The Problem with Minimalism

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After a delightful few weeks off, Ben and I are back in the podcasting chair. In today’s episode we talk about our break (the good, the bad, the unexpected) and a little of what we’ve been up to in July.

Despite best intentions, July has still been a full on month in terms of work projects, one of which inspired today’s episode.

A few weeks ago I was part of a TV show called Insight, and the episode I was (a small) part of dealt with stuff – and more specifically, hoarding. In this poggie I talk a lot about my misgivings of taking part in the show (judgement! privacy! comparison!) and also the bigger issue of presenting minimalism and hoarding as opposite sides of the same coin.

If you’ve seen the show you’ll understand that the guests who shared their stories of hoarding had a vastly different experience of stuff than I did back in my pre-simplicity days, so I felt more than a little uncomfortable about any comparisons that might have been made.

One of the best things to come out of the experience, however, was an even greater clarity on ‘minimalism’ and why I really really don’t love it as a label. Ben and I go in deep on this topic, but essentially there are two reasons I struggle to identify as a minimalist:

  1. It breeds comparisons (“Do I not have enough?” “Do I have too much?” “Why doesn’t my house look like that?”)
  2. It can encourage an obsession with our things which takes us away from living life.

The stories we tell ourselves absolutely have an impact on our happiness and while the distinction between ‘minimalism’ and ‘simplicity’ might seem like semantics to some, I don’t want to add to the pressure and expectation to measure up that so many of us already feel.

So that’s what you can expect in today’s show, and I’d love to hear your thoughts both on the episode of Insight, and the label of minimalism.

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19 Responses to The Problem with Minimalism

  1. Hi Brooke and Ben
    It seemed to me that the link between hoarding and your quest to live a more simple life were a long way apart and the link was difficult to make. I think it could have been two different stories – one on hoarding and the psychological difficulties that hoarders face – and then another completely different story (for a different time) on living a more simplified life. I felt the two aspects were quite separate and your home, story and way of life came across as being quite extreme (which I know it isn’t) when pitched against the lifestyle of a hoarder. I don’t think it did either side of the story justice and almost simplified things (ha) too much.
    Having said that, I really enjoyed the episode of Insight and I too learnt a lot about the mindset of a hoarder and found it so very interesting. You came across calm and measured Brooke and not inflammatory – which can sometimes make ‘better’ TV and might be what the producers are after!
    It’s such a great experience to be involved in a TV program and at least see how it all comes together!
    Great ep by you guys too
    Cherie

  2. I have yet to watch the program but I just love your “insight” in this poggie. Brooke, I loved listening to your viewpoint and as always enjoy Ben’s take. It really sets this podcast apart with it done as husband and wife. I was nodding my head and laughing as I listened on my morning run! You rock!

  3. Thanks for including the link to the ‘Insight’ episode. Brooke, up were great on the show, but I agree with you completely that the topic of living a more simple life is not at all the other side of the coin to hoarding. The episode was very interesting though and I felt very sad for the hoarders who were not happy with their situations, and who got such anxiety when trying to discard things.

  4. I watched it and then immediately went and threw out a whole pile of stuff!!! :-) I have a whole inside studio and an outside studio of art supplies to get rid of, wish me luck. Oh, and by threw out I mean placed on the verge out the front of my house and gradually it all dissapeared to become somebody else’s problem :-(

  5. I think I often struggle with the word “Minimalism” for these very reasons. The true definition of Minimalism can be just as extreme as hording. But I do think the word is changing today, and more and more are using the word to mean simple living. I myself prefer the term simply living or simplifying.

    • That’s my feeling too Kristal, but I also think you’re right that the idea of minimalism is shifting to a more gentle approach. Which is great news as I think so many people could gain from rethinking stuff.

  6. I missed this episode of Insight, will check it out. I think it’s easier for us to label things, such as ‘hoarding’ or ‘minimalism’ for convenience, but of course life has many more shades of grey than that. At least we are having the discussion though, and pointing people to alternative ways of living and viewing their stuff.

    • I agree – the conversation is so important to have, regardless of any misgivings I might have about labels. The episode is definitely worth a watch too, really interesting to see the often hidden impact of hoarding.

  7. I watched the show, and I completely agree that simple living is not the opposite of hoarding. What a heartbreaking situation for these hoarders. Also, your home did not appear soulless to me at all. It seemed neat and tidy :).

  8. I only just came across your podcast through Flying Solo podcast. I watched the Insight episode around the time when it filmed. I enjoyed your perspective. I did find it didn’t really mesh with the hoarding issue, but at the same time I appreciated the perspective because it made me realise that hoarding is really just an extreme of an issue we all face in this culture because of the way we are expected to accumulate and attach value to belongings. I especially liked the bit about getting rid of the garage, just because it’s more of a priority to have room for your kids than to have that stuff.

  9. Thanks so much for this episode! I really enjoy all your podcasts, but this one hit home. I had been listening to a few minimalism podcasts, but one of them had gotten so extreme as to turn me off of the subject. It was as if the hosts of the podcast forgot that the purpose of living a minimalist lifestyle is to strip away the unimportant so you have the time and resources for what are important to you. They were simply pushing for each person to get rid of as much stuff as possible. Thanks for a rational approach without labels.

  10. Dear Brooke,
    I listened to this podcast episode this morning and watched the program this evening. After listening to your views on how the program was portrayed and watching it myself, I can understand your “annoyance” with it. I actually love your philosophy on slow living and I am with you on views of labeling!

    She actually branded you a minimalist right there in the studio. Like she actually took out the brander and stamped your ar$e right there. I could see on your face, you didn’t particularly like how you were introduced to the conversation.

    But anyway, as far as minimalism go, everyone knows your all for slow living as opposed to limited stuff.

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