DOES MINIMALISM NARROW THE MIND OR BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS?
Minimalism can come across as restrictive and boring but it doesn’t have to be. It depends on your approach! In this article I’m asking does minimalism narrow the mind or broaden your horizons and how does this affect the choices you make?
I was recently researching for an article I wanted to write and came across another internet article which caught my attention instead. It was a critical account of why minimalism is bad for us and not worth our time and effort.
I write about minimalism, simplifying, decluttering and intentional living.
They might mean slightly different things and they ‘sound’ different too.
- Minimalism might sound cold, scary and impractical (even though it’s not and doesn’t have to be!).
- Simplifying sounds like something that most of us would like to do just to make life a little easier.
- Decluttering is hugely popular and a great way to make our homes more manageable, create space in an overstuffed garage or helpful when we want to move home or downsize.
- Intentional living is just a fancy way of saying you know what you want in life and you go get it!
The words we use and the labels we give something are important. They can either excite and motivate us or turn us off completely. Unfortunately, minimalism often does the latter.
From the comments I receive and the research I’ve done, minimalism is a ‘love it’, ‘loathe it’ or ‘haven’t explored it’ kind of lifestyle. There are many myths about minimalism and misunderstandings.
And, as I’ve mentioned before, I get it. If you don’t feel it’s right for you to explore at the moment, that’s ok. It took me some time too!
DOES MINIMALISM NARROW THE MIND?
Going back to this article I mentioned at the start, one of the arguments against minimalism that particularly caught my attention was this…
Minimalism is about encouraging us to make do, be happy with what we’ve got, not buy anything new, say no to things that don’t feel right, find contentment and fulfilment in the days and life we lead.
And, if this is what minimalism is, doesn’t this actually have the effect of narrowing our mind, confining us to the present instead of planning for a bigger future, saying no to opportunities, never venturing out of our comfort zone and always staying small?
It’s an interesting question and in this article I’d like to share some thoughts.
The minimalism that I like to live, teach and share is gentle, compassionate and heart-centred. I would always encourage you to find your own version of minimalism, not a cookie-cutter approach that you’ve taken from something you’ve read or seen. Not least, because it would never work for YOU, unique you.
I love colour, art on my walls, too many mugs in my cupboard and (having just moved home), a garage too full of stuff right now that it’s difficult to move around in. There was me thinking that I’d decluttered my whole home but my husband had stuff squirreled away that I didn’t know about!
So, does minimalism narrow the mind?
In all honesty, I think there is the potential for that to happen.
IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG IN NARROWING THE MIND?
Finding happiness in what we have, not seeking out the latest trends, not comparing my life to someone else’s, being grateful for my morning tea and the moments of joy in my everyday are important to me because it’s these little things that make my everyday life meaningful.
They certainly also help when life feels overwhelming, for those struggling with ill health, mental health issues, financial problems and other introvert and Highly Sensitive People like me who find the world a stressful place sometimes.
Does this mean that our mind is being narrowed or are we just being realistic about what to expect from daily life?
To give you a personal example, my dad was very ill for many years before he died and my mum was his primary carer for nearly a decade. After his stroke, he was wheelchair-bound and unable to talk and mum was housebound caring for him. Whilst normally adventure-loving and fun-seeking, mum had to adjust her daily routine, her interests and outings and her outlook on life so she could thrive at home and still retain her cheeky zest for life.
Sometimes we have to shift our thoughts to make the most of what we have. This isn’t narrowing the mind, it’s a strategy for coping.
On a different level, maybe that’s what many of us have to do when we have the unavoidable grind of daily life, bills to pay, homes to clean, work deadlines to meet and kids to manage!
But, if that’s ALL there was to minimalism then, honestly, I think I’d agree with the article I’d read and I’d be searching for more too.
MINIMALISM TO BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS
This might not be the experience of others who explored the minimalist lifestyle, but for me, the argument for minimalism keeping us staying small and narrowing our minds is missing something.
It was exactly BECAUSE I didn’t want to stay small and narrow that I became a minimalist in the first place.
I wanted more from life than trying to find happiness buried in laundry and wondering how I was going to juggle costly childcare with overtime at work (especially when they both cancelled each out financially!).
I actually wanted to expand our horizons, my horizons, by doing more, having more, achieving more, being more.
The key difference though was that the way I measured these things. Not in terms of what or how other people or society thought I should measure them, but how I wanted to measure them according to my priorities.
