Minimalism Is Not Deprivation

“You shouldn’t deprive yourself at such a young age,” she told me as I narrated her the story of why I wear the same set of clothes every week, since 3 years now.

This is not the first time someone felt I am depriving myself when they hear about minimalism — about how I seldom shop or the fact that I don’t own much. They shake their head in disbelief when I mention my disinterest in purchasing. By now, some people think I am crazy — how can someone not want a luxurious car or a bungalow with lifts inside it?

But I understand how lines can blur — how minimalism can be confused with asceticism. How me not buying excess can be confused with me wanting to live near some holy river in utter poverty.

To clear it up here’s my attempt to explain it through weird images I created on Powerpoint.

Text describing minimalism

What we think it is.


What it really is.

I often get asked about how to distinguish between minimalism and deprivation. If something adds value to your life, then keep it. Don’t throw it away and then take pride in being a minimalist.

Minimalism is not about how less you own: I find all the noise about owning the least dangerous. It defeats the point of minimalism. I have read ample blogs about people travelling with 33 items and 147 items — I don’t have anything against that lifestyle, but remember — it works for THEM. It’s okay if it doesn’t work for you. No-one will dethrone your minimalist title if you own 500 items.

[Side note: There’s no such thing as a minimalist title — it’s not a one-time thing. Minimalism is alive — the process lasts as long as you do.]

I have more books than anyone else I know. Yes, I can buy a Kindle and get rid of all the physical books. But I love reading paperbacks — the crispness of the paper, the smell, the experience of turning the last page, and just looking out the window while holding a closed book. I get immense value out of my collection.

Book collection of That Indian Minimalist

Deprivation would be my throwing them away for the sake of minimalism. I could throw them away and write a blog about how I own 27 items. I could count my stuff and flaunt the numbers — but that’s not minimalism.

At the same time, I also own fewer clothes — so much so that people close to me remember every colour of my wardrobe. Is that deprivation? No. The number is more than enough for me, and I don’t get any value out of fashion. 

So, when you decide to be minimalist: don’t think about depriving yourself in any way. Think about what is essential for you and what is excess.

If you are amongst those who believe minimalism is deprivation — it’s not. On the contrary, it’s about how to maximise value by focusing on things that matter. 

One time, a person asked me how am I minimalist if I am not bald.

I do have long hair: I guess that disqualifies me from being a minimalist.

Too bad.


You Are An Advertisement.

You read it right: the sentence doesn’t have a typo. I could have said we are ‘consumers’ or we are people who buy crap we don’t need to impress everyone around. But the truth is far more heinous: we’re advertisements.

Somewhere, a group of people, are getting paid outrageous amounts for having us — to put it mildly — as a walking billboard, promoting their brand for them. The game is twisted: advertisers make us believe that it is our privilege to use their product.

We’re lucky; our stars are fucking aligned, getting a chance to go out and be an advertisement so that they can earn more money.

tattoos, advertisements, that indian minimalist

Such brands. Much wow.

Here’s what being an advertisement sounds like:

I am typing this on my Mac, as I sip my Starbucks Coffee with my name wrongly spelt on the cup. iPhone organises my notes: I have to finish writing this post in an hour. It’s 4 PM right now, as per my Rolex. Afterwards, I will change into my Adidas running suit and Nike running shoes. I will take my FitBit and run while listening to inspirational music through my Beats. In between, I will stop and drink water from my overly expensive bottle that filters the water every time I take a sip. Also, I also have a unicorn in my basement, and it will tell me fairy tales as I fall asleep.

Okay, the last part is a bit exaggerated.

Again, am I saying there is something inherently wrong with buying or even buying these brands? No.

All I am trying to point out is how we’re being used to advertise, and how we partake in it every single day without noticing or flinching.

The message is loud and clear: we’re inadequate, worthless, and incomplete until we have certain specific stuff made and designed by individual brands. The promise of the entry into wonderland once you cut that fat cheque to multi-billionaire corporates.

We need to snap out. And it’s hard to do so.

Advertisements are everywhere: television, radio, roads, public transportation, footpaths, the internet, and even public bathrooms. And since a long time, they have it figured: humans are the best advertisements. So, with all their might and money, they are here to convert us.

bathroom stall, advertisements, that Indian minimalist

I can’t pee without someone trying to re-finance my mortgage.

What can you do to avoid being an advertisement for someone?

It all comes to down to not buying to impress. Why do you need to buy a branded product if a less-expensive (but still good quality) substitute can carry out the same function? Are you afraid that other people will judge you for not keeping up with the trends? Good news: they’ll judge you either way.

So, read this brilliant article by Wait But Why and step out of this shitty-advertiser cycle.

At this point, you might be wondering: You’re talking about the concepts. But is there anything I can do to apply them?

Don’t buy any brand for a month. Find cheaper alternatives. If you want to go into a hardcore mode, don’t purchase anything for a month. See how it makes you feel: are you anxious? How does not wearing recognisable brands make you feel? Do you feel vulnerable? Do you feel liberated?

Tweak around, experiment, and curate a lifestyle that suits you.

I don’t buy brands, and my clothes don’t carry a logo. Will I never purchase a brand? Again, I have nothing against buying: the idea is to make a conscious choice with the intention of plain utility and not showing off.

Next time, you think about purchasing something just because of a brand: imagine yourself running naked on the streets with nothing but different coloured logos stuck all over you.

Like the imagery in your head?
Thought so.