What Minimalism is Not

Joshua Becker describes minimalism as "... the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it."

This is a great definition because it's so personal and open-ended.  Minimalism becomes what you want it to be.  You choose what is important, what you will place front and center.  You choose what will be removed from your life in order to leave you with more space, time, money, and energy for what matters.  By doing this, minimalism helps you define your goals and purpose in life, and makes it more likely that you will be able to pursue and achieve them.

By this definition, my minimalism will not look exactly like yours, and your minimalism will be distinct from anyone else's.  Yet we are all minimalists.

I believe that everyone would benefit from a minimalist lifestyle, but obviously not everyone makes that choice.  Why is that?  Maybe it's because there are a lot of mistaken ideas about it.  These wrong ideas aren't attractive – in fact, some of them are downright scary.  I wouldn't want to live by those "minimalist rules" either.

8 Myths About Minimalism

1.  Minimalism means you get rid of everything.

This implies that minimalism is a narrow life of deprivation and need.  There are people who live that way, but it's not usually their choice.  That's called poverty, and I guarantee that if you're longing for a life with less busyness and clutter you are not living in poverty.  Rather the opposite, in fact.

Minimalism isn't about deprivation.  It's about choosing to live with less so you can have exactly what you need, with more time and space for what really matters to you.

2.  Minimalist homes are stark white boxes with no personality.

Yes, some minimalist design is characterized by a lot of white and very little d├ęcor, but a minimalist doesn't have to choose that aesthetic.

A minimalist room can have plenty of color, texture, and comfort.  It can display personal items that are meaningful to you.  What it won't have is stuff that simply gathers dust or random items that have nowhere to belong.  Again, the key is to keep what adds value to your life and remove the rest.

I've written an entire book about this particular subject:  Comfortable Minimalism: Create a Home with Plenty of Style and a Lot Less Stuff (paid link).

3.  Minimalism is inconvenient.

This idea also assumes that a minimalist lives with less than necessary, so that every task is made more difficult because of a lack of convenient tools.

Minimalism actually makes life easier in several ways.  You spend less time cleaning, organizing, maintaining, and searching for your belongings.  Often when people minimize they discover that some things they thought made life easier or more convenient were actually stealing a lot of their time and attention.

Minimalism also avoids the problem of duplication.  For example, instead of having an apple slicer, an avocado slicer, an egg slicer, and a cheese slicer, you simply keep one good knife.  You have one thing to clean, store, and keep sharp, yet you can still do all of those tasks.  You find a better solution to your problem than simply buying a new gadget.

4.  A minimalist doesn't have hobbies or collections.

This misconception implies that minimalists can't keep things they love and enjoy.  That would be a barren life indeed!

Sure, a minimalist may keep only one or two collections rather than letting twelve gather dust.  By removing what is less loved (or paring a very large collection down to your favorites), you're able to highlight those items and enjoy them more often, since they're not lost in a jumble.

The same concept would apply to hobbies.  You might have tools and supplies for eight hobbies, but how many do you really have time and energy to pursue?  A minimalist acknowledges that a couple of hobbies are preferred.  By pruning away the neglected pastimes, more time and money can be devoted to the ones that really bring satisfaction.

5.  Minimalism has a lot of rules.

Yes, some people experiment with certain limits.  I've lived out of one suitcase, and usually find a 4x4 (16 piece) wardrobe to be plenty.  I've tried undecorating, and have observed some "fasts" from shopping, social media, TV, Starbucks, and other experiments.

These experiments were all interesting and challenging experiences that let me live differently for a specific period of time.  One of the benefits of minimalism is how much you learn about yourself and what really matters to you, and these tests helped me with my investigations.

Minimalism lets you create your own set of rules, and those rules can change as your life changes.

6.  Minimalism only works for young single people.

Funnily enough, I wasn't a minimalist when I was young and single.  I was busy buying stuff I couldn't afford and racking up a lot of credit card debt.

I had several reasons to start practicing minimalism when my children were young:  we wanted to live on one salary, we were overrun by toys, and I needed to break a bad habit of binge shopping and purging.

I would say that the more people who live in your house, the more benefits you will notice from minimalism.  And there are certain ways in which minimalism is really important for children.

But anyone can be a minimalist – the young, single, location-independent person, the parent with young children or teenagers, and the soon-to-retire downsizer.  The minimalist choices for each won't look the same, because what they each value at that point in life is different.

7.  Minimalism means being cheap.

First of all, being cheap is not the same as being frugal.  Frugality is about spending carefully and without waste.  It's intentional, but a life of stinginess and deprivation would be missing the point (the Latin root of the word "frugal" means "fruit" or "value").

There is some overlap between minimalism and frugality, as both promote buying less and being thoughtful about how you use your money.  Some people might turn toward minimalism in order to be more frugal.

But the two ideas are not the same.  Minimalism isn't only about saving money – it's about living with less in order to have time and space for what is most important to you.  A minimalist may own fewer things, but might spend just as much as before by choosing higher quality items, by purchasing more experiences, or by being more generous toward others.

8.  Minimalism is only about your belongings.

Getting rid of excess belongings is often the gateway into minimalism.  But minimalism goes far beyond what you own.  As you learn what you most value and remove the things that don't align with that, you realize that minimalism can also be applied to how you spend your time, your money, and your skills.

Rachelle Crawford says it well:  "It doesn't matter how much stuff you get rid of if you don't have time to enjoy the things that matter."  A "crazy busy" schedule can keep you from focusing on what's really important to you.  So can the burden of debt or a habit of spending too much time online.  Having less in all of these areas leaves room for more of what matters.

One last thing....  Minimalism isn't about owning or doing less for the sake of less.

Minimalism is a tool.

It's a tool that helps you create the life you want and the freedom to live that life.  Minimalism helps you live intentionally so you can focus your time, space, energy, money, talents, and attention on what matters most to you.

Want more?  Why Minimalism?

Photo by Abbat on Unsplash


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