How Many Tee Shirts Should a Minimalist Own?
Does it make sense to experiment with minimalism* in order to get away from the mindless herd mentality of materialism, and then make a bunch of rules you have to follow?
No, it doesn't.
Minimalism is about removing the things that hamper your daily life in order to make room and time for your best, authentic self. While ads and social media tell you what to buy and who you're supposed to be, minimalism helps you step away from that to build a deeper, more purposeful, and more contented life.
While this will require you to be thoughtful, intentional, and counter-cultural, it doesn't include hard-and-fast rules.
So when I'm asked questions like the ones that follow, I have to chuckle.
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Common questions of those new to minimalism
1. Do I have to live in an all-white or all-neutral home?
While whites and neutrals do have a very calming effect, those non-color color schemes aren't essential to a minimalist home. What is essential is that you own what you need, use, and love without anything extra to complicate your life.
I live in a rented apartment, so my walls are a creamy white. But my couch is navy. A couple of side tables are painted apple green. My walls feature colorful art, and my books are shelved spines out – that is, all colors showing – rather than the modern trend of turning spines toward the back of the shelf for a neutral display.
Yes, I'm still a minimalist.
2. Can I still own a ________? (TV, microwave, tumble dryer, lawn mower, car, etc.)
The answer is – again – do what's right for you. Sure, a line of breeze-blown clothes drying over a green lawn studded with dandelions and free-roaming chickens is very Cottagecore, but if you live in an apartment or have six kids, you might appreciate having access to a clothes dryer.
If you mow a half-acre of grass every week, you'll probably want more than an old-fashioned push mower (although I'd argue that they're perfect for a small suburban yard).
If you watch TV, then you need a TV. My two suggestions would be that you reserve television for after dinner and keep them out of bedrooms. This allows for more connection and intimacy, creates space for quiet and contemplation, and improves sleep.
3. How many pairs of pants should I own?
Adjust this question to include shoes, handbags, tee shirts, or whatever you're concerned about.
Actually, this question needs to be replaced. "How many pairs of pants do you need/wear regularly?" might be more helpful. If you have 20 pairs of pants in your closet, but find yourself reaching for the same four or five pairs all the time, then maybe you only need four or five pairs. Figure out how many you actually wear over the course of a week or two, and keep that number.
Deciding what to keep and what to declutter is all about your own needs and preferences. You don't have to use just one handbag in order to be a "good" minimalist, but you shouldn't mindlessly figure you "need" a different handbag and shoes to go with every outfit, as the fashion industry dictates. You decide.
- What's most convenient?
- What makes you happiest?
- What trade-offs are you making if you have fewer purses, or if you choose to collect them? Are the trade-offs the right ones for you?
And if you decide to go with the simplicity of one handbag or three pairs of perfectly-fitting jeans so that you can spend more time and money on travel or theater tickets or saving for retirement, do that.
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You do you.
If you were hoping this post would give you a definitive, one-size-fits-all answer to this question, I'm sorry to disappoint. The important thing is to do what's best for you in your situation. This doesn't mean you want to simply follow the latest trend or influencer, or shop on a whim or because you want a pick-me-up. That path leads to clutter, debt, and dissatisfaction.
The more mindful and intentional you are about what you own, the better minimalism will work for you. As a former binge shopper, I've realized that all of the shopping was partly about boredom, and partly about needing to fit in and be fashionable. At least some of my self-worth was involved. Once I stopped shopping and focused on other things – more satisfying pursuits – my self-worth increased.
You know, the better you feel about yourself, the less you're influenced by whatever other people are doing. You become more independent.
That suits a minimalist quite well.
Related article: Your Unique Minimalism: What Kind is Just Right for You?
The Minimalist Challenge: 36 Fun Experiments for a Simpler Life, includes 27 thirty-minute activities and 9 try-it-for-a-day experiments in six life areas:
- physical clutter
- digital clutter
- your mindset
- your schedule
- your finances
- your personal well-being
Big changes come from tiny steps taken over and over. One or more of these challenges is sure to make a positive difference in your life.