, and way too much energy to heat or cool. And they're unnecessary — I'm trying to advocate a movement away from the extravagant lifestyles we've developed as a society: bigger homes, bigger cars, bigger meals, wastefulness and overconsumption.

        Again, I don't have all the answers, but I'm learning.

        What I'd like to hear is, what are your proposals? It's easy to tear down other writers, but what do you propose that's better than minimalism?

        As for my thoughts on the poor — I'm generally anti-capitalist, and feel that we have so many poor because of a system that keeps them powerless and systematically makes the powerful richer. I think the answer is democracy, in every sense of the word — not representative republican government, but actual democracy in the workplace, schools, community, and a removal of authoritarian structures of all kinds.

        • I applaud you for evolving in your views! Certainly you have the right to change your position, and it is something that I am greatly in favor of. Too few people have the courage to do so, for they feel they must defend their old positions.

          I'm glad you advocate smaller homes for ethical reasons. Have you written about this specifically? (I may have missed where you have, and want to be fair to your current position.)

          One reason I write articles such as this is because ethics is a taboo subject in personal development blogging (and in consumer culture generally). To say "X is wrong for these reasons" is extremely rare—much more common is to say "I prefer Y, but you can do whatever you'd like as long as it feels good to you." I think this very line of dialogue is problematic, as it reinforces the assumptions of consumerism—choose whatever you'd like, nothing is better than anything else, nobody can tell anyone what to do. Hence political change is impossible, for laws usually restrict freedoms.

          I don't have all the answers either. But as a first step I think it's critical that we open up the field of dialogue to include ethics—especially political and legal solutions to our collective problems. While individual consumer behaviors do have some impact environmentally and in terms of the problems of global capitalism, the source of such problems in my opinion is the structures of political and economic systems.

          So for example, I am in favor of President Obama's proposal to increase the tax on the highest 1% income earners in the United States. Is this more or less authoritarian than not taxing the highest 1% more? To not tax these folks more puts them in an even stronger position of power (more authoritarian in terms of disparity in wealth), but an increased tax forces them to pay more (more authoritarian in terms of more restriction of the group taxed).

        • It's easy to tear down other writers, but what do you propose that's better than minimalism?

          My view is that it is actually quite difficult to give a balanced and fair yet strong critique of other writers. It is difficult intellectually because it takes critical thinking while representing the writer's position as accurately as possible. It is difficult emotionally because one must take a position that will absolutely be criticized. And it is difficult socially to take a contrary yet reasoned stand, especially in a culture of positivity where dissent is not tolerated.

          In my experience, it is much easier to go along with the crowd, agreeing with whatever other writers say–I've done both. This is not to say that it is easy to be an A-list leader either.

  18. Leo says:

    1. Yes, I’ve written about advocating for smaller homes (and generally using less resources). Some examples: reduce your footprint, you need less than you think,the beauty of small,why less stuff is better, and step lightly upon this earth.

    You might also read my post,consumerism vs. minimalism, for more on my views about consumerism.

    2. It’s not more authoritarian to tax the richest 1% … it’s simply a check & balance on their authoritarianism (they got their money from authoritarian structures). It’s like a cage for a tiger — the cage in and of itself sucks, but it’s necessary because otherwise the tiger would do more damage. I’d prefer to get rid of both.

    3. Criticism is necessary and important, but it definitely is easier than proposing solutions that are better. Proposing solutions (as I try to do) leaves yourself open to being torn down, which happens too often.

    • A physics teacher of mine once said that most of coming up with the right solution is asking the right question. Criticism is the process of finding the right question to ask. Asking the wrong question, you will never get a satisfactory answer.

      The very kind of solution you are proposing is more of the same. It is all individualistic, hyper-individualistic even. For instance in your article "reduce your footprint," many of these suggestions are classic suggestions from the 1980's environmental movement–back when environmentalists had just started to give up on making any political changes. Many of these suggestions I participate in myself (I was a vegetarian for 11 years and still eat little meat, walk or bike whenever I can, etc.). I'm not saying that any of these classic individual behavioral suggestions are totally misguided. But note that none involve anyone else whatsoever except joining a CSA. Besides that one, none involve community, let alone requiring that our world be structured in such a way that the environment is protected. There is no suggestion to carpool with coworkers, nor to live 2 families in 1 big home, nor to force car manufactures to make cars that must have 50 MPG by 2012, etc.

      Suggestions like those given in this article are not fundamentally challenging to our consumerist way of life, for you always have the choice whether or not to be a minimalist. Nor do these suggestions in any way threaten established power structures. This is why many (not just me) argue that these kinds of solutions are themselves consumerist—the notion is still that you can do whatever you want, choose this or that but just don't impose your values on anybody by actually changing political, economic, and legal structures.

