8 Questions that Explore Important Minimalist Ideas

If you're reading this, you probably already have some awareness of minimalism.  At the very least, you might be interested in reducing your clutter so you can streamline home care and feel more relaxed in your spaces.  You might also be interested in 

  • how to downsize your own or an older relative's living situation
  • how to create a home that's cozy, pretty, and practical with less
  • how to curate a wardrobe with fewer pieces and more versatility
  • how to deal with your spouse's or your kids' clutter
  • how to break a shopping habit
  • how to use a simpler lifestyle to improve your health
  • how to be less busy and more focused
  • how to develop better habits
  • how to reduce debt, increase savings, and maximize giving
  • how to be thankful and content with what you have
  • how to remain hopeful and positive

I've written about all of these subjects; obviously, some more than others.

But maybe you have questions about minimalism and how it can make such a difference in your life.  How can one basic idea impact so many areas?  Let's talk.

a talk over coffee

The minimalist Q&A

Q:  Why be a minimalist?

A:  Minimalism lets us escape the excesses of our society – consumerism, clutter, greed, debt, distractions, noise, busyness, intrusive technology – that have too little meaning.  Minimalism helps us get out of the trap of work and spend, work and spend, and lets us waste less and appreciate more.  Minimalism is a tool to remove the non-essential in order to focus on what's truly valuable, joyful, and enduring.

Q:  Isn't minimalism cold, sparse, inconvenient, and boring?

A:  This is a common misconception – that minimalism is monk-like, empty, and sterile.  Some people choose to go that direction, of course, but most don't, and it's not the type of life I'm advocating here.

Instead, a minimalist wants to clear away things that don't matter to make room, time, energy, and money for things that do.  That list of essentials will be different for each of us.  In fact, what we choose to emphasize will change as our life situations change.  But the concept will remain.  We want to clear away distractions that keep us from connecting with loved ones, spirituality (if we're so inclined), and our most cherished goals.

As a result, we're happier, contented, and self-actualized.

Q:  What is minimalist living?

A:  It's getting rid of things you don't use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment.  It's living without being obsessed about what you want to buy next, and without trying to do it all or have it all.  Minimalists don't suffer from the Fear of Missing Out, because they realize that time and energy are finite and precious.

A minimalist will choose a simple wardrobe, simple foods, fewer, more versatile tools, and will generally live much lighter on the earth than the average member of a developed nation.

Q:  What are the benefits of minimalism?

A:  There are many.  A minimalist life is less stressful, less expensive, with less debt.  There's less cleaning and maintenance, and more time and resources for relationships, careers, hobbies, or whatever brings you joy.  A minimalist life is easier to organize and keep track of.  It's more sustainable.  The process of mindfully choosing what to allow in your life brings self-awareness that is often lacking in a society of influencers and followers.

Q:  What does the schedule of a minimalist look like?

A:  There's no single answer to this question, but a minimalist would focus on doing less, having a less cluttered schedule, with activities that are of high value to her.  A minimalist would not only have a few high priorities, but would (as much as possible) take care of important things before they become urgent.

With less clutter and fewer possessions, a minimalist can spend less time cleaning, maintaining, searching for, and organizing things.  He would also choose to single-task, knowing that multi-tasking is merely his brain switching back and forth between jobs, continually disrupting his attention and efficiency.

The resulting margin in a minimalist's schedule allows for more calm, more creativity, more connection, and more satisfaction in tasks well done.

Q:  Are there rules to follow?

A:  Minimalism doesn't have a set of rules.  My minimalism as half of a 60-something couple looks different from that of a 20-something location-independent entrepreneur, who looks different from a 35-year-old homeowner with several young children.

In general, a minimalist lives without unneeded possessions, distractions, or waste.  A minimalist is either debt-free or working toward that.  She probably has some interest in environmental issues and social justice.  Minimalism may complement his ethics and spirituality.

Q:  Is minimalism just being cheap?  Can't you own nice things?

A:  Some people get interested in minimalism in order to save money.  My own first steps into minimalism were about my desire to homeschool my children – which meant our family needed to live well on my husband's salary while I chose to stay home with my kids.

Frugality (which is different from being cheap; the root of the word is Latin for "fruitful," implying value and success) is simply a way of not spending on unnecessary things.  But if you need to buy something, it makes sense to buy the best quality you can afford.  Not only will the item last longer, but it's probably also a more timeless style, rather than a passing fad.  

A minimalist will choose quality over quantity every time.

That said, I think it's good to examine your motives.  Are you choosing the high-end item for its beauty, workmanship, and longevity, or for its snob appeal?  Are you able to see the item as a useful tool, or are you just enamored of the idea of owning it?  I'm not completely successful in this area, but I recommend that all of us examine our attachments to material things.

autumn in the suburbs
Q:  Is it even possible to be a minimalist in America, where you need a car, a house, a job, and more?

A:  This whole blog is about practicing minimalism within the American culture (as well as other developed nations), not on a desert island somewhere.  In fact, I live in suburbia.  I'm not a back-to-the-land homesteader.  

The complexities and expectations of our society are exactly why we need minimalism!

Minimalism will challenge the assumptions of our culture.  Perhaps we should at least question the American Dream of home ownership, rather than automatically following someone else's script.  Perhaps we need to think about whether we need a car for every driver in the household, plus a boat and a motor home.  Perhaps instead of a high-consumption bucket list we need to learn to appreciate simple pleasures every day.

Do you need to come to the same conclusions I do?  Of course not.  But you do need to discern what's truly important to you, and make intentional choices, rather than robotically adopting the consumerist mindset of the average American.

There's no getting around the fact that minimalism is a counter-cultural lifestyle.

More questions?

Are there other questions about minimalism that I haven't considered?  Any you'd like me to try to answer?  Let me know in the comments, or email me (karen@maximumgratitudeminimalstuff.com).

It's here!  The fifth and final volume in my new Minimalist Basics series, Simply Happy: A Little Book of Joy.

Too many of us trudge through our days.  We get up, go to work, take care of the chores, pay the bills, and go to bed, waking up to do it all over again.

We're getting by, but we don't feel much sense of freedom or control, and we're not excited or energized by much.  Our way of dealing with the tedium is not to deal with it, so we scroll, click, post, like, binge watch, shop, dream about a getaway, or consume some junk.  It seems we would rather escape than wake up and live.

The good news is that it's possible to create a life from which you don't want to escape!  It's possible to find a sense of purpose and direction every day.  It's possible to find a life of meaning and joy.

Just as you gain skill at maintaining your home, schedule, and budget, you can get better at maintaining inner serenity and peace.  We can't control all the circumstances of our lives, but we have some control over our responses to them.  And we can mold our habits and even our brains toward positivity and happiness.

Simply Happy will show you how to change the way you look at the world.  And then you're free to pursue your joy.  Get a copy for yourself or a friend today.


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