Sometimes Minimalism is a Matter of Survival

I’ve never had a great number of friends, mainly because I’m very introverted. Throughout my lifetime I’ve been close to only a few people at a time. It’s about all I could ever effectively manage.

It remains true today.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously once said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I’ve thought about this over the years and each time I’ve been hard pressed to single out five people, apart from coworkers, that I hang out with the most.

For me, it would be my girlfriend Karen and my youngest son Jay. That’s it.  🙄 

For those of us who wear the introvert uniform, being social can be a challenge. We often don’t feel like going out with others to a noisy bar on a weekend or at the conclusion of a business trip, not because we’re aloof or non-social, but because we don’t enjoy being in crowded situations. It takes everything we have to be on and also most of our remaining hours to recover and recharge.

For introverts, curating one’s relationships is often a far more simple task than it is for a non-introvert. We often don’t need a large number of relationships and true friends are few in number. To be perfectly frank, we can’t stand the thought of making new friends or even dating, because sometimes the emotional cost is too high,  Because expenditures of emotional energy often involve a high physical cost, we tend to avoid these activities altogether.

For an introvert like me, navigating the rough seas of social expectations and the pressure to be on when it counts, results in frequent quiet weekends spent mainly alone at home. I’m often in awe of my coworkers’ weekend exploits but the thought of imitating their level of activity gives me the jitters.

For extroverts, my quiet weekends probably sound like a very dull, boring, and meaningless existence. But the opposite is true. My life is made most meaningful in the times when I’m alone. It affords me time for reading, writing, and quiet solo entertainment.

Until recently, perhaps three years ago, I used to enjoy going to the movies alone. I could settle in with my popcorn and concentrate on enjoying the film.  Unfortunately, periodic episodes of anxiety prevent me from going very often. 

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I’m often affected by noise, lights, certain vibrational frequencies, and the negative energy others. I’m like a sponge, soaking up the energy around me and pretty much helpless when it comes to shielding myself from its effects. Attending a film in a theater these days makes me feel antsy and anxious. I usually have to leave a few times and end up missing many parts of the film. 

The relationship between introversion and minimalism

Is there a relationship between the two? For me there definitely is. I don’t have any scientific evidence to support a causal relationship between the two, but I know how certain stimuli affect me and how a more minimalist environment is calming.

I know a few minimalists that as introverted as me; individuals like Jonathan Fields Millburn —one-half of The Minimalistswhile Ryan Nicodemus, his partner and best friend of 20+ years, strikes me as anything but an introvert.

My girlfriend Karen, who is neither a minimalist nor an introvert, recently asked me if I react when I’m in her home? I said no (and I meant it, honey 🙂 ). She not a hoarder by any means, but she does like her stuff—although there are times when she indicates that it gets to her.

As an introvert, if the environment in which I spend most of my time is messy, then I’ll react by manifesting some form of anxiety and I’ll need to do something about it. I’ll do whatever is necessary to make it a minimalist environment.

It’s how I have to live or else I’ll begin to feel anxious. It’s why my office is minimalist and my home is as well.

For me,  a minimalism is a matter of survival.

By Baz

writer | coach | practical buddhist

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