Beware the Drawbacks of Minimalism!

What is life as a minimalist really like?  I write all the time about the benefits of minimalism, and why less is more should be your mantra for life.  And everything I've said is true, but maybe it's my duty to point out a few of the negatives.  After all, there are downsides to almost everything.  It won't all be roses. 

Minimalism is freedom.  It's clarity.  It's energy, time, and resources to spend on what you believe is important, rather than wasting your life trying to be the person with the most toys.

But opinions about minimalists are often mistaken and uncomplimentary.  Along with some necessary lifestyle adjustments, these opinions represent the thorns among the roses.

Consider yourself warned.

rose thorns

17 changes and conjectures to beware

1.  A well-known regular

You're going to get to know local charities, consignment stores, and maybe the dump too well as you clear out your clutter.

2.  So much time

As a minimalist, you'll have to figure out what to do instead of shopping.  Some of your friends may think you're weird if you suggest taking a walk together, going on a picnic, visiting the community art show, or doing volunteer work.  They might be surprised if you invite them to your house for coffee or an evening of board games.

3.  The object of teasing

People may start to tease you about which of your half-dozen shirts you've worn to work, or wonder why you seem to have only one purse.  (Hint: There are worse things to be teased about.)

4.  The object of confusion

Some people will think you're a minimalist because it's "trendy."  Others will wonder what the heck a minimalist is.

5.  A hypocrite

People may say that "you can't be a real minimalist" if you drive a car, own a couch, can cook a nice meal and set the table for eight or more people, or wear "too many" different shoes, jackets, earrings, or something else.

6.  A threat

Other people may believe that your lifestyle choice is a judgment on them, even if it's not.  Or they'll think you're a Communist or someone who wants to wreck the economy, or something else they feel threatened by.

7.  A weirdo

You'll get strange looks when you turn down promotional swag at conferences or sporting events.  People won't understand why any sane person would turn down a free mug or tee shirt or set of coasters or whatever.

8.  A Scrooge

Family and friends will harass you about not participating in Secret Santa gift exchanges.  They'll be very frustrated when you say you don't want anything for all of the obligatory gift-giving occasions, or if you suggest they donate to a charity in your honor rather than buying something.  They may decide you're "ruining" the occasion because all you want to do is eat some good food and spend time with them.

rose and thorns
9.  Suspicious

Checking into a hotel with only a duffel bag may earn raised eyebrows or a look of surprise.  If you go on a big trip (especially overseas) with only a small carry-on, you may be viewed suspiciously.  Who travels with almost nothing, except maybe a terrorist?

10.  Uninformed

If you give up TV or social media, you'll miss a lot of "news" updates and become less aware of pop culture.  Some people will be shocked at how out of it you are.

11.  Strange fantasies

When family comes to visit, you'll try to imagine why they have so much stuff with them, even if they're just planning to stay for a few hours.  When you go to other people's houses, you might start fantasizing about helping them get rid of their clutter.

12.  Suspected of having help

When your house is almost always tidy, yet you never complain about having to spend an entire day cleaning, people will believe you must have a regular maid service.  You might also be suspect if you're usually caught up with laundry and your kitchen and bathroom counters are basically empty and ready for use.

13.  Boring

If you aren't buying new stuff or new experiences all the time, people may assume you're uninteresting.  What do you do and talk about if you don't shop or travel?  (Hint: Talk about the books you read, the hobbies you practice, the natural world you notice and enjoy, and the people you know and love.)

14.  A phone snob

If you don't immediately whip out your phone every time you have to wait for a few minutes, people will wonder what it is you're trying to prove.

15.  A loser

If you're usually calm and not rushing around like a crazy person, some might accuse you of being lazy or unambitious.  But if you spend several hours focused on one important task they might call you obsessed.

16.  Na├»ve

If you try to find a solution or point out something positive when your companions feel like ranting about the state of the world, they will call you a Pollyanna.

17.  Poor

If you have just one car (or worse, give up your car in favor of public transit, a bicycle, or your two feet) or move to a smaller house, people will think you are poor.  If they're swimming in debt and have no savings, they'll imagine that you are too.  If they're dissatisfied and always wanting more, they'll figure you do too and just can't afford it.  It would baffle them to discover that you're in the opposite situation.

Better than normal

Minimalism is counter-cultural, and will make you noticeably different from the typical member of our society.  This will be especially true once it becomes obvious that

  • you own everything you need (so you have more time, money, and focus for more important stuff)
  • you've haven't overloaded yourself with tasks and appointments (so you're less pressured and impatient)
  • you enjoy many small and simple pleasures every day (so you're more mindful and contented)

so many roses
Maybe it's hard to be a non-conformist, but who wants to be "normal"?  As author Dave Ramsey says, "The goal is not to be 'normal' because 'normal' is broke."  I would add that "normal" is crazy busy, in debt, and drowning in clutter. 

Minimalism is a tool that can help you get out of that trap and fill your life with what you truly value.  It isn't meager – it's enriching.

Of course you will still have problems as a minimalist.  No amount of simplifying will keep you from experiencing the full range of human emotions – loneliness, disappointment, heartache, and coping with mortality.  Unfortunately, no one escapes human suffering.

But minimalism gives you space and stamina you wouldn't otherwise have, which lets you call on those resources to cope when you need to.  Life challenges are just a little easier when you have simplified the basics of your day-to-day.

Maybe you'll be an example of someone whose life is better because of minimalism.  If you gain more energy, peace, purpose, and satisfaction, the changes you've made are going to be appealing to others.

Hey!  It might not be so thorny after all.

Minimalism is more than a fad, more than a design statement, and more than decluttering.  It's an effective tool for living a better life.  If we all woke up from our consumerist dream and stopped being influenced by the influencers,  I think we'd all want this, because minimalism just makes sense.  

My book, Exploring Minimalism (part of my best-selling Minimalist Basics series), will help you discover the whys, hows, and first steps to a more fulfilling life.*

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.


  1. I've discovered related to #3 most people don't notice if you've got the same (or a different) bag, or wear the same few things. With the idea we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time...if you don't wear the same 'loud' shirt 2 days in a row, and are clothed appropriate to the environment (work/ outside work), people rarely give a second look. I already try to get my friends to go on walks, so nothing new there. Thanks for a great list!


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