“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius
Minimalists come in all sizes, ages, genders, races, nationalities, social classes, and religions. It is a growing movement that continues to invite others to live with less and define their lives in greater ways than by the things they own – and find freedom because of it. Yet, despite its recent growth, it continues to be misunderstood by a large percentage of the public.
With that mind, I think it would be wise to personally address some of the most common misconceptions about minimalism:
Minimalism is stark and barren. One of our first projects after becoming minimalist was to go through the house and remove every decoration that wasn’t meaningful or beautiful. But we didn’t remove all of them. In fact, by the end, every decoration in our home held significance to our lives. And because of that, our guests can immediately realize what is most important to us. Our walls are not barren. They are filled with life. We pursue a rational minimalism, not extreme minimalism. But for more information on how minimalists decorate their home, check out Adding Warmth Without Adding Stuff by Francine Jay.
Minimalism is boring. A minimalist life is not void of excitement or entertainment. In fact, minimalism removes many of the mundane tasks (organizing, shopping, cleaning) that rob us of daily excitement. And when unnecessary possessions have been removed, minimalists are free to choose for themselves what things will define their lives. Some will choose to travel the world, attempt impossible things, stay at home, or spice up their family life.
Minimalists don’t own nice things. Actually, one of the greatest unforeseen benefits of living a minimalist life is the opportunity to purchase possessions of higher quality. For some reason, many people don’t correlate owning fewer things and owning nicer things. But the truth is, they go hand-in-hand and are directly related. When a commitment is made to buy fewer things, our lives are opened to the opportunity of owning nicer things as well.
Minimalists are lazy. I’ll be the first to admit that some people use minimalism as a means to live a lazy, selfish, unproductive life. But that does not define the majority of minimalists that I know. Most minimalists that I know carry the same responsibilities (work, family, society) as those who are not minimalist. And while some have certainly embraced minimalism as a means to quit their day job (meet Joshua and Ryan), most do so as a means to pursue work they love. And I think that’s a great thing.
Minimalists are extreme environmentalists. Minimalism is good for the environment. Minimalists consume less resources and discard less resources. And that benefits everybody. But not everyone who embraces minimalism does so out of environmental motivations. Personally speaking, our embrace of minimalism was rooted in discontent with the path of my life. I was frustrated with the amount of money, time, and energy that was being directed to the stuff in my life rather than the relationships. And in minimalism, I found more opportunity to live out my greatest values… and contribute to the health of the planet along the way.
Minimalists are vegetarians/vegans. I consider myself a minimalist. I eat meat and plants. So do countless others.
Minimalists are young and single. Again, there are a large number of minimalists who are young and just starting out in life. Often, those of us who came to minimalism later in life, wish we could back and do it over. And while having a spouse and/or children can make the practice of minimalism a little bit tougher… they make it that much more important too.
Minimalists don’t appreciate books/information. Tammy Strobel loves books. So does Robyn Devine. Minimalists may have given up their desire to keep every book they have ever read, but they have not given up their love of reading or pursuit of knowledge.
Minimalists count their possessions. Some do. Some don’t. A few years ago, Dave Bruno publicly declared on his blog that he was setting out on a self-proclaimed 100-Thing Challenge to own less than 100 personal items. His proclamation earned some media attention. Soon, a grass-roots movement was born that consisted of individuals counting their personal possessions as part of the challenge. Leo lives with less than 50. Colin lives with 55. Sam lives with 33. Joshua lives with 288. That’s it. That’s the story. And while some care about the number, most of us don’t.
Minimalists are not sentimental. Less is different than none. Personally, my family finds more value in sentimental belongings if we pull out the most important pieces and keep them in a significant place. As a result, rather than a box full of sentimental things stuck in the basement or attic, we display the most important sentimental pieces from our past somewhere in our home… again, promoting the things that are most valuable to us.
Minimalists are condescending and pompous. Minimalists love their lifestyle and naturally sing its praises. Some do it in a condescending way. That’s really unfortunate. Because most are just kindly inviting others to experience the same benefits they have experienced from adopting a minimalist lifestyle.
Minimalists are being mean to their kids. Kids need toys. They play an important role in establishing intelligence, maturity, teamwork, and worldview. I have not met a single minimalist who denies their child the privilege of owning toys. I have met many who limit the number of toys that their children own… but teaching children the value of boundaries allows them to flourish.
Minimalists never entertain. Making a positive difference in our community and in the lives of others has always been important to my family and will continue to be so as long as we live. To accomplish that, my wife and I host groups of teenagers in our home twice per week. And often throw other parties in addition. In fact, we had 30+ people over for a party on Superbowl Sunday, which should also address one more misconception… Minimalists don’t own televisions.
Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts from it. It is a highly personal journey that forces you to identify and articulate your highest values. Because of that, it is always going to be practiced differently by each individual.
No wonder minimalists come in all ages, genders, races, nationalities, social classes, and religions. And no wonder it is a growing movement that invites everyone to own less and define their lives in greater ways than by the things they own – and find freedom because of it.