What Is a Minimalist – Characteristics and Lifelong Benefits

You’ve seen the documentaries on Netflix and Discovery explaining how great minimalism is and how it can help you be happier.  So what is a minimalist?  I’m going to look at some of the things that characterize a minimalist.

A minimalist lives by the principle of “less is more” in their wardrobe, work, home, and more.  Characteristics include avoiding consumerism, focusing on needs rather than wants, living uncluttered, and focusing on simplicity.  Areas of minimalism range from wardrobe to lifestyle.

Have you heard about minimalists and their simplified lifestyles but wonder what a minimalist really is?  Do you wonder how minimalists do things and if you could benefit from doing the same? Being a minimalist may lead to the benefits of being less stressed, having more time, saving more money, and being happier.

What Is a Minimalist?

A minimalist is a person who embraces and practices minimalism as a lifestyle or philosophy. Minimalism is a movement that advocates for simplifying one’s life by intentionally reducing possessions, commitments, and distractions to focus on what is essential and meaningful.

Minimalists seek to free themselves from the excesses of consumerism and materialism, valuing experiences and relationships over material things. The minimalist lifestyle encourages people to declutter their physical space, streamline their daily routines, and prioritize activities that bring joy and meaning.

A minimalist lives by the “less is more” principle practiced in minimalism.  It may not be in every aspect of their lives, but it is present in many things they do and how they live.  So what are some characteristics of a minimalist?  Let’s take a look.

Simple White Tulips - What Is A Minimalist - Gone Minimal
Simple White Tulips

Characteristics of a Minimalist 

Minimalists don’t always stick out in a crowd, but many things set them apart.  You may not even see it in the individual externally, but you will see it in their living space.  Sometimes it’s their physical appearance, and sometimes their lifestyle practices.  Here are a few common characteristics of a minimalist:

  1. Avoids consumerism
  2. Differentiates between needs and wants
  3. Focuses on contentment
  4. Happy to do without some things
  5. Spends time on meaningful things
  6. Clean and organized
  7. Uncluttered
  8. Focused on simplicity

The extent of these characteristics may vary from person (or minimalist) to person, as we are all uniquely different with individual beliefs and practices.  While one minimalist may avoid consumerism in all things, another may focus on this practice only in terms of wardrobe.  However, the overall focus is on living with intention and focusing on happiness and the things that bring joy.

There are many different areas to be a minimalist, from overall lifestyle to the minimalist mindset prioritizing living intentionally and building meaningful relationships.

Benefits of Being a Minimalist

If you’re wondering if it’s worth it to take the plunge and adopt the minimalist lifestyle, let me tell you — it totally is.  There are no rules to being a minimalist, it’s not an “all or nothing” deal, and it’s flexible.  Take a look at some of the benefits of being a minimalist:

  1. Less clutter
  2. Less cleaning
  3. More money
  4. More environment-friendly
  5. Less stress
  6. More space
  7. More free time
  8. More intentional living
  9. Better experiences
  10. Better relationships
  11. More joy
  12. More happiness

Could you even imagine how getting rid of a few extra things and cutting back on some others could reap so many benefits?  Next, let’s look at some potential areas to be a minimalist.

A Woman Smiling In A Sunflower Field - What Is A Minimalist - Gone Minimal
A Woman Smiling In A Sunflower Field

Areas To Be a Minimalist

Being a minimalist is not an all-or-nothing deal. There are many different ways to be a minimalist, as described by Miriam Meissner of Maastricht University, from critiquing and rejecting consumption to self-responsibility and compensating for the effects of “enterprise society.”  

From overall lifestyle to the minimalist mindset that prioritizes living intentionally and building meaningful relationships, the areas to be minimalist are limitless. For example, one can be a minimalist by having a highly simplified and organized home or wardrobe with style centered around simplicity, meaning, and function. They could also use minimalist design with simple, high-quality products rather than disposable ones.

Minimalist  Lifestyle

The minimalist lifestyle is all about focusing on what really matters.  It’s centered on the “less is more” principle regarding the home, décor, clothing, and anything else you could imagine.  Mir Habeebullah Quadri of CIFIA Global Journal defines it as living with as few materialistic things as possible.  This lifestyle tends to be the opposite of consumerism, as a minimalist focuses on buying the least amount of items necessary and utilizing durable products for sustainability. 