    • "You need less than you think" continues this hyper-individualistic, choice-driven consumerist minimalism. If "everyone were to do it," perhaps it would make a significant impact. But since nobody is required to do it (well, except the poor once again, who are minimalists not by choice and could probably benefit from having more "stuff"), it is just a way of signaling one's values in a consumerist society that doesn't fundamentally threaten Capitalism or consumerism.

      Your article "the beauty of small" emphasizes that small is beautiful (as in the famous book by E. F. Schumacher), but again this is an aesthetic, not a moral distinction. I don't see any ethical or moral points being made here, nothing that would claim anything resembling "it is unethical to purchase a large car when a small one would do, for purchasing a large car would negatively impact global warming and our limited oil reserves, hence we should make cars required by law to get 50MPG and move towards zero emissions as soon as possible."

      "Why less stuff is better" reads more to me like a marketing campaign for why one should join the consumer demographic that is buying fewer, higher quality items, than for why less stuff is more ethical. Again we see that it is about the individual—less stuff isn't better for others, for the planet (except for the vague claim of being "more sustainable" which may or may not mean environmentally), for the poor, etc., but is better because of the benefits to the individual. You even emphasize that one can travel faster if they have less stuff—something that you are opposed to! This again indicates that your suggestions are not moral or ethical, only personal choice, i.e. marketing, i.e. consumerism.

    • As far as your article "consumerism vs. minimalism," I already quoted this at length in my original article above. Again, these suggestions aren't necessarily bad, they just aren't new and are still fundamentally consumerist in the sense of hyper-individualistic, based only on the individual's choices not on moral/ethical choices, political structures, economic changes, etc.

    • Also another word for moral/ethical is justice. None of these articles are on the topic of global justice, yet they seem to imply that making a better lifestyle choice will solve global problems.

      You are not unique in stating these sorts of things, but it's just one example of a trend I find very problematic, for it claims to be solving problems of Capitalism like consumerism when what it actually does it continue the problematic structures unabated.

    • From an excellent article entitled "Eat, Pray, Spend" from the feminist magazine Bitch: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/eat-pray-spend

      “In the context of the recession, we’re seeing an emphasis on simplicity and frugality, but embedded within that emphasis is a subtext of consuming more”—imported, [Micki McGee, author of Self Help, Inc.] points out, from contemporary self-help literature of all kinds.

  19. @dvdsweeney says:

    "Provide for yourself moments of inner tranquility, and in these moments learn to distinguish between the essential and the non-essential."
    – Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment / Rudolf Steiner

    Interesting to see how esoteric practices get reinterpreted and recycled.
    Same as it ever was… !

  20. jacqjolie says:

    Re. the poor – my grandmother (b. 1908) grew up in a nice little minimalist 2 room sod house with 12 children in the family. She was a hoarder from the time that I can remember. Not to the point of people that you see on TV today, but the type that kept her mothers 80 y.o. wool coat because she was going to make a blanket out of it someday. I've gone through some extremely lean times myself (living on $200/month at one point), so I can understand this mentality of not being able to let go of things. I'm afraid it's not as simple as "breathe and be content".

    Growing up in a rural area (with 8 kids in an 1100 s.f. house) with neighbors that didn't have the luxury of running water in the 1970's may give me a bit of a different perspective, but many times these people accumulate because of economic reasons – you may need a part off that non-running vehicle out back and they're extremely inventive at re-purposing some things for other uses because they've had to be.

    Amy D (Tightwad Gazette) herself had a 2500 s.f. house and a 4500 s.f. barn. I don't know that I would call that minimalist, even with 6 kids.

    Re. the 1% tax on the rich who are that way because of authoritarian structures… Again, maybe my perspective is different, but in the 25 years that my 90 y.o. farmer father's been eligible for old age pension, he hasn't received a penny as it's been clawed back. There's a whole lot of people that I know like that who are those high income earners that got that way by being non-consumers before it was cool. I'm not really sure why, after putting in his 75+ years of working 60-100 hours a week and saving his butt off by doing things like living in a minimalist! granary for a couple of years – and giving gobs of money to charity – that he should have to pay for people who are putting in 1/4-1/2 the effort. I guess that means I'm a dirty capitalist.
    My recent post Kanban – what a simple concept!

    • I think this beautifully illustrates how complex these issues are, which is a kind of meta-point of writing critical articles like this. There is no one-size-fits-all solution here.

      • jacqjolie says:

        You're definitely right there. 🙂 Sorry for sounding snippy, I didn't mean to. If people wanted real minimalism, they'd just pick up ONE book – maybe Walden – actually follow it to the extent they're comfortable, and stop looking for other answers, cuz that kind of says it all. The problem with reading about that kind of thing regularly is that in reading about it, people can reduce their anxiety and feel they've actually done something – which they haven't.

