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No. 218 / What minimalism is (and what it isn’t)

There is something that exists called the law of diminishing returns. It states: “If one factor of production (the number of workers, for example) is increased while other factors (machines and workspace, for example) are held constant, the output per unit of the variable factor will eventually diminish.”

Sometimes, this law is expressed as "the gain is not worth the pain.”

To put it more simply: things can’t always be better

Here’s the thing, many people have a misunderstanding about what minimalism is. It’s not about getting rid of everything for the sake of getting rid of stuff. It’s about knowing where enough is. It’s about knowing the difference between contentment and complacency. 

It’s about efficiency. 

It’s okay to stop when you have enough. When you’re happy. When you’re content. When you don’t want more. Because ‘more’ isn’t always better. Instead of seeking more, try seeking improvement. 

But here’s the rub: We have been conditioned to always want more. Donald Draper expressed it this way:

“We're flawed because we want so much more. 

We're ruined, because we get these things, and wish for what we had.”

In a way, minimalism is a way to combat consumerism. But it’s also an attitude of prioritizing people, experiences, and emotions over things. 

Here are some practical applications:

  • When you get a raise, don’t spend more—invest more, give more.

  • Empty spaces aren’t always meant to be filled. Just because your garage is empty doesn’t mean your life is.

  • One of the best ways to declutter is to create constraints—like moving into a smaller space.

  • Having a storage unit is cheating (and a waste of money).

  • If you answer ‘no’ to the following questions, get rid of it: “Have you used it in the last 3 months?” “Do you use it more than 4 times a year?”

  • As harsh as this may sound, no, your grandkids probably won’t care. Keep 10-15 things you think they might like that remind them of you, get rid of the rest.

  • When you are going through your things and say something like “I forgot I even had this!” Get rid of it—you didn’t miss it the first time.

  • The best way to organize things is to get rid of everything and start over.

Things are just things, they don’t make you who you are. It’s natural to want more. But remember, “happiness doesn’t lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry