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.

Slide2.JPG

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.

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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.

Minimalism- What’s up with all the buying?

‘There must be more to life than having everything!’

~Maurice Sendak

Six months back from now, I was a hoarder.

Hoarder of clothes. Hoarder of things, I don’t need.

Hoarder of emotions relating to buy things which I couldn’t buy.

I was a purchase freak. I admit to it.

I used to buy clothes. Buy unnecessary food. Spend so much money at unnecessary places and for unnecessary things.

It was all too much, when I look back now.

My regular pocket-money used to get over too soon. I had no saving. I used to ask advance from my parents almost too soon.

And, on some occasions, I remember picking money from Dad’s pocket.

When I look back, it’ll seem I was a slave. And perhaps, I was. I won’t deny.

I started to find happiness in stuff. I became attached to the idea that more stuff means, more happiness.

More food means, more happiness.

It almost became my like my therapy to avoid the void of emptiness.

So I started to fill that void with stuff. More stuff. And much more stuff.

I started desiring more stuff. And things. And more money.

And it was terrible.

It was a vicious cycle.

I got money. I spent money. I got more money. I spent more money.

It became a therapy for me.

To purchase things. To spend on clothes. To spend on gadgets. To spend on unnecessary eating out. And such unnecessary things.

And then I stumbled upon the idea of Minimalism. And it struck a chord with me.

And I decided, I’ll do this.

I decided, I won’t be buying for months now. Not unnecessarily at least.

That would be mean no random clothes shopping. No gadgets. Movies. New games. Excessive rickshaw travelling. Spending overly on restaurants and food.

It all had to be stopped. Really.

And it was terribly hard. I remember in the first month, I became cranky. And angry. And anxious. And sad.

Sounds extreme. But that’s how it was.

I felt like a drug addict. Really. For the first time in my life, I felt this much anxiety.

Whenever I used to come across a new gadget or fancy restaurant or food items or clothes, I used to get all sweaty. Worked up.

And I almost gave in many times to the urge of buying. That impulse rush.

And, soon, I realized the problem.

The problem was that I was trying to buy emotions.

You heard it right. Buying emotions. 

Whenever I used to buy clothes, I attached the emotion of comfort and emotion of being happy to purchasing clothes. I used to feel a momentarily rush. And, I became addicted to that rush and forgot that’s not real happiness. Or comfort.

Whenever I used to buy excessive food or overly expensive food, I attached the emotion of happiness and security and comfort to it. I was trying to buy the emotions.

The problem however was that emotions can’t be bought. Things can be. Emotions can’t be.

I realized this soon enough. And I was stunned. In shock. I never imagined what I have done to my mental process.

I started to associate emotions with hoarding. Emotions with purchasing. Emotions with consumerism.

So for me, more clothes was more comfort. More food was more happiness. More gadgets were more security and more fun. More shopping was more love.

But the reality is different. Such emotions wore off soon. They don’t stay for long and soon again, I’ll be anxious. That’ll again force me to buy more things.

This cycle would have never ended. Never, ever. 

That’s why, my first month was so difficult. There was no quick fix available to my mind. There was no purchase to be made.

It became better. And, I started to find real emotions seeping in.

I found comfort in a good friendship and good chat not clothes.

I found happiness in a good time spend with friends, a good cup of coffee over reading a book and being volunteer for the community.

I found security through genuine relations I have in my life and not through excessive eating.

It became better. It became good. It become awesome.

And, now I am healthier, happier and better than I ever was.

I am not saying there is inherently wrong with consumerism or buying things.

I am not even saying that, I don’t buy things now and have gone all sanyaasi.

All I am saying is that don’t try to buy emotions. Really. You can’t. You never were able to and you never will be.

You might feel a rush of pleasure after a shopping spree but it’ll wore off soon. What then? You’ll want to do another shopping spree. You’ll want to buy more things and stuff.

There is no end to it. 

And really. The idea of tying your self-worth to materials is something scary.

Imagine your happiness, security, comfort and all emotions being tied materials. To purchasing. To owing. To buying.

It is a scary, scary thought.

Don’t be a slave.

Come out.

We’re more than what we own. We’re more than where we eat or what we eat.

We’re more than what we wear.

We’re more than all these.

We’re not defined by these.

Don’t try to define ourselves by these.

There will be only loser. That is us.

Come out the shackles of excessive consumerism. It does you no good.

Get free from the cage. And be more.

Fly. Fucking fly.

Other reads- 

SHOPPING OR FINDING MEANING- The Minimalists

Breaking Free From Consumerist Chains- ZenHabits

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