materialism and minimalism

In my last post, I made a tangential remark about how conscious minimalism is a kind of materialism and I wanted to elaborate on that further.

First, I wanted to make the distinction between conscious minimalism and inherent minimalism, terminology that I'm making up as I go.  Inherent minimalism is when someone doesn't really like possessions at all and they are a minimalist without even thinking about it.  Folks who are inherent minimalists don't buy into consumer culture naturally, tend not to care about ownership, and focus almost exclusively on non-tangibles: their work, philosophy, religion, etc..  Their possessions are replaceable.  There aren't a lot of pure inherent minimalists, but what I'm really doing is describing one end of the spectrum.

At the other end, we have conscious minimalists.  They are very aware of their possessions and desires to own things, but want to curb those desires; they have probably accepted consumer culture to some degree and are trying to reject it.  They want to only have what they need and plan out what that is and why.  They see minimalism as a type of aesthetic or a desirable way of living and have to work hard to achieve it.  They are materialists because they think about and put value on physical objects.  Their possessions might be hard to replace because they have specific, planned functions or emotional ties.

In general, I'm more on the side of an conscious minimalist, but have shifted a little toward inherent minimalism at times.  I think both have their value.  On the one hand, it's really liberating to be totally free not only from excessive ownership, but the desire to own things at all.  On the other, materialism leads to a deeper appreciation of objects and their functions, which in turn leads to appreciation of our surroundings and peers.  If I don't appreciate the materialism of the meal that has been placed in front of me, it's a lot harder to appreciate the work that has gone into preparing it and the beauty of the preparation process.  We need both: the physical grounding and the elevation of mind.

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