Minimalist Or Pragmatist? That’s A Good Question

I was living the minimalist life long before it was cool. I lived in a 20-foot trailer in the middle of an apple orchard. My rent was $50 a month. I rode a bicycle as transportation. I owned less than 100 things. I had zero debt. It was the life. That was the early 1990s. I was in my 20s. Things have changed. I’m not the same. So… am I a minimalist or pragmatist?

Now, I’m 20 years older. I have a family. I have a career as a college professor. I’ve come to live like many Americans. I own a little more than I truly need. Perhaps I’m not a minimalist after all.  

Minimalism has become a fad, and no one knows exactly what it means. I tell people I’m a minimalist and they shake their heads. I have a 1200 square-foot house. I have most the modern conveniences. I recently broke down and got a second vehicle: a small truck for working around the house. I stopped washing dishes by hand and bought a dishwasher. I bought a gas-powered lawnmower. How can I be a minimalist?

What Does Minimalist Mean?

Here’s the definition:

  1. A trend in sculpture and painting that arose in the 1950s, and used simple, typically massive forms. (Note the word massive?)
  2. An avant-garde movement in music characterized by the repetition of very short phrases that change gradually, producing a hypnotic effect.

The original definition of minimalism had to do with art and music and simplicity. It had nothing to do with a philosophy or lifestyle. In the past ten years, minimalism has come to mean something entirely different. We’ve hijacked the word to mean living with very little, or living in small spaces. Although I aspire to live in that fashion, I think anything done to extreme can go too far and then lose its intended outcome. I’m really more a pragmatist than a minimalist.

Minimalist or Pragmatist?

  1. A pragmatist is someone who is pragmatic, that is to say, someone who is practical and focused on reaching a goal. A pragmatist usually has a straight forward, matter-of-fact approach and doesn’t let emotion distract him or her.
  2. Pragmatism is an approach that assesses the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of success of their practical application.  

Some might gawk at the idea of a minimalist having a dishwasher or more than one car. Minimalists claim they need no more than two or three changes of clothes and a single pair of shoes. I have a much larger wardrobe than that. Some claim that a minimalist should live in a house smaller than 1000 or even 500 square-feet. If this is how we describe minimalism than I’m not a minimalist. I’m more of a pragmatist.

Aim To Live The Most Practical Life Possible

I aim to discover ways I can live simply, yet not be overly restrictive. A 1200 square-foot home is comfortable for a small family. It’s located in practical neighborhood. A small truck is practical for someone who owns and works on his own home. A dishwasher saves time. A gas-powered mower saves time and energy and my yard looks twice as good. 

I still make a point to live minimally. I always will. Yet according to most who call themselves minimalists, I own too much. I owe too much. I live too much. 

So if I have to choose between minimalist or pragmatist. I’ll take pragmatist. But then again, why label myself? I’ll simply live practically with the goal of living with less than the average American. I’ll seek truth in finding the best applications in practical, simple living. How about you?

Are you a minimalist or a pragmatist? Or do you just live simple?

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James Ewen
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