That human need to categorize everything

We humans, as a species, seem to have a need to label stuff, to categorize absolutely everything. We just can’t seem to resist. Why is that?

I’ll give you an example. I ate absolutely no meat of any kind for more than ten years. People call that a vegetarian. Not vegan, mind you. I never was able to give up cheese. No sir. But in recent years, I’ve re-introduced certain things into my diet that are ocean friendly, sustainable, ethically treated… you get the idea, right? It’s something I have given a lot of thought to and have researched a great deal. It’s important to me to make choices that don’t weigh on my conscience. I’m not preachy about it, in fact I prefer not to talk about it at all. It’s a personal thing.

But inevitably, it comes up in conversations. Because I was a vegetarian for more than a decade, people in my life knew about it. And people asked me about it. A lot. It bothered some people. Angered others. There were vegans who judged me for eating things like eggs and cheese. The people that really matter in my life accepted it and respected my choice.

Now that I am no longer a vegetarian because I will occasionally eat ocean-friendly seafood, it’s confusing to people. They say, oh, but you’re still a vegetarian, though, right? You just eat fish sometimes. And then I’ll say something like, well, no – technically that makes me a pescetarian, if we have to put a label on it.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Why do we have to label it? Personally, I can’t stand labels. I find that the moment you label what you are or what you do, someone will judge you by a set of rules attached to that label. There will be people that tell you you’re doing it wrong. Or they’ll be angry that you’re doing something different from what’s considered “normal”.

That’s kind of the way it is with the concept of minimalism. I just read a very thought-provoking blog by This Tiny Blue House about not always being comfortable with being labeled a minimalist, and it inspired me to write this post after a lengthy dry spell (I’ve been battling writer’s block recently due to dealing with an energy sapping family crisis). Her post resonated so strongly with me that I just had to post about it too! I’m not comfortable with being labeled a minimalist either, or anything else for that matter.

Minimalism has become a very trendy concept. As such, there are a lot of opinions out there regarding what is and what is not a minimalist lifestyle. I’ve read blogs that list rules about it such as how many pairs of shoes you should have if you’re going to call yourself a minimalist. I’ve had conversations with people who were rabidly angry about The Minimalists, you know, the guys in the documentary, Minimalism. What angered these people was the fact that The Minimalists were making a lot of money from their book and the film. They were on tour, making money hand over fist, talking about minimalism. The nerve. The utter bloody nerve!

But what’s wrong with that? When decent, generous-hearted people make a lot of money, you get things like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You know? How is that bad? It isn’t. It rocks. If you can do something you’re passionate about and believe in, and make money at it, well… that’s the dream, isn’t it?

I’ve read comments where people argue that being minimalist doesn’t help anyone. How do they know that? Does living large, in a big house with lots of stuff, designer clothes, and a couple of cars help anyone? Why should it matter either way? Why should people be judged by the stuff they have or don’t have? Why should they be judged by how much money they have or don’t have?

I just think people should be able to follow their hearts and their gut. Do what they feel is right for them. Live in a way that doesn’t weigh on their conscience. People should be able to do this without being judged or labeled by other people.

There’s this wonderful quote I saw that really hit home. It’s by Howard Therman, who said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

That pretty much nails it, doesn’t it?

Just do what makes you come alive. Don’t worry about the labels people put on you, your life or what you do.

For me, that happens to be writing. Living a simple, uncluttered life in a tiny space has set me free so that I can actually do what I love to do.

Yes, I guess you could call it a minimalist life. I got here because my husband and I lost our shirts (and then some) in a failed business venture, and were so poor (by first-world standards) we had to sell most of our belongings just to keep a roof over our heads (and a tiny roof at that). But once we got to this place of simple living, an amazing thing happened: we realized we wouldn’t have it any other way. We don’t ever want to go back to the way life was before.

Living tiny is so much less expensive than our previous way of life was. We now have very little stress in our lives. We have time for the things we love, like travelling, camping, kayaking, writing. We’re not spending every dime on keeping up a big house and filling it with stuff and clothing. We’re not working around the clock, seven days a week anymore just to be able to afford all that stuff. Now, we only take up as much space as we need, and only buy things we absolutely need. So now we can afford to do fun things every now and then like go out to movies or concerts.

Now that we live this simple, tiny life, I understand how much all that stuff we had before burdened me. For that, I’ll always be grateful for the traumatic events that forced us to give it all up, and nearly left us homeless.

This “minimalist” lifestyle has set me free. Labels be damned.

5 thoughts on “That human need to categorize everything

  1. This is such a wonderful and beautifully written post. It does somehow all come back to labels doesn’t it? I also was a vegetarian for years and when I introduced some fish into my diet and eventually reverted to eating meat I was questioned about WHERE I fit in now. lol. I couldn’t help but laugh because I don’t feel like I should fit into some category ya know? Categories/labels come with rules and rules just make me uncomfortable – You said it perfectly- does it make you come alive? As long as you’re striving for that end goal – you’re doing something right!


    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I had to laugh at that bit about WHERE you fit in now that you’re not a vegetarian anymore! I’ve had people say things like that to me too. Apparently our food choices are very important to some people! Lol! Those who simply MUST know what category you fall into are usually the ones who will never be happy with your life and will always find reasons to criticize or judge you. Life’s too short for that noise. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comments!


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