If you are tuned in to pop culture, you’ve probably noticed a lifestyle design trend over the past few years towards minimalism. This movement is essentially an autoimmune response to the global financial (read: morality) crisis.
People who lost a great deal of money, their home, or their job, question why they even had all that stuff in the first place. Those who made it through the crisis unscathed wonder if they are next.
Minimalism is one of those things that people can agree is a virtue, yet no one will pursue.
That’s because minimalism requires work, just like consumerism.
Don’t get me wrong, decluttering, selling unneeded things, and making a conscious effort to stop bringing so much new stuff into our homes are good things. But like all good things, it can be taken too far.
A recent post on a popular minimalism blog implores us to delete digital music we don’t listen to, or haven’t listened to in a while.
Keep in mind that this is digital music, which essentially only takes up imaginary space. It’s not like a stack of 500 CDs.
The author even admits in the article that music is a unique type of art that is meant to be enjoyed over time. He then says that he deleted everything he hadn’t listened to in the last 6 months, and urged us to do the same.
He describes spending hours going through 20,000 songs to find out which ones he doesn’t need. I would guess that he inconvenienced himself more by doing this than his music collection would have ever inconvenienced him by just…existing.
Essentially this is creating clutter in order to get rid of it. Creating a problem in order to solve a problem.
Before I read this piece it never occurred to me that having a bunch of songs on a hard drive would cause problems in my life. That’s because it doesn’t (except when Britney Spears accidentally pops up on shuffle at a party and embarrasses me).
The minimalism blogger says that paring down our music collections allows us to focus on the good stuff. He may be right, but if music is, like he says, a “special art form” that is “absorbed over time,” then why should I make an arbitrary decision that because I don’t like an album today, that I should delete it forever?
I’ve bought albums and listened to them once, only to rediscover them years later and fall in love with them.
I’m calling this out as an addiction to minimalism. More specifically, it may be an addiction to problem solving. These types of extreme behaviors prevent us from enjoying our lives. Sure, we can take minimalism to its extreme and wake up in a house with just a bean bag chair and a notepad, but will that make our lives better?
This is also why you won’t read a lot about extreme frugality on Married (with Debt). If you have ever seen the TV shows about Extreme Cheapskates, you will realize that their money saving frugality is merely a mask to cover up mental illness.
Life is about balance, and so is money. We should not let our money control us through debt. We should also not work to have so much control over our money that we obsess about it.
Minimalism has some virtues, but like all advice, you shouldn’t be afraid cherry-pick out the things that make sense and reject the things that don’t.
That’s how we create our own philosophies and move discussion forward.