Why I Write About Simplicity and Minimalism

I write about a variety of topics. My interests are eclectic; therefore, my writing also tends to be eclectic. One of the things I am passionate about, and therefore like to write about, is the discipline of simplicity, along with the related discipline of minimalism.

Why do I write about simplicity and minimalism? Several recent conversations with people in the offline (real) world have revealed a perception that I am trying to convince people to live as I live. People sometimes think my objective in writing about simplicity and minimalism is to persuade everyone to be a minimalist, to get rid of everything they own, and to live out of one bag.

Truthfully, my objective is not to convince everyone to live as I live. It would be a boring world if people were all the same. My hope, instead, is to demonstrate that there is another way to live, that there is an alternative to mindless consumerism. It is not necessary, or even desirable, to live as a slave to consumerism and materialism (in other words, to live as a typical, 21st century American). My hope, in sharing how I live as a minimalist, is to demonstrate that it is possible to live a good life without all of the stuff that corporations spend billions of dollars each year trying to convince people that they need.

“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meager life than the poor.”

Henry David Thoreau

I am not opposed to material possessions. Viewing all material goods as inherently evil is to fall into the ancient error of Gnosticism. On the other hand, consumerism and materialism is an unhealthy and destructive lifestyle that will always disappoint. No amount of stuff will make your life complete and meaningful. Accumulating more stuff will, however, increase your stress and cost more of your life. As the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau wisely observed, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.”

St. Paul

Contentment is a wonderful state of being – and one that is not dependent on any amount of possessions. More possessions will never bring contentment for contentment comes from within. Not only are possessions not a prerequisite for contentment, they usually serve as an obstacle to contentment. In sharing how I can be content with what most people would consider to be ridiculously few possessions, I hope to challenge others to at least consider simplifying their own lives – even if not to the same extent as I have mine.

My philosophy of minimalist living is summed up well in these words from Thoreau:

“It is desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay his hands on himself in the dark, and that he live in all respects so compactly and preparedly that, if an enemy take the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety.”