Why Simple Doesn't Mean Easy

Updated: Dec 18, 2019


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Many of you might have noticed that minimalism is becoming a bit of a thing. Call it trendy, revolutionary, pretentious or revelatory, more and more people seem to be advocating for a lifestyle free of clutter. It is said that by freeing up your living environment from all the non-essential bits and bobs, you will find a new, more satisfying way of living.


Many of you might have noticed that minimalism is becoming a bit of a thing. Call it trendy, revolutionary, pretentious or revelatory, more and more people seem to be advocating for a lifestyle free of clutter. It is said that by freeing up your living environment from all the non-essential bits and bobs, you will find a new, more satisfying way of living.


On the one hand, there are studies that show this is true, on the other hand there are those that argue that minimalism is only accessible to the more privileged. You need the dough to afford a large, white-walled, high-ceilinged apartment some think is required for that monochrome image of minimalism. The word might conjure up images of dark, wooden furniture, perhaps also featuring a single bonsai tree and the latest Apple laptop. This type of minimalism does seem accessible only to wealthier people. It’s a lot less feasible for a single parent with children running around, for example.


Why minimalism?

Recently, I decided to learn a more minimalist way of living. I drew up a list of what I did own and chose to sell or give away anything that wasn’t either essential or that brought significant joy to my life. I took all these things to charity shops or sold the more expensive things online. Since then I have found that simply by reducing what I own to only the most essential items, I am less likely to want new things too. Instead of pining after the idea of more clothes or technology, I am more inclined to repair old items or find new ways to use what I already have.


The result is that I look for happiness in what I do instead of what I acquire. Studies have found that we are more likely to gain pleasure from our experiences than from material wealth. Of course there is a cut-off point, a minimum of means below which life would just becomes too difficult to enjoy. But what I personally found, was that I started to do more interesting things with friends, exploring new places, visiting unusual sites and starting fun projects. Whereas before I had a boring tendency to go and browse a clothes shop for hours, often leaving with nothing and feeling tired from all the bright strobe lighting you always get in high street stores. Such absent-minded consumerist habits, shopping without any specific need, can drain you not just financially, but emotionally.


Simple isn’t easy

So minimalism can have certain benefits for your mentality. But simple doesn’t mean easy. To get rid of your stuff requires time, something not everybody has. Those who preach minimalism tend to forget this and the endless spiel about the "evils of materialism" can get exhausting for someone who has more urgent matters to deal with before they dedicate hours to getting rid of things.


When I tried to be more minimalist, I did also have to set aside a lot of time to do it. A lot of the things I decided to lose had value and I didn’t want to just give them away. So I spent a few of my days off work photographing my possessions to upload online and sell on Gumtree (like a 'Craigslist' in Australia!). This isn’t something everyone can do. Objects can also have sentimental value and it can take time just to decide which things you can let go. For many, their possessions are valuable in other ways and the idea of chucking things out might seem contrary to all logic because every object has a purpose.


Simplifying your life can be hard. But it doesn’t apply only to cutting back on things you own. Simplifying emotions and well being isn’t easy either. When online advice tells you to be minimalist, it might have the same ring to it as when somebody tells you patronisingly: “Just smile, you’ll feel happy,” and you think: “Oh gee, thanks! Why didn’t I think of that?” Of course it is never that easy. Although smiling is said to release endorphins, smiling with the weight of extreme sadness inside you is like putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound: it won’t help a huge lot.


In fact, it can make things worst to hear suggestions that only reveal how little the person making them understands about your problems. Minimalism might have the same impact for some. It isn’t going to solve your problems and so why spend so much time on it.


How minimalism can help

Nevertheless, minimalism might bring some benefit to anyone if not taken so literally. Instead people might interpret minimalism in a way that suits them practically. For those without the time or desire to sort through and chuck out all their things, minimalism could simply involve focusing on activities that make them happier rather than acquiring more and more things.


Research shows that the short term pleasure you get from buying a new thing is by far outweighed by the pleasure of spending quality time with those you love. Looking for happiness in what you do rather than what you own will also combat jealousy and a sense of lacking you can get from seeing how others live in the media. They might have an amazing car or huge house, but does that make them happier than you? Not necessarily, and those with more material wealth are just as likely to suffer from mental illnesses such as depression.


So my verdict on minimalism is that although it’s not appealing for some, it is better for anyone to seek good experiences rather than buy more stuff. What do you think?




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