Myth: Minimalists Hate Possessions


“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”
― Joshua Becker

Truth: minimalists love their possessions more than most others.

It comes down to math. If you’re not one of the mega-billionaires, you have finite financial resources. Even millionaires have a limit of expensive “toys” to choose from. With your resources, the choice is simple – accumulate “stuff” in quantity or pursue fewer items of quality.

Minimalists prefer fewer items, which affords them greater quality on the items they choose to own.

I know Apple products are expensive compared to their cost to manufacture because their margins have historically been near 40%. But I still bought a Macbook Air because I liked it much more than any other option (the build quality is amazing). And I’ve been much happier with it than my previous four purchases of higher-specced, less expensive computers.

The best value may not be the best purchase. (tweet this)

How Scarcity Increases Our Enjoyment Of Possessions

The law of diminishing marginal utility in economics says you will enjoy your 5th slice of pizza marginally less than your 4th slice. Wake up! Sorry, that sentence, while true, tends to have a sedating effect on readers. This sleep-inducing concept works on a broader level of all your items too. A poor child’s single soccer ball brings him more joy than a rich kid’s 3,000 toys combined will bring him. The more we have of something, the less we enjoy each item, and when our focus is split between items, we’re less happy overall too. Focusing has been found to be a key component of happiness (source), and minimalism helps us focus by limiting our focal points.

But when you grow up and see everyone around you with all kinds of “stuff,” you might assume that it’s a good idea to accumulate items. It isn’t.

Think about the Summer Olympic Games – they form the biggest global competition event in the world. The games are special because they only happen every four years. But does anyone know if the Pacers won last night? Not many, and even Pacers fans won’t care too much because it is one of 82 games they’ll play this season. Scarcity impacts value in all facets of life (not just the price of diamonds).

So to purposefully make your possessions scarcer is to increase your remaining items’ unique value to you. You will pay more attention to each one. You will appreciate their entertainment and utility more. Perhaps this also explains the living distance phenomenon. Some people will spend more time with friends/family if they live 50 miles away than if they live next door. Their perceived availability is much scarcer when they live 50 miles away (but still within reach), so they subconsciously value each other’s company more.

The Power Of Combining Scarcity And Quality

What happens when you combine quality and scarcity together? Treasure. The best. Greatness. Guinness. Stuff people fight over. Diamonds! NOT your 4th coffee mug with a faded picture of a dolphin on it.

Minimalism is about removing clutter, but it is also about enjoying possessions more. If anything, minimalists are “pro-stuff” because we place a higher importance on owning things worth owning and not wasting time and mental/physical energy on things that aren’t worth owning.

I have a mental picture of minimalism. It is not an empty room with a couch, because while that’s refreshing, it is also boring. No, it’s a room with just a few more premium items, all of which I use and enjoy.

I see a solid oak coffee table with a good book and fine whiskey on it. That sounds like a nice evening to me. What else would I need? In that situation, I will treasure reading my book on my nice couch, whiskey in hand, with my feet propped up on my oak coffee table. The rest of the room will have no distractions, which calms me and keeps me focused on enjoying my limited, but very valuable things. Contrast this with a bookshelf overflowing with books – some good, some horrible; and picture the room filled with clutter – some valuable, some worthless.

Sorting through junk to find value is stressful. Knowing that only value surrounds you is comforting.

To say minimalists don’t like possessions is to say a gardener doesn’t like flowers because he pulls the weeds out. (tweet this)

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