Remember when downsizing was an evil word? Used to be it was only about getting smaller in business by laying off people with varying degrees of uncaring ruthlessness. Gives me a shiver up my spine just writing that last sentence. Downsizing alluded to corporate cutting with arrogance, past loyalties be damned.
It can be about that even now, for there is still substantial sorting out in all kinds of businesses due to the Great Recession with 2008 (as the GR peak) not that long ago. Many of us are still feeling we live within the rubble of it. We struggle to get cleaner, and to smell the roses again, at least more often than not.
Can we downsize to warm up?
Today you have to pause a bit when you hear the word. You bite your tongue and do a double check first on the context in which downsizing is mentioned, for it’s often a warm-up to something else, perhaps minimalism.
Minimalism does intrigue me, for all its feels right reasons, such as the sustainable greening of human ecology. I also like thinking about it in terms of values-qualified focus and efficiency.
Most of the minimalists I encounter (mostly online) are younger, and penning blog posts similar to this one: The Adult Guide To Finding What You Want To Be When You Grow Up, by Melissa Gorzelanczyk. This Tynan blog entry, What’s the Point of Being a Minimalist? makes some very practical points:
- It’s relatively easy to try it before you commit to it. Tynan admits that, “I became a minimalist on a lark, which, for better or worse, is why I do a lot of things.”
- You’re likely to feel good throughout the process (whereas business downsizing usually sucks, no matter the noble goal). Tynan again: “Momentum kept pushing me, and before I knew it I didn’t own anything that didn’t fit in my 28 liter backpack.”
- The point of minimalism, [for Tynan] was unearthed as [he] continued to live with relatively few possessions and even fewer obligations. [He] realized that it wasn’t about having nothing. It was about having only things that mattered.
- And this is cool: “I find a certain Zen in efficiency. Minimalism has just become the extension of that.”
- While I didn’t get this completely, the thought is very intriguing: “Minimalism helped me understand that imbalance can be a good thing.”
- He ends with good advice: “Minimalism should be a tool, not a cult. I think it’s a good default, too: when in doubt, don’t accept obligations or buy things. But if you’ve really thought something through and want to buy it, even though it might not fall in line with traditional minimalist dogma, go for it.”
— paraphrased, with my own commentary, from What’s the Point of Being a Minimalist?
Your personal values will ground you
But it’s not just about making better choices. I say “downsizing gets cool” because I see it being values aligned again, whereas our earlier business downsizing was often counter-value: We did it because we felt we had no choice, and had to reach better business health by getting there as quick as possible, even when it required we ignore many of the foundational values our companies still espoused. We traded our short term personal health for our long term business health. Yuck.
In lifestyle context, I see downsizing — and minimalism, if you want to take it that far, as abundance versus our earlier scarcity thinking with it: Why settle for either/or when you can have and? We can choose lifestyle health for both value integrity and working health.
What I read in many of the posts written by these new minimalists and downsizers is very comforting and encouraging: It’s a reaffirming of their personal values. In some cases, it’s been an exploration — “a lark” as for Tynan — which led to values people hadn’t even realized they had, or could newly choose to have.
So I echo Tynan in this way: Don’t choose the dogma. Do choose your values.