A Simple Sign That Spells Less Is More - What Is A Minimalist - Gone Minimal
A Simple Sign That Spells Less Is More

Minimalist Mindset

The minimalist mindset is one of needs rather than wants.  Just as with the minimalist lifestyle, the mindset focuses on the fewest number of things possible while maximizing their use.  Minimalists prioritize living intentionally, spending on experiences rather than stuff, and building meaningful relationships.  It’s going to the grocery store and department store and avoiding the junk food aisle and clearance rack, among other things. 

Minimalist Home

The home is no exception to minimalism!  Minimalist homes can vary from a standard home with minimal furniture and décor to a tiny home on wheels.  There’s no clutter, there are not many decorations, and it feels spacious regardless of the actual size.  Everything is highly organized, there’s a place for everything, and many things even have multiple uses.  This helps decrease the clutter, increase usability, and make the home feel big and open.  It’s about focusing on the essential furniture and accessories and maximizing the space available. 

The minimalist style applies to interior design, art, home, clothing, etc.  Minimalist style is maximized use and a decluttered look.  And it’s all about using less and doing more!

Minimalist Wardrobe

The minimalist wardrobe can vary slightly from less clothing to a capsule wardrobe.  There’s enough clothing to get by each week or two, and pretty much no article of clothing sits or hangs unused.  The minimalist wardrobe is easy to coordinate, sustainable, durable, and fashionable. 

Accessories are kept to a minimum, and every piece is essential and understated.  The minimalist mindset to a wardrobe is going clothes shopping when your wardrobe looks aged and develops holes, not when there’s a sale, trend, or craze.

A Minimalist Closet - What Is A Minimalist - Gone Minimal
A Minimalist Closet

Minimalist Style

Minimalist style is centered around comfort, simplicity, meaning, natural materials, and function.  There’s nothing cluttered or flashy about this style — it’s fewer pieces, lifestyle-based, and suited perfectly to your taste.  The minimalist style applies to interior design, art, home, clothing, etc.  Minimalist style is maximized use and a decluttered look.  And it’s all about using less and doing more!

Minimalist Design

Minimalist design is about designing simple and high-quality products over complex and disposable ones.  This refers to homes, furniture, clothing, architecture, and even websites.  Minimalist design can make living spaces more comfortable and spacious, clothing more long-lasting and comfortable, and furniture more functional and last a lifetime. 

It’s the couch or bed you buy for your teenage son that they pass on to their child.  It’s also the website so creatively designed with minimalism that there are no distractions, and it’s easy to find exactly what you need.

Check out this helpful video to learn what minimalism is and how to use it to change your life or explore an alternative lifestyle.

Related Insights

What are the three characteristics of minimalists?

In pursuing deeper meaning and simple living, three characteristics of a minimalist include simplicity, organization, and harmony.  You can see these characteristics in their wardrobe, kitchen, home, and lifestyle.

What is the purpose of minimalist design?

The purpose of minimalist design is to do more with less.  It focuses on simplicity, function, and durability rather than fancy designs and materials.  This is essential to sustainability, as it wastes nothing and uses less overall.

Is being a minimalist good?

Being a minimalist can be very good for your lifestyle, home, family, and wallet.  Minimalists focus on needs rather than wants, people and relationships rather than work success, and experiences rather than belongings.  However, being a minimalist isn’t for everyone and can be a bit of work getting started and does take commitment to maintain the lifestyle.

Where Real People Think They Would Benefit Most From Becoming a Minimalist

I asked friends and family to list where they think they might benefit most from becoming a minimalist. Here is what they shared and what I learned from the poll, and the percentages of their responses. 

Area of BenefitTimes Selected
Less cleaning7%
Less stuff14%
More space11%
Less stress7%
Less work14%
More travel7%
More time11%
More happiness18%
Where Real People Think They Would Benefit Most From Becoming Minimalist

 Other Resources:

There’s no single way to be a minimalist, it’s the only thing that isn’t straightforward about minimalism!  From keeping a few things simple to reducing absolutely everything, a minimalist can choose how small or expanded they want to practice minimalism.  If you’re looking to simplify your life, start small (like your closet) and take your time — you will experience many benefits!  Where will you incorporate being a minimalist?

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