How Can a Minimalist be a Maximalist?
I am a minimalist, but I am also a maximalist, and I don’t see a problem with either side.
So what is a minimalist?
Basically it’s someone who wants to live with as little as they possibly need.
Some people put (stupid) rules on this like only allowing 100-items in their house (each pair of underwear actually counts here), or only owning everything in neutral colors so that everything matches; whereas others like me are far more flexible.
I see it more as a philosophy, or a new perspective on what all that stuff really means to you, not necessarily requiring you to follow certain rules to call yourself a minimalist.
So what is a maximalist then? The exact opposite of a minimalist.
For these folks, “more is better, too much is never enough”, as the saying goes.
You might think that the two are never to meet on common ground, but from my point of view being a minimalist and a maximalist aren’t that far off from each other because in the end, they both just want to live their life to the fullest, they just can’t seem to agree on how much stuff it takes to do so.
So how can a minimalist be a maximalist?
As I mentioned above, some (extreme) minimalists say you can only keep 100 items in your possession, but how they actually achieve this with children and not cheating by considering all of their clothing as “1 item”, is beyond me.
As a minimalist, I only want to buy and keep the things that bring me the most utility and pleasure, but what my definition of “need” and “want” can differ from other people, let alone other minimalists.
For instance, I see furniture ranking on a pretty low scale of importance in my life.
Beyond a table, chairs, a futon to sleep on the floor, and perhaps a shelving unit of some sort, I don’t really see what else I could need.
For instance, most apartments come with closets and shelving units of some kind, so I don’t need a dresser.
I am completely uninterested in buying a couch that weighs a ton that I’d have to rent a moving truck for to haul around when I shift from place to place, and I live in fear of short, squat coffee tables that always inevitably find my knees and toes to leave bruises on.
As a result, I can say without any reservation that the only piece of furniture (if you can call it that) I currently own is a Japanese futon on the floor.
I don’t even own a table, or chairs at the moment because there’s a counter in the kitchen that came with built-in chairs, which I use as an office but also as a dining area.
This sounds completely depressing and far too close to student living to many folks. They see student living at its worse, or think I’m just being cheap because I don’t want to grow up and “be an adult” by buying a whole whackload of furniture at my nearest big box store.
When people imagine how I live, they inevitable look around their comfortable nest and see a home that they have created, with a great cozy couch with gorgeous lamps on their matching end tables, or perhaps a huge bed frame complete with box springs, and a mattress covered in decorative pillows.
They see comfort, a home, and feel as though it is lived-in, stylish, warm and personal.
As a minimalist, what they see is not what I see.
I usually see clutter first, which I guess, is a symptom of being a minimalist.
Next, I see heavy items that probably cost money to purchase (new or used, it still costs money if you had to buy it).
Then I envision future costs if I ever had to move or shift these things around, because I’d have to hire 4 burly men with a huge U-Haul truck to pack all these things in, not to mention the time I would have to spend worrying if they’ll scratch my end table.
Lastly, I see unnecessary, non-functional items (decorative pillows on the bed for instance), and it annoys me that I would pay all this money for a space, only to fill it to the brim with stuff I don’t even use.
A comfortable home is not really what I see.
In contrast, if you were to ask to see my electronics, that’s when you’d think I’m a full-out maximalist because there would be no way a true, hardcore minimalist would own more than one laptop (if that), right?
I own no less than the following:
• 5 laptops
• 10 hard drives
• E-Book reader containing about 389 e-books right now
• Personal organizer
• 2 MP3 players
• 3 digital cameras
• …but no TV, radio, or sound system
I am a maximalist in this regard, because I own an abundance of electronics, yet I am also a minimalist because for me, it fits my philosophy: if I use it regularly, need it, and/or love it, then it serves a purpose for me.
Every item I own in that list, serves its individual purpose (of which listing it would bore you), but suffice it to say, I am someone who likes to back up things three times and am paranoid enough to own a laptop just to store my digital documents on.
The fact that I own all those laptops but don’t own a TV just goes to show that I don’t find that owning a TV serves any purpose for me, because I just watch all my TV shows online or on DVDs that I watch on my laptop.
So why would I need a TV? Or a cable subscription?
Then if I got a TV, I’d probably need that darn couch too, with a knee-bruising coffee table and matching end tables.
Ultimately, we all just want to live with what we want and need
See, even in my example above about having a bed full of decorative pillows – if each pillow means something to you and gives you joy to see it, then by all means, keep it.
No one is asking you to shave your head, live with only 2 pillows and a mat on the floor. What is being asked of you however is that you take the time to consider whether or not that pillow serves a purpose for you or if it’s just going to annoy you every time you have to move it off the bed to sleep.
Being a minimalist also doesn’t clash with my maximalist side.
It’s really just seeing what you truly consider important and what you don’t, and living your life the way you want to.
In short, being a minimalist just means I don’t want to let anyone tell me what I should have in a home (couch, end table, coffee table, bookshelf, TV, lamps, decorations), and I come to my own conclusions about what really meets my needs and wants and as a maximalist, I maximize those priorities as much as possible.
The rest is just unnecessary clutter and noise.