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March 19, 2013

Why I’m not a minimalist… I’m a “maximalist”

The subject of my life as a minimalist keeps coming up in conversations lately.

I’m always a bit taken aback when someone suggests it, because I don’t think of myself as a minimalist at all. It’s true, I’ve lived out of a backpack, essentially, for over five years now. My whole life fits into one checked bag and one carry-on. Does that make me a minimalist? Perhaps.

Interestingly, I view myself in the exact opposite fashion: I refer to myself as a maximalist. It’s not about stripping life down to the bare essentials for me, it’s about living as large as I possibly can, experiencing it all, and finding good in both extremes, with my heart somewhere in the middle. It just so happens that in this incarnation of my life, as I travel relentlessly in search of memories with my family as the kids evaporate before my very eyes, that I don’t have much in the way of “stuff.” That’s not because I’m morally opposed to the stuff. It’s because the stuff would interfere with what matters most to me, with what I’m trying to achieve to the maximum, which is time, freedom, experience and relationship building. For now, I choose to spend my time and money on those things, which means that I don’t have much “stuff,” which makes me look like a minimalist, I suppose.

So what about you? Are you a minimalist? Or a maximalist, like me? Where do you fall on the sliding scale of moral debate about “stuff,” its origin, impact and use? This is a discussion, and there’s no “right answer,” so please, chime in!

Posted by | Comments (4) 
Category: Lifestyle Design, Simplicity, Vagabonding Life


4 Responses to “Why I’m not a minimalist… I’m a “maximalist””

  1. Paul Says:

    You might like this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/opinion/sunday/living-with-less-a-lot-less.html

    Small amount of stuff and big amount of life. I vote that way too — more road trips, fewer cars.

  2. Trevor Huxham Says:

    I think we’re talking about two sides of the same coin here. From what I’ve gathered in the minimalist realm of the blogosphere, minimalism at its core is about getting rid of needless things in your life to *make way for the stuff that matters*. Granted, plenty of people focus on having as little as possible for the sake of it, and miss the point. But I think your “maximalist” comment is what minimalism is really about—trying to maximize your time and money on the things that matter to you (time, freedom, experience, and relationship building) which naturally implies you’ll end up living a *materially* minimalist lifestyle.

    Minimize stuff. Maximize experiences. I like this.

  3. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Trevor… interesting… I agree that that was the original intent of “minimalism” but it seems to me that the way that’s actually played out, at least in some corners of the philosophy is that it’s just another way of being pre-occupied with stuff and consumerism… the issue is how many things you can live without… those lists of what people own, an every dwindling number seems to be a point of pride. Rather like the ascetic movements in retaliation to the excesses of the church at various points in history. I’ve noticed that when the subject of minimalism comes up, or someone proudly declares himself one, that the immediate reaction in the room is one of defensiveness and justification of life/consumer choices. Hence the line I’ve drawn between minimalism (in that sense) and a different definition, which I’m calling maximalism, that doesn’t lay a load of guilt on the guy who chooses to have a house full of beautiful things, travel in luxe ways, or own more than 100 things. Perhaps it is splitting hairs. I would like to think that being a maximalist is what minimalism is all about. So this is a clarification of terms, for me, and a release of all judgement for those who (like me) have at times felt that the minimalists in the world can stuff their superior attitudes where the sun don’t shine! ;)

  4. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Paul.. thanks so much, I will definitely have a read. I’m always reading!

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