Minimalism and Boundaries
A Caution Tape Rippling in the Wind
Boundaries are the stuff of consciousness, an awareness of I and Not-I, Can and Cannot. Many minimalists have written about the higher consciousness that arises during the process of detaching oneself from excess stuff and busyness. I’ve experienced this myself, and along with being more aware of what I buy and commit to, I’ve also become more aware of a variety of boundaries, both the good and the bad.
The first boundaries involved stuff itself, of course. Even though I had not yet reached the limit of space to keep stuff, there was still an excess of stuff that was difficult to control. This revealed two personal limits: how much stuff I actually needed, and how much stuff I was willing to manage. As time went on and I became accustomed to no recreational shopping, the limit of what I was willing to spend on extras and whims took on a reality it never had before.
Next came awareness of how I spent my time, triggered by awareness of how much shopping I had been doing, and how many projects I would get involved in that really did not have to be done, such as crafts, decorating or cooking complicated meals. This established new time boundaries. Health challenges established new activity boundaries, as well, after reconsidering the kind of gardening or household jobs that were reasonable for me to tackle.
These were all boundaries resulting from minimalism, lines of awareness drawn in the sand to curtail habits and activities which were not in my best interests. These kind of boundaries are good–just ask anyone who has a get-out-of-debt blog!
But then more time passed, and another level of boundaries began to reveal itself as a result of the clearer thinking and self-respect that arose from going through the initial stages of minimalism. Awareness of all the temptations thrown our way by marketers and all the “obligations” thrown our way by social and personal relationships led to rethinking what I would and would not allow into my life. These new boundaries were not ones that held in my worst self, but which shut out what was now actually offensive. The result was embracing what I did enjoy and radically curtailing what I didn’t.
Every action taken with these boundaries in place reinforced my sense of self, of what was me, what was not me, and let me tell you that it has been a source of great happiness and satisfaction. It enabled me to identify what was of value to me and what was not. My ability to assert myself to protect those values has now improved tenfold.
I think a lifetime of being shaped by consumerism and by other peoples’ notions of what is good for me made me far too amorphous and pliable, vulnerable to being sold a bill of goods and yet not sufficiently sure of myself to do the hard things needed to put a stop to it. Now it is easier to recognize when my essential good nature and generosity are being taken advantage of and act accordingly.
It takes a reasonably strong sense of self to form boundaries, to not be amorphous. Some of us have a harder time achieving those boundaries than others, especially if it means risking other important things and relationships. For example, my marriage comes first, and just being clear on that enables me to handle other relationships and activities with integrity.
To this day I am amazed at the chain reaction started by something as simple as coming to terms with my relationship to mere stuff. Now there is another frontier, as it were, as the path reveals previously unknown boundaries that were in place, the bad ones that hold our best selves back. In the clutter and mayhem of wrong stuff and wrong action, it was difficult to achieve right livelihood. There seemed to be so many limits everywhere I turned, so many risks. I specialized in Going Around in Circles.
Knowing one’s right livelihood is elusive for many people, and I suspect it is often caused by avoiding expressing our essential natures, of asserting our boundaries with the people and the world around us. These days I know what I want to write and what I don’t, and I have realistic plans in place. I can even visualize everything I want to be, an ability I had when I was young but which has been sadly trampled flat over the years. Now that I am so much clearer about the boundaries I do want in place, I’ve got the mental and spiritual energy to blow the lid off the ones I don’t want!
How about you? Have any of your boundaries changed after you uncluttered or followed minimalism?