I’ve lived as a minimalist for a while now, though I’ve never associated myself with that term. The truth is you don’t have to label yourself as a minimalist to be one, and there are many misconceptions I’ve come across when it comes to living a minimalistic lifestyle.
Minimalism is a philosophy that denotes more is less and focuses on finding one’s inner happiness rather than seeking bliss through external consumption. Minimalism isn’t always about getting rid of everything you own; instead, it’s a way of life that anyone, in any circumstance, can incorporate.
One of the main reasons people turn away from minimalism is that they think they have to change everything about their life completely. In this article, I’m going to share with you everything I know about minimalism and how it doesn’t have to be as drastic as you think.
What is Minimalism?
The minimalism trend has been around for a while, indicating a life of few possessions and frugal living. While it’s recently become a trend, it’s an ancient way of life that has been around for thousands of years.
Its message is that of simple living with awareness and control around ‘worldly’ or ‘egoic’ desires. What this means is that those living a minimalist lifestyle know that the pursuit of ‘riches and wealth’ only brings temporary satisfaction, and it’s a desire that only grows more and more hungry.
On the other hand, when one learns to find happiness and peace within themselves rather than outside of themselves, they do not need an abundance of ‘things.’ In this way, minimalism is more about how one’s sees themselves, the world around them, and how they relate to their material possessions.
Interestingly, it has been found that those who doubt themselves are more likely to purchase unnecessary things as a way to fit in and feel more empowered. The American Psychology Association published a study that suggested people who are more confident in themselves are less likely to fall into materialism than those who doubt themselves or feel insecure.
By letting go of the societal pressure to do more, achieve more, and have more, minimalism creates room for more pleasure, more presence, and more authentic experiences.
Things start to become misconstrued when minimalism becomes only about the external, and people get rid of all their things in an attempt to be happy. While decluttering and simplifying one’s physical items is a large part of living a minimalist lifestyle, a deeper message can be missed when this is the only focus.
The deeper message is the minimalism philosophy of finding joy in life and the present moment. It encourages one to learn more about themselves and what brings them happiness.
In society, there is a large focus on how one appears, their status, and how powerful or wealthy they are. There is a goal to look a certain way and have the nicest and most expensive items to prove one’s worth. These are desires from the ego, and the subconscious desire that the ego is trying to fulfill is to be accepted, feel worthy of one’s place in life, and be loved by one’s community.
Minimalism philosophy challenges the ego and encourages one to stop seeking acceptance and worth outside of themselves. Rather, it encourages one to find what makes them truly happy. By letting go of the societal pressure to do more, achieve more, and have more, minimalism creates room for more pleasure, presence, and authentic experiences.
In this way, you don’t have to get rid of all your items, only own one shirt, or only wear black, white, and grey to be a minimalist. To be a minimalist is to be aware of what brings value to your life and what doesn’t. Minimalism is conscious awareness around what is an egoic, materialistic desire and what is a true heart, soul-driven desire.
This informative youtube video about minimalism helped me with my own confusion about what minimalism is versus what it isn’t:
What are the Characteristics of Minimalism?
Understanding the philosophy of minimalism is important, but it doesn’t always create clarity on how minimalism actually looks. To make it more tangible, here are some key characteristics of living a minimalist lifestyle:
- You appreciate what you have and accept what is – One of the key characteristics of minimalism is appreciating what you already have/own. You value each item’s purpose and use them daily. You also appreciate who you are as a human, honor your desires, and value where you are in life.
- You’re intentional with how you spend your time – You spend time doing things that add value to your life. This includes enriching experiences such as pursuing one’s dreams, deepening one’s spiritual life, spending time in nature, being creative, gardening, and practicing self-care.
- You’re intentional with how you spend your money – Every purchase you make is deliberate and purposeful. Most purchases are for a specific need rather than a fleeting want. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy things you want; every purchase is intentional and made with conscious awareness rather than impulse spending.
- You aren’t interested in materialism or consumerism – You can see through the propaganda and manipulative marketing tactics that claim you ‘need’ a certain item to feel happy, healthy, accomplished, or connected.
- You’ve reduced your items to only what you need and truly enjoy – Minimalism means decluttering your space of all the things that don’t add value to your life or bring you joy.
What are the Benefits of Minimalism?
There’s a host of benefits that comes with living a minimalist lifestyle. These benefits are why this trend has become popular and why so many people advocate for it today. Here are some of the benefits you’ll find when adapting to this way of life:
When one turns their focus from outward appearance and egoic desires to inward bliss and simple living, they won’t be drawn to purchase the newest and most expensive items. In this way, they won’t accumulate debt from unnecessary purchases.
More connection to who you are.
People caught up in consumerism/materialism often try to please others and society as a whole. When one lets go of this fruitless pursuit, they are able to learn more about themselves and what they desire in life.
Less Clutter. Less Mess. Less Stress.
Adopting the minimalist lifestyle encourages decluttering and removing unnecessary items from home. This means there is less to clean up and organize in the long run. Plus, less clutter leads to less stress. A study published by Science Direct shows that clutter has a “negative impact on psychological home and subjective well-being.”
