Numbers and the lies we tell ourselves


This is a guest post by LM Radja.


I’ve been drifting along this minimalism path for quite some time now.

I’ve seen, read and listened to some extremists, some middle-of-the-road folks and some folks who just struggle with the process.

As I watch the movement become more mainstream, I wonder where it will take the basic notion of minimalism. Heck, even the advertisers are jumping on the band wagon – whether it’s that bank that wants to help you enjoy your experiences and not just more ‘stuff’ or the retailer closing for the holidays because they know how important personal relationships are.

To me, the underlying message is simple: don’t have more than you need or find real value in.

I think Buddha sums it up best.

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

We are at a fork in the road – minimalism can become an all-inclusive concept that celebrates those who have very little to those who have what, to them, is enough or it can become just another marketing tool and means of comparison to show how much better we are than others.

I have concerns about which path we will go down. Here’s why.

I, like some, can be a minimalist ‘junkie’ reading every post, listening to podcasts, reading books, watching videos and just generally absorbing as much as I can.

My personal journey started slowly back in 2009 when I began reading a book by Elaine St. James, called Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down.

It was serendipitous that I came across it; a friend had given me a bag of books to donate to a nursing home and I looked through them to check for anything I might want to read first.

From there I discovered some of the pioneers of the movement – from Jay Shafer to Courtney Carver to Rowdy Kittens to to Miss Minimalist to The Minimalists.

Soon I was scouring YouTube and the internet for other sources on minimalism. When I began, the concept was still not anywhere near mainstream and information was hard to find. I knew it had hit the general population when multiple hits came up for my searches.

With all the increase in attention came diversity but also came competition.

Who has the least number of things? And how do we count those things? Is the family living off-grid in a tiny house more minimalist than, say, a millennial who is living with less by using the gym’s shower and ‘storing’ clothes at a dry cleaners’? Who’s to say?

There are really no rules. That’s a good AND bad thing. The good is there is no one way to be a minimalist. The bad thing is that the landscape is constantly changing and our human desire to be ‘in’ can have us fruitlessly pursuing whatever is the current minimalist trend.

Here’s what I think: minimalism is a fluid concept and there are thousands of different combinations and angles through which we can reach our personal ‘minimalist’.

If you can live with only 35 actual pieces of clothing but want to equip your kitchen like an Iron Chef because you love to cook, then that is your definition.

I think the real catalyst behind minimalism is knowing when to let go. When whatever it is that is your passion currently no longer inspires you, be willing to move on figuratively AND literally.

Donate, sell, throw it out. Just be sure you are listening to your inner voice and not some YouTuber or advertiser who is telling you what your minimalism should look like.


LM Radja started looking at life differently when she hit 50. She describes the biggest benefit of minimalism as gaining ‘the capacity to stop and appreciate the small joys’. She can be found at Facebook.com/Minimleeblog.

2 thoughts on “Numbers and the lies we tell ourselves

  1. kddomingue says:

    Oh! A voice of reason among the cacophony of minimalist militants and pundits, lol! I am so happy to see this movement towards minimalism grow and gain more popularity. As a whole, we (in America) are a terribly wasteful society. With manufacturers, advertisers and media constantly pushing the idea that more, bigger and newer is better, we have become a throwaway culture. We are not leaving future generations a better world, we’re leaving them a huge trash heap. We have become a convenience driven society to the determent of our overall health and the health of our planet. I sincerely hope that conspicuous consumption as an accepted lifestyle goes the way of the dodo bird. Having said that, minimalism is a very fluid concept and will mean something different to every person. There is no one correct way to live a minimalist lifestyle, no “one size fits all” formula. I hope the minimalist movement doesn’t devolve into a competition to see who can be the most minimal minimalist or shaming of those who aren’t minimal enough according to the minimal militants criteria.

  2. This is a breath of fresh air! Often in my journey to use less, have less, and enjoy my life more, I’ve felt like I was an imposter. Everyone seemed to use and have so little that I felt like a glutton even as I was paring down my possessions and concentrating more on experiences. It’s important to remember that life is a journey – and no matter what stage we’re at, as long as we’re moving forward, we’re doing great. Thanks for the lift!

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