One topic that comes up often in conversations of sustainability and wellness is minimalism. Not minimalism as the art or interior design style, but minimalism applied as a lifestyle. What does that look like and how does it apply to topics such as sustainability and wellness?
Minimalism as a lifestyle means different things to different people. But there are some core values we can narrow it down to. In this way, minimalism is a tool for simplifying your life, something that many of us can benefit from.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- What is minimalism?
- What minimalism is not.
- What are some possible downsides of minimalism?
- What are the benefits of minimalism?
- How do you start to implement minimalism in your lifestyle?
What is Minimalism?
Minimalism is a tool people use to simplify their lives. What your simple life looks like depends on you, but there are some core values the minimalism follows. One of the biggest is having purpose and intention in life.
When we are distracted by life’s excesses, we miss out on time to focus on what matters to us. Minimalism urges us to examine what is in our lives, and discard what is no longer serving us or no longer brings us value.
Minimalists often talk about possessions, and only owning what serves purpose or brings value. This is part of minimalism, but only focusing on this aspect can negatively impact the movement as it ignores other dimensions.
In addition to minimizing our possessions in order to focus on what is important, minimalism also urges applying this to the activities that consume our time, the media we consume, and the thoughts we linger on.
Minimalism is also useful in breaking free from the consumerist cycle our modern society perpetuates. Deeply considering purchases and reducing what we bring into our lives helps us achieve financial independence which leaves more time for things we love outside of work. Practicing minimalism also helps our sustainability efforts.
What is Not Minimalism?
Some things often get mistaken for minimalism, when they’re really just the preferences of some minimalists. Kind of like how different people like different flavours of chips. Unfortunately, these misconceptions may turn people off from minimalism and make it seem like an unachievable ideal.
Minimalism is not stark, barren white walls or wearing the same outfit everyday. While it’s totally okay to like this aesthetic, it’s not a necessary component of minimalism.
Minimalism is not owning nothing, or only owning x number of possessions. While some people may want to practice extreme minimalism for their own reasons, and a blogger quantifying their possessions can make an inspiring read, it’s not at all a requirement.
Minimalism is not having no hobbies or collections. Many minimalists have hobbies that require equipment or have a dedicated book or plant collection. In fact, minimalism gives you more time to engage in hobbies and appreciate your collections.
Minimalism is not only for the young and single. You can own a house and have kids and still be a minimalist.
Minimalism is not simply being frugal. Buying less will result in saving money, but that’s not the original intent. Additionally, when minimalists do make purchases they often opt for higher quality items, which, while they will last longer, often also come with a higher price tag.
What are the Downsides of Minimalism?
Some people adopt a minimalist lifestyle and then decide it’s not for them. Although they still found the benefits, there were negatives that outweighed them. I think many of these “ex-minimalists” still use some principles of minimalism in their lives. It’s a matter of picking and choosing what supports your goals in life.
One issue with minimalism has to do with storing food in a smaller space. Generally, minimalism encourages minimizing the size of your home. The problem you run into with this is that a small kitchen and pantry doesn’t hold a lot of food.
This means having to go grocery shopping more often and not being able to store groceries bought in bulk. For people who don’t live near a grocery store, this is a problem. Not having a lot of space also makes it difficult to buy in bulk to take advantage of savings.
I think you can have a bigger kitchen and still be a minimalist. If it simplifies your life, by allowing you to spend less time shopping and to save money, then I believe it’s still considered minimalism.
Another problem with the smaller living area minimalism encourages is not being able to entertain or have guests stay overnight. While some people living in tiny homes may be able to squeeze in 6+ people, it’s not ideal. If entertaining and providing a place to sleep for guests is important to you, a bigger space may better fit your values.
One issue that makes minimalism seem classist at times, is that while a box of spare parts and backup electronics may seem like clutter to some, for others it may be a tool to save money. If you won’t be able to afford a new computer if your current one dies, it may be necessary for you to have spares on hand.
While decluttering is often seen as the hallmark of minimalism, it can have downsides. It’s better to sell old stuff than to drop it off at a thrift store (both of which are better than sending it straight to the landfill). But selling stuff can be frustrating and time consuming, and you may not sell for the price you were looking for.
Additionally, some people often get swept up in decluttering and get rid of something that they then need to replace (at a steep cost) or give up things that may be irreplaceable.
So, How Do You Become a Minimalist?
I think it’s important to start with the knowledge that minimalism is a tool, not an end goal or destination. Minimalism is a journey, by embarking on it you’re essentially already a minimalist. You’re just an especially inexperienced minimalist.
Here are some steps you can take to start your minimalist journey off on the right foot:
- Assess your current lifestyle; where your time and money goes
- Determine what you value most in life
- Declutter your physical and mental space
- Ask the questions before buying anything
- Learn about minimalism from other minimalists
- Adapt the “minimalist lifestyle” to fit your values
- Gradually implement minimalism into your lifestyle
- Use your newfound free time doing what you love
Minimalism is a tool that can be adjusted to fit your needs. It helps you simplify your life in order to have more time to focus on your values and passions. There are plenty of benefits to this lifestyle, and most to all of the downsides can be dissolved by using only the parts of minimalism that suit you.