Conceptualising allows to think about things beyond what is clearly visible about them. Since I’m interested in minimalism but still not well read on the subject, I’ve decided to conceptualise its meaning based on what I know about it and compare my understanding after I know more about it.
Minimalism is not only an approach in design or art. It supporters advocate for it as being a life style. But even so, what most people know about it is that it means owning less things. Whereas this is true, owning less things is just one manifestation of minimalism.
When thinking about it, minimalism is in fact about using up only the resources that one really needs. The resources I can think of are time, money, material, information, and energy. I’m going to focus here on the impact minimalism has in a personal context.
Minimalising time. It means that a person spends only time on the things and activities that are necessary and help a person achieve his or her goals. We know that time is scarce, and one should be wise about how to spend it. A speaker in one TED talks suggested that we should estimate how long we are going to live and then put a dot for each week in our life on a piece of paper. After crossing off the weeks we have already lived, and taking into consideration how long we sleep, we are going to be shocked how little time we have left.
Minimalising money. Obviously, the resource one should not squander is money. But the interesting thing about money is that in fact it represents other resources. It can for example represent time, material, or energy. Therefore, spending money wisely means also saving other resources, and having more choices and options in the future.
Minimalising material. I think it is another way of saying not to consuming things we have unnecessarily. Today, this might be challenging to imagine in rich countries, because the market offers everything and you can buy anything as long as you have money. But in the past or in less developed economies, material and times are not easy to obtain, and therefore are not to be consumed in an irresponsible way. Take for example clothing. Whereas in rich countries, people like to buy and throw away lots of clothes, in poor countries not only are clothes relatively more expensive, good quality and original products are also hard to obtain. This is why people are extra careful not to wear down their clothes and are likely to pass them over to siblings or even their kids instead of throwing them away.
Minimalising information. We are living in a knowledge society. But one of the problems of the knowledge society is that it suffers from information overload. Therefore, it is important not to produce too much information unless necessary, and not to consume information that is not needed. Producing and consuming unnecessary information costs time, money, and energy.
Minimalising energy. Another things that is very scarce and that we should not spend unwisely is energy. But with energy here I mean personal energy; the amount of effort one is able to put forward in one day. It is clear that one is not able to do everything and has to choose wisley how to spend a day.
But here is another important insight about minimalism: too often, resources are interrelated with each other. When using up too much of one resource, more of other resources will be necessarily used up as well. Its clear that when you own more things, you have to spend obviously more money to obtain them, but you are also going to spend time and energy to maintain them as well. It is not necessary to explain the famous adage time is money, nor information is power, if we mean by power energy. So being unwise in spending one type of resource will lead to loose even more resources.
Therefore, minimalism is not only about spending less of what is not necessary, but also about spending more of what is necessarily. Therefore we can say that minimalism is spending resources effectively or being more effective. But I think that since resources are interrelated, being wise about spending one of them can also mean being more effective in spending other resources.
Adapting minimalism as a lifestyle rather than just learning a set of habits and skills is therefore the right approach to become a minimalist, because it suggests some profound changes in personality.