|Source: Phillip Finder|
After years of thinking and talking about simplicity with my close ones, blogging, reading and commenting about the subject, I noticed there are a lot of ideas and preconceptions around the concept of minimalism and simple living. These myths tend to rebuke people, make simple living sound impossible for some, cold and boring for others. I am still learning, but here are a few of these myths I'd like to bust with you today.
Note: I have written a guest post over at Into Mind introducing my vision of the concept of Simple Living. It might actually be a good complement to this one. Thanks again to Anuschka for inviting me to write for Into Mind.
Myth 1: Simplicity is a Witch Hunt Against MaterialismMinimalists are often portrayed as owning as little objects as possible, fighting against consumerism by never buying anything and never enjoying material items. Often, people think that leading a simple life equals fighting materialism - as in, having as few objects as possible, placing no value in them, and finding pleasure only in non-material activities.
I believe that simplicity has to do with fighting consumerism. But as I previously wrote about, consumerism is different from materialism. Consumerism is about trying to fulfil a higher, emotional or mental need with an object, and that is not materialism. On the other hand, a simple life is about finding adequate objects to match exactly your needs and preferences, which make your life easier and more enjoyable. Therefore, you do possess some items that you need, and you value them for their usefulness and the joy they bring you.
A simple life is not materialist, as priorities are non-material, but it is not against owning objects. On the contrary, I believe you place your objects in higher regard, as they are fewer, well-used as well taken care of. Think about it, what is the best consideration for an object: buy it on a sale whim and discarding it in a storage room after a few weeks, or carefully select an adequate item and using it everyday until it wears out?
Myth 2: Simplicity is a Boring, Bare Shelves & White Walls LifeAnother image I often hear about, especially when talking about minimalism, is that Japanese inspired bare aesthetics that come with the concept. White walls, a simple cushion on the floor, a wooden shelf with a single piece of ceramics. I personally do like that kind of "mood", but a lot of people assimilate it as the "must" for a simple lifestyle and are turned away by how boring it is.
Maybe these aesthetics are assimilated to simplicity because they are non fussy and depurated, or because they embody the simple aesthetics and philosophy from traditional japanese culture, but let's not confuse simple aesthetics and simple living.
We have two very different concepts here: simple or minimalist design and aesthetics - neutral colours, natural fabrics, clean lines, little decoration; and simple living, which is a set of decisions, choices and values to live by, regardless of the colour of your walls. You can very well engage in simple living all the while filling your appartement and outfits with cheerful colours, nice patterns and intricate designs. I have a living proof of that: Miss Xandra Bee, a very much colourful and light lady who engages in simple living.
Myth 3: Simplicity is About Leading an Ascetic, Uncomfortable LifeThis idea often goes in pair with the one above: simplicity is often viewed as a very strict and controlled lifestyle, taking away the fantasy, the fun for a sad and uncomfortable life. You know, people who wake up at 6AM to go for a run, don't eat meat, don't drink alcohol, and never induldge in anything. Some people make these life choices, but this is not a requirement to live a simple life.
My vision of simple living is quite the opposite actually: to me, it is about making day to day errands easier and more comfortable. It is about finding the adequate items to improve your life, it is about enjoying the little moments of life and create some fun in the ordinary things. A simple life doesn't mean sitting on a cushion on the floor, it can damn well mean finding a comfortable leather sofa because your backside deserves it.
It may also be seen as strict and controlled because engaging in simple living means for example budgeting to spend less than what we earn, or eating more healthily. But from the inside, when introducing the habits little by little, and, more importantly, adapting them to your needs and preferences, these are not strict at all, on the contrary they are a source of enjoyment.
Myth 4: Simple Life Means Buying Luxurious ItemsThis myth was born more recently, with all this literature about simplicity and minimalist aesthetics that is directed at upper social classes. Even in Dominique Loreau's L'Art de la Simplicité for example, she presents the simple lifestyle as one that requires a lot of money: Italian marble, soft and luxurious cashmere plaids, a home designed by an architect to be perfectly adequate. This can give the impression that buying the adequate items means being financially comfortable enough to buy the most expensive options out there.
Yes, quality costs more. And if you are looking for an item adequate to your needs, chances are it will be more expensive than your regular supermarket or high street item. But that kind of choice can be made with any budget. Italian marble and luxurious cashmere are not a must. And since you buy less items overall and take good care of them, chances are you'd compensate the price of quality by a reduced quantity of purchases. Don't let luxurious brands fool you: you don't need to buy from them to live a simple life.
Sometimes, it is about the simple trick of having the chargers stored in a 5€ box near the power cord. Or it can be about the simple efficiency of a French Press to make coffee. Or it can be about hand-made items found by chance on travels, by craftsmen who don't artificially increase prices because of their notoriety. With a bit of research, you can identify stores, brands, suppliers, craftsmen accessible to you that provide adequate quality, for the adequate price. It can mean one luxurious item from a favourite brand if this is what you fancy, but it doesn't have to be.
What do you think? Do you have any ideas that stops you from living a simple life, which really were preconceptions? Are there any other ideas or images you have of simplicity you'd like me to discuss about?