A typical North American home is usually fully furnished and sometimes overly furnished. There are lots chairs, tables, shelving units and sofa’s in every room and don’t forget about the countless number of TVs. However, if you are a single person who has chosen to take minimalism a little further, you might only want 3 pieces of furniture: a chair, a table and a bed. The people who come visit might find your house barren. They might even call your setup “weird”. By having 3 pieces of furniture in your residence you are essentially going against a societal norm which is to have a furnished home.
Minimalism is always inviting you to break these societal norms. However, you don’t have to do something as extreme as the previous example to go against one of them. For example, by refusing to participate in shopping days like “Black Friday” or “Boxing Day”, you are essentially breaking a societal norm even if you don’t realize it. Society is telling you to do something, in this case, it’s telling you to shop. By not respecting this command, by refusing to purchase goods on this day, you are simply not obeying society’s orders.
Nevertheless, there are some norms that I think we should respect to maintain a peaceful and cohesive society. These norms are otherwise known as the law. I know that in Canada where I live, like other democratic countries I assume, the law is usually quite fair and makes pretty good sense (at least in my opinion). This is probably due to the fact that our laws have been able to adapt and evolve over time.
There are other cultural customs outside of the realm of the law that I believe can make our lives richer on an emotional or mental level. Backyard summer barbecues, for instance, encourage relationship building and social interaction which makes you a little happier in the long run. They make for great memories you can look back on too.
But we also have some other cultural norms or customs that might seem a little absurd or crazy if you look at them more objectively. I’ll use Black Friday as an example again just because it’s an easy one to pick on. (Not that I have anything against it by the way.) An outsider to our North American consumerist society would probably think we were crazy if he or she saw everyone leaving their warm comfortable homes and rush to the box stores in the middle of the night.
Black Friday isn’t a “bad” tradition per se. In fact, it can be quite a helpful holiday on some instances. If your toaster breaks down, there aren’t many other days where you can get one for a tenth of the price you would have usually paid. Regardless, I’m sure there are individuals who have bought three of these “90% off toasters” even if they only needed one. It’s when people go overboard that these shopping holidays start to seem a little ridiculous.
All things considered, minimalism might sometimes take you to the edge of these cultural barriers. Don’t be afraid to break them. By not conforming to a societal norm you’ll be able to leave the comfort of society’s bubble and look at our culture from a more critical point of view. This can actually be quite an empowering experience because this new perspective might even help you approach life in a more rational manner. I’m not telling you to become an outcast or a rebel and reject everything the world has to offer because that would be a little foolish. But if the opportunity presents itself, stray from the norm ever by doing some a little differently, just do it and see what happens. Notice how others around you react. How will you react? Maybe by trying out these little experiments you’ll be able to learn something new about your society.