  21. rmd says:

    Oh, hell yeah. People who are proud of their "Voluntary Simplicity" Always Always Always make it clear that it's "voluntary" so you don't think they're, you know, POOR or something. and somehow buying stuff is okay if you're buying high quality simple minimalist things to replace your old uncool crap.

  22. Patrick Kyle says:

    Duff,

    You said (Jul 18@9:03 AM) “The very kind of solution you are proposing is more of the same. It is all individualistic, hyper-individualistic even.”

    As opposed to what, a more collectivist solution? Individual actions are all we really have left. The political machine (at least in the US) is beyond being substantively effected by individuals. It can be argued that every authority structure in our culture exploits those under it. Leo and others are doing what they can, influencing and convincing people one at a time.

    We are all consumers at one level or another. The minimalist bloggers point out that we have choices in how we consume.

    I say good for Leo and those other Minimalist bloggers that urge us to go against the flow of an unbridled consumerist mentality, and the powerful forces that urge us to mortgage our future with consumer debt. Are they perfect, or entirely consistent? Hell, no, but they point to a better way and are willing to lead the charge by being living examples of what they preach. To mock or dismiss the whole movement based on your idea that it is individualistic or lacks concern for larger issues like ‘social justice’ is to judge it using your arbitrarily chosen standard. It is meant to help improve the lives of ‘individuals’ and when enough individuals have embraced the philosophy, maybe then it will hve a larger effect.

    • As opposed to what, a more collectivist solution? Individual actions are all we really have left. The political machine (at least in the US) is beyond being substantively effected by individuals. … We are all consumers at one level or another. The minimalist bloggers point out that we have choices in how we consume.

      I find this view incredibly cynical. Yes, I believe there are collectivist solutions available to us that are not simply better living through consumption.

  23. […] would turn into an endless list of links, so for this one I will stick to the rules and go with The New Minimalism or the New Consumerism? from Beyond […]

  24. Bryce Rasmussen says:

    Leo-are you going to (I'm assuming you live in that nice expensive mansion) go for a smaller space? As someone who is very very poor-here in Canada, the poverty line is considered to be at 20 to 30 thousand (in other words, teachers up here are poor, and service industry people even poorer), I have a rather marked tendency to not listen to someone who says "you should do this" while doing something else. Especially money. Equally, we had a politician live for three days on 75$ a day, in an SRL-about enough room for a bed, at 350$ a month. And all the junkies and vermin you could stand. Everyone was deeply insulted when he announced that now he knew what it was like. He didn't. He goes back to his, well, everything. So, to me, it's a practical matter. It's actually, and realistically, great that you got yourself out of debt. And it's natural to lay down some nice brag on it. People don't mind that at all. In fact, they'll even cheer for you. But patronizing-I'll be very clear here-which is something that some people seem to feel you are doing, and, to them, being somewhat hypocritical, may not be the best approach. It's sensitive territory. Many people would rather admit they have some horrid, socially unacceptable disease, than admit what they earn – or what lifestyle they choose. Consider Duff-he mentions that he's a vegan – but he does not press the issue. I'm not a vegan, because I like the taste of meat. I disagree, on a personal level, with what seem to be well, excuses – I've met vegans who were truthful, and said anything from "my lover wants me to be" to "I just cannot stand the taste of meat. It actively makes me sick."

    The problem for me, is any vegan who chooses to get in my face with what I should do – keeping in mind that I'm free to ignore anyone whom I don't agree with. Same as you are, Leo – I tend to abide by 'practice what you preach, and if you must preach, try to do so softly." I admit the last bit is a bit hard to specify…Hey, I'd even be happy with "I was in debt, I got myself out of debt, and hey, I turned it into a business." I dunno, maybe selling the philosophy is a way of selling the biz.

    On a practical level, I am aghast at some basic issues i see, with how people are going about it. One fella eats out every night, and doesn't see how that's rampant consumerism, and also, has nothing in the way of survival gear for when things get rough. Another couple travelling with a six month old, their first, I believe, apparently unaware of what that child is going to be like, as soon as he's able to articulate decently, and move around. I see a lot of people making this lifestyle choice much in the same way one sees some greenhorn out in the wilderness, going all Walden back to nature, and clueless. One couple, living on a farm (of their rich mom) who claim they never bathe, and committing an act of utter stupidity-their well was upslope from their home. You never put a well upslope from where you live. That can contaminate the water supply.

    So I am somewhat angered, mostly amused, and kind of concerned. Just my couple bucks. Inflation, you know.

    • For clarity's sake, I'm pretty sure Mr. Babauta does not live in a mansion. The one pictured in this article was a home he praised for it's minimalist aesthetic in an article he wrote for Zen Habits. Leo claimed in these comments that he no longer supports such massive homes, but has not retracted his article, nor was this change in values at all clear to me from his current writing, which is why I wrote this article on the contradictions in the New Minimalism.

