The Minimalist Side of Maximalism

The people I respect most are not those that are famous or rich, but the people who govern their lives with iron discipline, who chase after their goals with relentless determination and who get what they want through sheer strength of will.

These are the people who live life to the fullest and in my mind also live life in a minimalist way. On the surface it may appear otherwise as they may have an abundance of material possessions and live a maximalist lifestyle, however it is their drive that is minimalistic in nature. Their singular focus in achieving their goals, without distraction, without inefficiency, without the unnecessary, is the embodiment of minimalism.

As Joshua Becker from says, “(Minimalism) is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality.” While the concept of minimalism is often applied to a person’s lifestyle and possessions, I believe as the idea of minimalism grows, it will become evident that it exists and can be applied to many facets of life and many different people, even those that by all intents and purposes live a maximalist life.

Minimalism & Reality-Givers

The road to minimalism is decorated with all the usual discomforts that come with change, from the guilt of indulgence to the glaring realisation that you’ve been moving, except in the wrong direction.

From the beginning, Minimalism in my mind has represented the path that would help me pare back all the distractions, all the debris and all the disillusionment that exists within my life so that I could get to the core of what life is really about. But so far, I am fighting a battle with the ‘me’ that I have dedicated 30 years to creating, and every single day is an epic battle. My brain, my habits, my weaknesses, my environment, my lifestyle has (up until the last 6 month) been designed to cater for indulgence, excess, greed and the unceasing hunger for more.

How easily my mind tricks me into thinking that it is acceptable to buy order after order from online stores, how deviously it makes me believe that spending money will make me happy and that I’ll regret it if I don’t. These subliminal influences ever so gently nudge me off course, bit by bit, thought by thought until one day I realise with a start that I don’t even know where it is I’m headed anymore.

Today I met someone who does not come from a life that is as lucky as mine and because of this he has to work so much harder to even dream of having what I have. And one question he asked me which was a sobering dose of reality was: “If you knew you would die in 2 years time, what would you spend your time doing?” I answered without hesitation: “I’d travel the world”, to which he laughed and said, “We say that and yet if we look at what we do day-to-day, it doesn’t reflect that at all”.

My Dream: to be free and not anchored down by possessions, to be weightless so that I can move easily to wherever I may please, all around the world.

My Reality: spend most of my time working to make money, which I will then waste while countless hours shopping for things I don’t need.

I’ve watched countless Youtube videos on Minimalism, I have read books on the topic, I have watched documentaries and while they do act as a gentle reminder of what I should be doing, nothing is more sobering than someone smacking you in the face with reality and pushing you out of your existing perspective and into a new one.

Therefore my recommendation is: if you choose to go on this journey and you’re going to be in it for the long haul, then invite and welcome these reality-givers into your life with open arms. They will be people from different walks of life, people you may not normally associate with, people who see with different eyes then you and those close to you. They will help propel you into the direction you want to go in when you are wayward and lack the discipline or strength to follow your goal. Let them pry open your mind and your eyes so that you can see what’s really there.

Minimalism In Buddhism & Religion

At my journeys end, as I stood in front of the stupa in Anuradhapura while worshippers and monks streamed passed me, a neglected, abandoned puppy whimpered as it looked up at me with pleading eyes. Hungry and alone, it seemed to be invisible in the crowd, no one paying it any heed aside from an occasional sideward glance. It couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old, but to the people around me it may as well have been dead.

During my visits to the countless temples in Sri Lanka, it has become abundantly clear that here Buddhism is no longer a philosophy but a religion, Buddha is no longer a teacher but a deity and praying seems to have replaced meditation. Masses of people line at every temple, fervently mumbling prayers and making endless offerings to every statue, shrine and holy tree.

Yet amongst this devotion, it is apparent that there has been a departure from the core principles of Buddhism. No longer is the focus on improvement of one self through meditation, atonement and acts of kindness but instead on bartering prayers and offerings for good luck and fortune.

No longer is the onus on each individual to overcome the obstacles in their lives and to take responsibility for their own failings, but instead it lies in the prayers each individual makes to their deity, desperately hoping that enough prayers will result in this benevolent being eliminating any hardships that might befall them. When did Buddhism become the scapegoat for life’s problems?

