A common myth about minimalists is that we have boring, empty wardrobes, homes, and lives. That we can't do anything fun because we don't go in for consumer items. That all we do is declutter.
It's a reason some people hesitate to embrace minimalism – they think it's Scrooge-like and no fun.
A lot of us want entertainment that distracts us from day-to-day life, something that makes an exciting or relaxing change. We don't want to expend much energy; we just want to be amused. So we might turn to TV, movies, video games, theme parks, shopping, Disney cruises, concerts, parties, bars, or casinos for entertainment. Plenty of these activities have their merits (a good film is a work of art, travel broadens the mind, etc.), but for the most part they allow us to remain passive observers, simply soaking it in.
Ultimately, these diversions are only temporary, and some of them are empty, or even harmful. And when we're constantly looking for variety and excitement, we need to keep upping the ante. We always need something new and different. After all, we live in a culture that relies on keeping us in a constant state of desire. At some point we can no longer tolerate a quiet evening or weekend, because it's "boring."
I'm sure you've seen children and teens who are in constant need of entertainment and stimulation. Most of their waking hours are scheduled. They get constant snacks and new toys, play adult-organized sports or take classes every afternoon, attend over-the-top birthday parties every weekend, play video games or watch TV, or if all else fails, sit for hours with their cell phones and surf social media or chat sites. They complain of boredom, and seem to hate to be at home. They have great difficulty finding something to do on their own. They never just play outside or color a picture or pet the dog.
These kids have been entertained. They're not lacking for distraction, amusement, playthings, or activities. But they lack imagination. They can't take the initiative. They're dependent on outside stimulation. They're constantly buying things, or nagging for things to be bought for them. They have no patience for solving problems, and they absolutely cannot tolerate being thoughtful or alone.
I'm not suggesting that we should never watch TV or go to a theme park or go out with friends. But constant passive entertainment makes us dull and incapable.
The Goal of Leisure
I'm going to get just a bit philosophical here and share an idea of Aristotle's. Entertainment (he called it "amusements") diverts the mind with something pleasant. It may allow us to forget our cares, and so in that sense it's relaxing, and gives us a break from work or more serious matters.
But the goal of leisure, according to Aristotle, is meaningful activity. It's not enough to spend time on passive distractions from work or daily cares. True leisure allows for learning and creativity. It's purposeful and enriching. It fulfills and refreshes us.
Think about how you feel (or how your kids behave) after you've spent hours in front of the TV or on social media, or at the mall, or in chitchat and gossip. Do you feel energized, resourceful, satisfied, happy?
Now contrast that with your feelings after a day spent hiking, gardening, practicing an instrument, or crafting something. Do you feel energized (even if you're physically tired), resourceful, pleased with your accomplishments, cheerful and in good spirits?
Too much passive distraction makes us bored and restless. It's not all bad – we can certainly enjoy it sometimes. But humans thrive when they are active, purposeful, and productive in ways that fulfill them.
Minimalism is not about emptying your life. It's about making space for things that matter to you by eliminating the unnecessary. So a minimalist can make time for valuable work and plenty of leisure.
True leisure involves creation rather than consumption. It lets you take the initiative, rather than watching someone else perform. It happens in the real world rather than a virtual one.
Here are some examples of things I've done in the last week for fun:
- Made things with Legos and played with a wooden train set with my grandsons.
- Wrote three posts for my blog (writing is fun for me).
- Crocheted while watching TV.
- Started reading a new book; also read several articles online.
- Went to dinner with my husband (restaurants are serving inside now, with COVID cleaning and distancing protocols in place).
- Attended a small family get-together for my grandson's 5th birthday.
- Completed several crossword puzzles.
- Listened to classical music while balancing the checkbook and writing a letter to my aunt.
- Observed and rejoiced in the beginnings of autumn weather on several short walks.
- Watched an old favorite movie with my husband.
- Helped my husband organize photos for my father-in-law's upcoming memorial service (it might not sound like fun, but it was enjoyable to look at old photos and reminisce).
- Played board games.
- Played in the park.
- Made up silly songs and poems.
- Visited family.
- Used binoculars for stargazing.
- Attended the Draft Horse Classic at the fairgrounds.
- Acted, sang, and otherwise participated in community theater.
- Read aloud (favorites included the entire Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Harry Potter sagas).
- Went to lots of different museums in California and Oregon.
- Saw several plays at the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
- Played chess.
- Rode bikes.
- Pursued arts and crafts like drawing, scrapbooking, beading, knitting, and more.
- Camped and hiked in Yosemite and Lassen national parks.
- Our son took ceramic classes at the community college.
- Our kids made up their own language and fantasy country (inspired by Tolkien).
- Our daughter played the piano.
- Our son taught himself to sew using online video tutorials.
Photo by Alaric Sim on Unsplash