One can incorporate the concept of minimalism into every area of life. While the most important aspect of minimalism should be adopted within one’s self, it can also be mirrored through how one decorates their home, clothing style, music, design, and art.
To be a minimalist is to be aware of what brings value to your life and what doesn’t.
The concept of simplicity is beautifully woven into minimalist music. These unique musical pieces are characterized by instrumental pieces that only use a few notes. There aren’t a lot of complicated sounds or beats; rather, the music is methodical and slow to build. They are steady and will use nature sounds as samples in the music.
This art style promotes elegance and simplicity. Often the works of art are uncomplicated, abstract, and use a single line to create depth and shape. Solid, soft colors are used, along with fine line work that isn’t too detailed. The image may even have an “unfinished” look that inspires one’s mind to complete its details. Minimalism can be found in any art form, whether painting, sculpture, watercolor, or pen/pencil drawing.
Digital minimalism takes the concept of minimalism and applies it to one’s electronic devices. It promotes decluttering and deleting anything that isn’t necessary. It’s all too easy to get lost on our phones or computer and realize hours have sped by, and all we’ve done is scroll, play, or watch something. Digital minimalism encourages conscious intention with how one uses their phone, tv, or laptop, and for how long.
Types of Minimalism
As you might imagine, minimalism is a broad topic that covers many niches or types of minimalism. When people become confused or put off by the idea of minimalism, they often think about extreme minimalism. Or, when you imagine a modern and elegant home with a simple design and tidy space, you might be thinking of Japanese minimalism. In this way, minimalism can be shaped and adapted to one’s lifestyle, and there isn’t a set way to live as a minimalist, as long as one follows the key characteristics previously discussed.
Japan has greatly influenced the western world with its unique aesthetics and inspiring ways of life. It’s no surprise they are a culture that values minimalism ideals, which is evident in the works of Marie Kondo, the great Japanese minimalist.
Japanese minimalism values tidy and clean spaces with possessions that bring one joy. Our ideals of minimalism here in the U.S are almost identical to the ideals of Japanese minimalism. They both inspire one to live an intentional life with a decluttered and organized space. Furthermore, Japanese minimalism encourages elegant designs and simple, natural beauty.
If you decided to rid yourself of almost everything you own except one pair of clothes and basic living essentials, you might be considered an extreme minimalist. Some have found great success in this way of life, but it’s obvious that this type of minimalism isn’t for everyone.
Minimalism isn’t about ridding oneself of pleasure or things that bring one joy. In this way, extreme minimalism can be hard to sustain, and it walks a fine line between positive life changes and self-deprivation.
Where Can I Learn More About Minimalism?
Today, there are more ways to learn about minimalism than ever before. If you want to learn more about minimalism, the internet offers an infinite number of blogs and youtube videos dedicated to this way of life. If you would like an even deeper and perhaps more refined resource, there are many books and documentaries to check out.
If watching inspiring documentaries is your thing, check out these documentaries about minimalism:
- The Minimalist: Less is More
- Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things
- Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
- Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo
- Less is Now
Books are one of the greatest resources for becoming educated on a topic, and minimalism is no exception. Here is a list of books to check out to fulfill your minimalism craving:
- “The Joy of Less” by Francine Joy
- “Goodbye, Things” by Fumio Sasaki
- “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo
- “Minimalism for Families” by Zoe Kim
- “The More of Less” by Joshua Becker
Are minimalists happier?
Yes and no. Minimalism isn’t a one-way ticket to happiness. It can provide amazing resources to help you find happiness, but happiness is ultimately up to you. Happiness is found within oneself through acceptance, gratitude, creativity, and forgiveness (among many others).
What’s wrong with minimalism?
Minimalism can turn from helpful to detrimental if one pursues extreme minimalism as an unconscious attempt to deprive themselves of joy and pleasure.
Will minimalism automatically make me content?
No. As with happiness, contentment is found within one’s self. Minimalism can certainly help you be more intent and give you valuable resources to find contentment, but it won’t automatically make you more content.
What Minimalism Means to Real People
There’s no doubt that most people have heard about minimalism in one way or the other. With it being such a popular trend, I was certain my friends and family were aware of the concept, but I wanted to do further research. I asked if any of them considered themselves a minimalist. Then, I followed up by asking them what minimalism meant to them. Here’s what they shared:
|Do you consider yourself a minimalist?||Times Selected|
|Part of the time/sort of||40%|
|Yes (to some extent)||20%|
|What does minimalism mean to you?||Times Selected|
|To only possess that which you need and can put to good use.||40%|
|Needing only a small number of material things to be content in life||20%|
|“less” and “minimal lifestyle”||20%|
- Meaningful Life – How to Truly Live and Feel What Matters
- Material Things – Things that Benefit Us and Things to Let Go
- Minimalist Design – Aesthetics and Elements of Simple Design
- Consumerism – Buying Choices Influence a More Minimal Life
- Declutter – Feel Happier with a Decluttered Home and Office
- Living Minimalist – The Easy Practices for a Fuller Life
Minimalism is a truly inspiring concept that can help one find happiness and purpose in life. As with most things, it comes with challenges and misconceptions, but the inner message is the same: find gratitude for where you are and what you have, and be intentional with every decision.