When constructing my 10 Treatises on Minimalism (two blogs down) I found myself dealing with a lot of different ideas, and I returned to the concepts of advertising. What does it mean to minimalism? I'm going to post the rejected treatises and discuss them in detail.
1: Dissatisfaction is the antithesis of minimalism.
Minimalism is making your life better for you. Anything that fosters a feeling of inadequacy or unhappiness must be rejected. (Unless you happen to like those feelings, which seems like a clever paradox.)
2: Advertising is dissatisfaction. It is successful and profitable.
When advertising started out, it was merely informational. "Hey guys, I have this thing, you should know about it!" Channels of communication were limited and information wasn't as widespread as it was today, thus paying for people to even know about your business was a novelty.
Today, advertising is much more widespread. Some advertising is still informational, telling you about a new price or a new product. But the rest of it is attempting to manipulate you. It is trying to convince you that you are not happy without a specific thing or service. It tells you that your life is something to be dissatisfied with, but you can fix it easily and simply by buying something.
Modern business is ruthlessly efficient. If advertising didn't work - to an insanely successful degree - they wouldn't do it. It costs a hell of a lot of money.
Advertising inserts emotions into your mind that it knows to be far more irrational than any of the rest. In a world without constant consumerism, we wouldn't want and want and want. But in the world we live in, that seems normal, even something to be proud of. Instead, perhaps we would be considering a life of contentment with the here-and-now, as opposed to after-an-easy-payment.
3: One particular brand of stuff is not more minimalist than any other.
With the exception of aesthetic minimalism.
Things can be simpler or better quality, which means they fit your life better. However, minimalism has no objective way to say that one brand of stuff is more minimalist than another. That means almost nothing in the greater scheme of things.
4: Any suggestion otherwise to the above is advertising.
Beware of advertising that discusses minimalism as well, because it is dangerously effective and is becoming more common.
But also, minimalism blogs are prone to hyping up certain brands. Am I guilty of this? Perhaps. I talked about what I had and what I used mostly for context, though I did focus on a few certain gadgets that I probably didn't need to (the Sansa Clip and Amazon Kindle lines).
The whole chic aspect of certain brands has melted into the minimalism blogs and I'm starting to see a backlash against minimalism for it, as opposed to what this really is: advertising. Minimalism isn't about Moleskine and Apple and those cool fancy lampposts that cost several thousand dollars. Some blogs are about that, but that's not what minimalism is about. If anything, it's the antithesis of minimalism because, again, it's fostering an environment of dissatisfaction with what you already have.
Swapping out one thing for another for a potentially better minimalist experience is a quick road to nowhere.
5: Avoid holding yourself up to external standards.
Minimalism blogs can be very interesting to read, and very powerful motivators, but they can also be dangerous because they can lead you to hold yourself up to these typically half-communicated standards that are unhealthy both to you and to the understanding of what minimalism is all about.
If you see a minimalism blog offering a lifestyle that sounds appealing, be critical. Analyze it for advertising. Analyze it for advertising-like concepts. Is it trying to make you dissatisfied? Is it trying to get you to buy cool new things? Is it stroking the author's ego in praise of all the cool brands they subscribe to?
But beyond not trusting it, is it useful to you? Everyone's life is different. Everyone's minimalism is different. Building up concepts in your head about how other people are doing their minimalism will just confuse and terrify you.
Use what you can and implement what you enjoy.