If you look at the dictionary definition of minimalism you will be met with the idea that minimalism is an art style rather than a lifestyle. The term is used to describe a lifestyle that has only been popularized in the last 10-15 years. But seriously dictionary companies... Get with the times, yeah?
There is also a lot of misconception about what minimalism is out there, which makes me not want to call myself a minimalist. So if you want to know what minimalism really is, then you have come to the right place!
My favourite definition of minimalism is a quote from one of the most well-known minimalist advocates Joshua Becker:
“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”
Basically, it's about creating a life that only includes what you actually value by actively letting go of what you don't.
We might have stumbled across a YouTube video or two of an extreme minimalist with a mattress on the floor and their 32 possessions and quickly ran away in the other direction deciding minimalism is not for us.
While there are a few extremists out there (and if that truly makes them happy, good for them), I can tell you that most of us who would call ourselves a minimalist does not live like this.
Here the thing: minimalism is not about the number of belongings you have. It is about the relationship you have with your belongings. Whether you have 50 belongings or 50,000 (BTW the average American home has 300,000!), it is about intentionally keeping just the things that add to your life.
While many 'minimalist' aesthetics we see on Pinterest or Instagram look very appealing, how many of us would actually want to live in an all-white home? Most of us like colour, and sentimental pieces adding joy to our living space. I do agree that visual simplicity helps encourage us to keep areas clean and tidy, but minimalism totally has room for colour, décor, plants, and personal touches!
Some people get so caught up in the pursuit for less that they fail to see the bigger picture of the effect of their consumption. An example of this is single-use disposables. A travelling minimalist, living only from a backpack, might fill several garbage bags of trash each week. Another example is having to keep a small number of clothes, but they are all fast fashion and are thrown out each season and replaced.
This one I have heard many times. This statement gets thrown around based on the idea that minimalism is a luxury because minimalists throw things away and can replace them later.. apparently. This very much ties into the above statement about a disposable rotation of stuff. Firstly, when I teach decluttering, if an item is still usable, I encourage people to give it away not throw it out. Secondly, when you become really intentional with what you own, your possessions will reflect your lifestyle and you will rarely ever need to replace something. And most importantly, if anyone could benefit most from being more intentional with what we buy and keep, it's those on low incomes!
It is less about stuff and more about the mindset you have around what you allow in your life. It's about intentionality, simplicity, boundaries, gratitude and letting go. It's about realising how abundant life can be when you love what you have and let go of the sacristy mindset that wants more and more.
Minimalism can extend into your relationships with others, schedule, social media consumption, and almost anything. It changes the way you think and life becomes so much simpler, allowing you to experience more joy.
So there you go! That's minimalism and what it is not!
"yup, sounds great but how the heck do I start?": you might be thinking?
First, minimalism starts in a decision and a mindset. You probably already have part of that mindset if you are reading blogs like this. Keep on this track! I share a lot's regular blogs and post tips on my Instagram several times a week too.
Then, you will want to physically purge what does not align with your values or is just extra stuff... A big declutter. You can start small and do a bit here or there. That approach is great for starting and getting the hang of it, but if you continue with random bits of decluttering... You'll never be fully finished. That is why I am developing a comprehensive decluttering program called 'Cut Clutter & Cultivate Joy'. You can sign up for the waiting list here