The best lifestyle is always the newest one.
The same goes for diets, fashion, subcultures, parties, politicians or whatever. The best is surely the one you haven't tried yet. The one with a vaguely cultish subculture surrounding it. The one your hipster friend is into. The one which promises to solve all your problems.
From the outside looking in, minimalism can sound like the answer to our deep-seated cultural and individual issues. There is an element of purging to it, of burning the past and emerging from its ashes. Our physical possessions can be thick with the dust of bad memories. Remnants of who we used to be stick to them.
Less can be more and more can be less. Less can also be less, and more can be more.
Minimalism is pretty wonderful. It can make life a lot better. As a concept, it can be applied to many areas of life. Physical possessions, relationships, commitments, work, art, and so on.
But minimalism, as a lifestyle, is not a solution to life's problems. Throwing out all your crap alone will not make you happier. An empty home can still be a place you hate. You can simplify all your commitments and still find you do not have time to sleep 8 hours or read a book a day. You will probably still want to shop and buy more crap. You will find yourself acquiring more no matter what. You will probably never feel like you are worthy of calling yourself a minimalist. Or that you have finished decluttering.
Over time, lifestyles, and other forms of tribes degrade.
They become a corporate tool, used to sell junk by companies which see it as a nothing more than a new target market. Minimalism is swiftly being commercialised. This is inevitable and unavoidable. Monochrome pillows and concrete cacti pots are just indicators of a wider process wherein the fringe is absorbed into the mainstream.
Veterans begin to complain that people who adopt it after them are not meeting the rules. A sense of elitism develops as people push it to extremes. This creates a sense of discouragement among those who cannot go to their level. The latter group begins to feel they are not doing the lifestyle right. They wonder if it is for them. Perhaps they give up. The underlying concepts and ideas become blurry as a result.
People who follow the lifestyle split into two groups. Those who do so in a commercialised way, and those at the extreme end of the spectrum.
Then along comes a new tribe to join. This one promises to solve everything. This one must be better. People shift away, chasing novelty.
You see this each time a Youtuber goes vegan, for example. It begins with the I AM NOW VEGAN video. Then for a while they laud the lifestyle, with videos like HOW VEGANISM CHANGED MY LIFE. A few months later comes the almost inevitable WHY I AM NO LONGER VEGAN video, followed by STORY TIME- VEGANISM NEARLY KILLED ME. Then they go paleo, or slow-carb or whatever. Rinse and repeat. Even though I am being a bit satirical, the point remains.
This is not a feature of the individual lifestyle itself. Human beings crave novelty, excitement and new challenges. Minimalism is alluring because it is a challenge. Adopting it pushes you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to question old paradigms and the ideas your socialisation taught you to accept. It might go against your prior beliefs.
Minimalism is not, as a concept, anywhere near modern. In its current iteration as a lifestyle, it is relatively new. Describing it as ancient because humans used to own few possessions is missing the point. That's how life was for most people prior to the industrial revolution. It wasn't a choice. Minimalism in its current iteration is a choice.
The value of any lifestyle choice lies in its capacity to be applied, not followed religiously or subverted.
What matters is seeing it as a tool, not a magical solution for your problems. Human beings will always chase the novel, the new, the exciting. This is part of the life-long process of experimentation and self-development.
The route to adhering to a particular lifestyle involves openness to change, a clear understanding of its values, and maintaining an ability to cut out the noise. Forget what others are doing. Take what works for you and ignore the rest. Test and redefine. Being dogmatic about minimalism is no more useful than turning it into a trend.
Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.
P.S. If you enjoy this site, consider taking a look at my Patreon page.