What Is Minimalism

I don’t particularly like the word “minimalism.” I prefer to say “live deliberately.”

You know, like Henry D. Thoreau. I don’t care how much you dislike the man, he’s quotable as hell and you know it.

The word “minimalism” carries a lot of weight- sort of like the phrase “tiny house.” People tend to have a lot of preconceptions about it. The word invites critics who cite any apparent-irony in the lives of those calling themselves minimalists. Cynics moan about it being a rich-privilege. Patriots harp on about it being damaging to the economy. Not helping the matter is the fact that people who identify as minimalists tend to live in wildly-varying ways. Some minimalists live out of a backpack and travel the globe. Some minimalists have four-bedroom houses in the suburbs and six kids. Most land in the middle- that’s where Holli and I fall. It might seem confusing if you’re new to the idea, but bear with me.

Minimalism doesn’t mean owning very few items. Most people jump to that conclusion. That’s all they fixate on, but it’s not necessarily true. I know, that seems counterintuitive, but I promise I’m telling you the truth. Minimalism gets its name from the art movement of the twentieth century, characterized by finding beauty in simplicity.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exuper

We can find beauty in simplicity, but a person’s life is not a sculpture or a painting. It’s a life. People’s lives aren’t all the same, and some people may need more or less than others to live and be fulfilled than a painting requires to visually “pop.”

There’s a dark side to minimalism, as well. This movement is no more immune to corruption or hypocrisy than anything else in the world that involves human beings. Some people get so caught up in the decluttering or minimalist aesthetic that they lose sight of the point. “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” so to speak. If you obsess over owning as little as possible, you are still being controlled by your possessions instead of the other way around.

Minimalism must always remain an implement to be utilized, never the end-goal or lifestyle in itself. “Aesthetic minimalism” is not the same thing as minimalism. A person may be aesthetically-minimalistic and still completely materialistic. They may be both, simultaneously. They may think they are both, but be misguided. People aren’t perfect- I’m not, anyway.

That looks totally different for different people, which is why we see such variation in the “minimalist lifestyle.” Not everyone values the same things, so the items or activities they busy themselves with aren’t going to look the same. Having children is extremely fulfilling to some people, while others would see it as the end of the world. You can still apply the minimalist mindset to your life, no matter where your personal values fall or what your life looks like (Minimal Wellness has a great article and worksheet on finding your values).

Minimalism is a tool used to prioritize the things that matter most in our lives. Minimalism is about identifying what adds real value to your life, doubling-down on that, and having the self-discipline to clear out the things that get in the way. Remember, that doesn’t mean only physical things, and it doesn’t mean only physical clutter. Clear your schedule of the things you can control that don’t add value. Silence the noise- the better to hear the music. Extinguish the lights- the better to see the stars. Clear the clutter, the better to locate the damn jacket I’ve been trying to find for over a year holy crap Holli get in here and look what I finally found–


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