A Maximalist's Thoughts on Minimalism
In recent years, we've seen Minimalism sweep the nation. It would seem that in a world of constant distraction, simplicity and streamlining are on the rise. Which, in theory, is great right? We endlessly edit our wardrobes, strip back our homes, even our relationships are taking a blow, scaling everything down to only what we truly love. I mean, tidying up really is a life-changing magic. Still, part of me feels that this should all come with a word of caution.
Let me be clear, Minimalism in terms of diminishing our consumerist footprint is a beautiful thing. As a green conscious person, I'm all for reducing the amount of stuff (i.e. useless shit) that we bring into our lives. Clearly, that’s doing wonders for the planet on a macro-scale.
Even on a micro-scale it has it’s benefits. When I first discovered the idea, it was like a breath of fresh air! I got rid of 80% of the clothes I wasn’t wearing, and for the first time, I didn't feel completely overwhelmed by my wardrobe every time I tried to put an outfit together. In fact, my style overall became elevated as a direct result. I rediscovered gems that had been buried beneath sub-par impulse buys for years and started exploring my creativity again. With less items to choose from, I was forced to experiment more often to stave off monotony. And it felt great.
A healthy dose of Minimalism as a way to aide sustainability is not what I’m referring to here.
In recent history, we've seen the trend go from simply getting rid of that which doesn't serve us to a full blown contest to see who can live with the least. And lately, rather than giving me space to breathe, I find the principles of less-but-better somehow... stifling? I'm sure this would be an amazing moment for a complete non-materialist to sweep in and enlighten us that having attachments at all, regardless of whether we're trying to reduce or increase them, causes a mental shitstorm (the exact phraseology I'm sure they'd choose). But I digress.
Not surprisingly, I first noticed the issue within my wardrobe. Despite how much I tried to pair back what I owned, I never felt like it was good enough. I constantly looked at my overflowing shoe rack and felt a pang of guilt. Do I really need this many? But I didn't know which ones to part with because I genuinely loved and wore them all. Still, I was compelled to stay within neutral color palettes and numbered boxes. 30 items or less! 15 items or less! 0 items or less! ... like, how?! As someone who has always played with style as a form of self expression, it wasn't fun anymore. It felt rigid, like a uniform rather than an accurate representation of who I was.
I couldn't help but wonder, if minimalism was supposed to make my life feel so spacious and peaceful, why did I feel so restricted and anxious? And is it possible that some of us actually thrive among chaos as opposed to simplicity?
I noticed my mental pendulum swinging in the opposite direction, craving bold colors! layers! a mess of prints! And being that my personal style is often a surface representation of what's happening deeper within my psyche, I wondered if the issue wasn't really about my wardrobe at all, but about something deeper.
That’s when it hit me, it wasn’t so much the idea of having less that bothered me, rather it was the idea of being less.
Outside of the fashion world, I found this principle everywhere I looked. I read books, listened to podcasts and watched videos about streamlining your life, niching down and becoming an “Essentialist.” The more I learned, the more I felt like there was something wrong with me. Was I doomed to be a failure because I’m so multi-passionate? Anytime I tried to choose between my passions, it felt like I was completely snuffing out my creativity and my true personality. I grew envious of those who seemed to know their lane and stay in it, while I drove all over the road like a mad woman for as long as I could remember, (figuratively of course.)
See, more important than Minimalism or Maximalism and the definitions we assign them, is authenticity. There are those of us who thrive beautifully within boxes, neatness, organization, straight lines and there are those of us who find our greatest selves among the chaos, the wilderness, the experimental. Not that there can't be an intersection of the two, but I realized I was growing unhappier the more I tried to be someone I just wasn't.
I was forcing myself to be what I thought constituted a good Minimalist. I wore the uniform, I stripped my life back and it helped! Truth be told, all of these principles help in one way or another, of course they’re all taught with good intentions. The key is to know how to apply them to your specific life. There is no one size fits all formula for anything. We’re all too different. But being young and impressionable and desperate to find my way, I took every piece of advice as Gospel, rather than what it really was: just someones opinion.
There is beauty in simplicity, absolutely, in which many of us thrive. But what about the beauty of complexity? I’m inspired by the ornate paintings seen in the Sistine Chapel, the intricate designs of Antoni Gaudi’s architecture, the elaborate rooms in the Residenz Munchen. I almost love that they’re a bit overwhelming, that you won’t see everything there is to see after just one look. This is where my heart lies, and where I know the hearts of my fellow Maximalists lie as well. Still, I believe that for those of us who can’t conform to neat boxes, it doesn’t have to be a battle between Minimalism and Maximalism, we have the capacity to embrace both at the same time.
We can be Minimalists in that we choose to be mindful about the way we shop and what we bring into our wardrobes thereby reducing our carbon footprint. And we can be Maximalists in how we express our style, it doesn’t necessarily have to turn into a world of rigidity and restriction if that’s not our cup of tea. Similarly, outside of our closets, we can be mindful about what we choose to fill our lives with, while still choosing to live a full life overall. Because, sometimes it’s true, less is more. And sometimes, to quote Iris Apfel, “more is more and less is a bore.”