No longer does enlightenment come from the elimination of attachments and desires and working to pay off your karmic debt, instead it is about worshipping every artifice that belonged to Buddha, with each temple and stupa housing a relic as its prized possession and validation of its connection to him. From Buddha’s tooth, to his rice bowl, all the way to a holy tree which was grown from a branch of the original tree Buddha once sat under to meditate.

My question is, if Buddha still walked this earth today, what would he think if he saw you walk passed a helpless, starving pup without a second glance, on your way to pray to his rice bowl and to ask his statue to bestow good fortune?

I think Buddhism, along with many other religions whose truths have been distorted by man, could do with a good dose of minimalism. Strip back the layers of commercialism, misguided beliefs and the bartering of prayers for good fortune and beneath it all we may be able to find out what life is really about.

Questions to Ask as a Minimalist

My weakness, my addiction, my love – shopping. If there is an opportunity or excuse to go shopping, I will find it in a heartbeat. Online, offline, sale or no sale, I will find a reason to spend money like a fish finds water.

For me, to change my habits successfully I need to stagger it into stages, with each stage being a further departure to what I am currently used to.

My current change process for my shopping habits – Step 1:

  1. Asking myself a list of questions regarding the item during the buying process.
  2. When I online shop, I try to cull my shopping cart as much as possible.
  3. When my purchases are delivered or when I bring them home from a store, I try it on with different outfits to make sure its versatile and complements more than one outfit.
  4. After all the above, I ask myself again – do I love it?
  5. Unless I have fallen madly and deeply for an item, I will return it. If I feel like I have fallen in love with an item, I will then wait a few days and if the feeling remains the same then I’ll keep it.

For this month alone I will be returning more than $900 worth of purchases which equates to roughly 95% of what I ordered. This in itself is a drastic improvement from the 50-60% that I’d previously return.

Questions I now ask myself when making a purchase:

Judging Criteria for clothes

  • Do I love it?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Does the colour suit me?
    (Note: this is different to “Is the colour pretty?” – just because its a pretty colour doesn’t mean it suits your skintone)
  • Does the material feel nice and look nice on me?
  • Does it fit me?
    (Note: this means ‘Does it fit me now?”, not some arbitrary date in the future when you’ve lost 5kgs)
  • Is the cut flattering on me?
  • Does it complement other clothes/outfits I already own?
  • Does it fit my lifestyle?*
  • On what occasions will I wear this and how often do those occasions occur?
  • Do I already have something similar to this?
  • Can I wait for another week/month before I buy it?
  • Do I need it right now?
  • How hard is it to clean and care for?
  • Is the cost worth the value?

Judging Criteria for other items

  • Do I love it?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Do I already have something similar to this?
  • How often will I actually use this?
  • Does this item serve more than one purpose?
  • Does it fit into my lifestyle?*
  • How difficult will it be to dispose of this item? (Sustainability)
  • Is the cost worth the value?
  • Where will I store this item?
  • Can I wait for another week/month before I buy it?
  • Do I need it right now?

Step 2 of my change process for shopping is to go from ‘buying it and returning it’ to not buying at all in the first place.

*Note: the question ‘Does it fit into my lifestyle?’ refers to whether the items you purchase actually match the way you live. For example, I spend 80% of my time at work and 20% of my time socialising with friends. This means it doesn’t make sense for me to have 80% of my wardrobe focused on casual clothing when that only takes up 20% of my life.

Creating a Minimalist Blog as a Marketer

I am starting this blog to document my minimalist journey. One of my key objectives with this blog is to write it in a minimalist fashion. I want each post to be thoughtfully written and concisely constructed; a curated record of my experiences and learnings.

Part of the minimalist ethos is to strip back the excess and adhere to the essentials. For a marketer like myself, this presents an exciting challenge in copywriting, which often requires distilling a complex narrative into a simple message and transforming convoluted data into digestible morsels of information.

This considered approach to writing will challenge me to expand my vocabulary, growing the arsenal of words at my disposal. For me, to craft a message that perfectly reflects my intent and communicates my thoughts is deeply satisfying.