- I’d rather have a week camping than a new handbag. Nothing wrong if you prefer the bag over the camping though!
- I’d rather have date night with my husband instead of a new piece of clothing in my wardrobe. If I didn’t have a significant other, I might just have splashed out on those new clothes!
We just didn’t have the money to spend on things that weren’t really important TO US in the long run and we didn’t have the time either. It was back to our values, those priorities and trade-offs over which was more important.
More than that, I think we wanted more excitement, more fun and more experience. This was just what we chose as a family, in that current season of life, but your priorities might be different.
And that’s where expanding your horizons comes in.
Which direction you look and how far you look depends on where you’re standing right now. Maybe the time, space and freedom that minimalism can give you means you can stand from a different vantage point?
“If you ask me what minimalism is really about, I would say that it’s the altering of values – enter the small doors of minimalism and come out on the other side with big ideas.” (Fumio Sasaki)
MINIMALISM AND PERSONAL GROWTH
I wrote an article recently about how minimalism isn’t just about your stuff. I explained how I believe that minimalism is more to do with intentionality, priorities, being aware and mindful and above all, curious about yourself and your place in the world.
Whilst minimalism is a lifestyle, it’s also a wonderful mechanism for personal growth. For finding out what you want in life and how you want that life to look.
Funnily enough, one of the most popular little challenges on my site is my 30-day Personal Growth Challenge – which isn’t really much about decluttering and stuff at all. You can try it here if you’d like.
Minimalism isn’t about being narrow-minded and complacent. Minimalism doesn’t mean you’re going to get it all figured out. I’m finding out that as I get older, life can get more complicated and challenging rather than less!
Minimalism is about exploring ways in which you can add more meaning and impact to your life, practice compassionate self-acceptance and, hopefully, contribute more to others and leave the world a better place.
As a purely personal example, minimalism has helped me create my blog as a little business, which I hope helps others and motivates me in the process. Although it’s only a tiny drop in the internet ocean, I still like to think of my blog as an example of me broadening my horizons rather than narrowing my mind!
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS
Finding contentment in our current life helps us deal with those daily challenges but why is it important to also broaden your horizons and look outside of ourselves? Here are some reasons:
- It gives us a new perspective and encourages us to consider different ways of doing things and not stay stuck in a rut.
- It helps us learn more and get a deeper understanding about the world and people around us.
- It expands and strengthens our mind to improve our mental health and be more robust to meet life’s challenges.
- It can take us out of our comfort zone and give us new opportunities when we’re ready to explore them.
- It helps us connect with others and build new relationships.
- It teaches us new skills and experiences which we can use for ourselves or pass on to help others.
What other benefits have you found from broadening your own horizons?
ACTION STEPS TO EXPANDING YOUR HORIZONS
So, how do you go about expanding your horizons when minimalism encourages you to be happy as you are? Well, here are some ideas:
- Say no, postpone or cancel something in your schedule over the next week or month. Give yourself some free time. Do something unexpected with that time instead.
- Whilst you’re sitting in your car on the commute to work, listen to a podcast on goal-setting, mindset or personal development.
- Take a different route to work, school or the shops. What do you see along the way?
- Visit a coffee shop in a neighbouring town you’ve never been to before. Different surroundings, different perspective.
- Make a list of places you’d like to visit in the world. Come up with a savings plan and see if you can tick off one of those destinations in the next 6 months or year.
- Sign up for a new evening class or course. Meet new people, get out of the home and learn something new.
What other suggestions can you think of, big or small?
I don’t have all the answers as to whether minimalism narrows the mind or broadens your horizons, but I did just want to share my thoughts. Perhaps what it comes down to is expectation and reality.
I would have loved to pack my bags and travel the world or give up my day job and save elephants from the Ivory Trade but my every day life is a little more mundane and routine than that, and maybe yours is too.
Perhaps we’re encouraged to find happiness in the here and now because that’s what the majority of life is all about. The friendships and connections we make, our homes, our family, our habits and interests, the fun we have, the sad times we have to get through.
There’s a time and a place for contentment and satisfaction AND also for dreams, hopes and aspirations. One without the other means a life on autopilot instead of on purpose so maybe there’s merit in minimalism for both narrowing the mind AND broadening our horizons?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment if you have anything to share!
A FREE CHALLENGE
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