  25. Just to be clear, I was a vegan, but I eat meat now. I stopped due to health reasons, but still agree with the ethics of vegetarian/vegan diets. I helped form a vegetarian advocacy organization on my college campus, but we took an educational approach instead of a PETA confrontational approach. While I don't try and push vegetarian values on people who aren't interested, I do sometimes argue the point if people are unaware of some of the issues like factory farming or environmental impact of meat consumption (esp. red meat) or if someone is actively denying the existence of factory farming for instance.

    That said, glad you enjoyed the article. I have no solution to all of the world's problems either, but hope that by participating in the discussion I can contribute in some small way.

    • Bryce Rasmussen says:

      Understood. I was unaware as to whether he lived in one, or espoused one. Agree with what you indicated, in his writing. It comes across a little bit like political talk. I was unable to locate ideas that indicated any actual change, or what that change might be.

      I will put forward that I suspect more than a few New Minimalists or Technomads of being quite sincere, but unaware of the cultural history. For instance, here in Vancouver, attempts are ongoing to gentrify the DTES (Downtown Eastside, also known as the 'demilitarized zone' and legendary for being the poorest neighborhood in Canada, and some parts of the USA). This consists of not addressing the actual problems, and throwing in a few expensive loft spaces, which the relatively rich move in to. They then complain about the smell, and the noise, and mix with the local area not very well, which, of course, causes a lot of friction and resentment.

      As well, in the past, both recent and fairly deep, the bourgeois have, on the rare occasions they felt guilty about their affluence, have attempted various 'movements' to find meaning, to connect with the 'noble' lower classes. Traditionally, this has not gone well with the so-called noble lower classes. Whether well meaning, pure of heart, or otherwise, said upper class types reveal their breeding, their cultural bias, their ignorance, the moment they issue a collective statement. And are usually unaware of why they seem to be offending many.

      Communication, a certain amount of experience, are about the only things that might help a divide like this. I'd recommend that New Minimalists try and talk to people not of their station. I've had to learn simple lessons of communication, through long experience, and they work. It's totally cool to brag, but not when one has done little to deserve the bragging. And, as many people have pointed out, the presence, or lack of, material things will in no way whatsoever, lead to inner peace. Or even a nice philosophical frame of mind. Last little thing: it might behoove those of different castes, like me, to also find a frame of mind, an approach that connects, and blogs will never replace face to face.

  26. @darchand says:

    interesting and overdue discussion. i've been 'minimalist' for years without even realising it. the change for me happened after some pretty intense therapy, when the compulsion to consume, impress people or otherwise keep up with everyone else just sort of stopped.

    this may be a little off-topic, but i believe consumerism is driven by neurotic, compulsive behaviour, and it's that that is the real issue, and not its outer manifestation. in most cases becoming a 'minimalist' is just some neat outer 'rebranding' or 'lifestyle choice', and that unless you really make an internal change, you'll just continue to behave in a compulsive and neurotic manner. possibly by becoming a blogger or otherwise trying to enforce your ideas on others, but the options are endless i suppose.

    on balance though i think your interpretation of a picture in an old blog post was a HUGE stretch, as Leo never mentioned buying a large mansion. inasmuch as minimalism involves a search for deeper meaning in one's life, i really think it's a positive development. just try to look past the stuff (or absence of stuff) because this should not be the sole focus.
    My recent post darchand- trying to limit checking twitter and email to twice a day i think any more is bordering on OCD

    • I think there are both inner and outer manifestations of consumerism. Definitely there is an inner component as you said, the neurotic and compulsive experience (I'd say behavior is an outer manifestation). I think it is excellent inner work to transform that compulsion, and I'm glad you had a major shift in that regard.

      I don't think it is much of a stretch—Baubata praised that particular mansion as an example of a minimalist home. He has since recanted his views (in these comments, but not on that blog post).

      I don't know about "most cases," but I do think there is a common confusion between minimalist aesthetics and minimalist ethics, or even just aesthetics and ethics in general.

      Baubata said in these comments that he changed his mind about minimalism and big fancy homes are now out in his value system. I have to assume that is true. Yet I haven't seen him taking any strong ethical stands in his writing. Why not? If minimalism is about our collective environmental destruction and not simply a lifestyle choice, why not speak up more strongly? Ethics themselves are being reduced to aesthetics when "my ethics" cannot intrude on yours.

  27. […] this.) Yet the $497 price tag is hardly a fit for the frugal personal development consumer. Like Leo’s love of this minimalist mansion, his stated values and his actions seem to be once again incongruent. While there is a money-back […]

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