“All the world’s a stage,” as Shakespeare wrote, with each of us an actor playing many parts throughout our lives. Centuries later, this concept would heavily influence sociologist Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical theory of human interaction. We put on masks to present ourselves favorably in our various social roles.
Thus, if you want to really get to know someone, you have to observe aspects of their behavior that aren’t so carefully studied or guarded. Expert matchmakers know that you can find out more about a person through their lifestyle choices and possessions. And there may be no single possession with a greater bearing on our daily lives than the home in which we live.
We decorate our homes in accordance with our personalities. That extends to the number of possessions we keep in them and the level of organization within. But with the recent trend towards minimalist living, should we be so quick to toss out objects and live on less? Where do you draw the line?
Image by PIRO4D
The case for minimalism
Design trends seem to come and go, but a few have evidence of staying power. Minimalism is one of them.
The minimalist movement in art is commonly associated with the years after World War II, peaking in the 1960s. But its roots in design can be traced back far earlier, with the influence of De Stijl and Bauhaus in the architecture of the 1920s. Culturally, minimalism borrows heavily from Japanese Zen philosophy, which began to take hold of the Western imagination in the 18th century.
Fast forward to modern times, and we are periodically reminded of the need to strip down to bare essentials. Events such as economic recessions, and awareness of environmental crises related to sustainability, have ensured minimalism remains in vogue and won’t be going away anytime soon.
Many people want to have minimalist homes for a combination of factors. They want to be more responsible consumers. Living with less implies having a lower impact on the environment. It also helps you save money and floor space, which is vital in an age of ever-increasing housing costs.
Finally, with minimalism, you can achieve a better focus on what remains, which should be what’s truly important to you. Or, as Marie Kondo would put it, that which ‘sparks joy.’
At the same time, however, the home is also a reflection of one’s personality. In psychology, this is tied to the concept of self-verification.
We want others to perceive us in the same way we see ourselves. This can be even more important to us than being viewed in a positive light. As a result, we often subconsciously deploy our possessions to signal our identity to the world.
In the home, such signals could come in the form of art objects or even trinkets collected from your travels, such as refrigerator magnets. They remind you of places you’ve been but also tell visitors about your passion for travel.
However, just like the masks we wear when presenting ourselves favorably in social interactions, objects can be used to signal virtue. And with minimalism becoming associated with desirable traits like responsible consumption, financial savvy, and environmental awareness, our motivation to maintain minimalist homes may come from the wrong place.
A discrepancy between your true self and what your home says about you can create cognitive dissonance. Forcing minimalism upon the space where you live and spend a lot of time each day can make it feel uncomfortable. You may regret a hasty decision to throw out belongings that have nostalgic value.
Finding a nuanced approach
Rather than applying minimalism to your home and lifestyle like a razor, you can begin to embrace a more nuanced approach.
People can be minimalists on different levels. There’s a spectrum of minimalism along which we may lie. Some may not really care about the concept at all. Others may have a loose intention to be minimalist, while others make an active commitment to it as a lifestyle choice.
Don’t feel shame in finding a comfort zone along this spectrum that falls short of extreme minimalism. Maybe you can’t purge everything you own according to someone else’s idea of what makes good decluttering. That’s alright.
You can enjoy a minimalist home in terms of aesthetics, using neutral colors, clean silhouettes, and basic patterns while still having plenty of clutter in storage. Or you can make an effort to pare down your living space to only what’s essential for function.
What matters is not the virtue it signals but the fact that your particular shade of minimalism aligns with your personality and values. The last thing you want is to have a home, Shakespeare might describe as”sans taste, sans everything.”