“Declutter” is a perfectly-good word in the English language that communicates an important principle. Everybody should remove the clutter from their homes and lives. It will transform your life and you’ll never regret it. No time spent removing clutter is ever wasted.
But I think there is a deeper conversation to be had about the words: decluttering and minimalism. I sometimes use them interchangeably as there is overlap between the two ideas. But they mean different things.
And while decluttering is great, minimalism is even better.
Decluttering is the act of removing clutter from a room, an area, etc. Removing items from our home that we know are no longer needed and are creating crowded messes or confusion.
Minimalism, on the other hand, accomplishes that and takes an additional step. Minimalism removes clutter (however broad you define the term) and it challenges our assumptions of how much we actually need.
Minimalism is about searching for the minimum amount. Or, more accurately stated, it is about finding the optimal amount of any possession in our home and life. It rejects society’s assumptions and prescriptions about the size of our home, the number of clothes in our closet, or the number of toys in our child’s bedroom. It challenges each person to discover the minimum amount needed to accomplish their purpose and goals.
Decluttering focuses on removing surface level possessions. Minimalism helps us discover how little we actually need.
Because of this difference, there are advantages to minimalism:
Minimalism frees up more resources. Because people who pursue minimalism rather than simple decluttering end up owning less, more of our finite resources (time, money, energy) are freed up.
Minimalism helps us reject consumerism. There are WAY too many people who declutter their closets and shelves, only to fill up those spaces again with more purchased clutter. Minimalism helps break the trend of consumerism in our lives more effectively than simple decluttering.
Minimalism teaches us more about ourselves. The act of challenging assumptions in life—regardless of the assumption—always results in self-evaluation. When we begin to search for more items that we can live without (and wrestle with the difficulty of removing more and more), we are forced to journey inward and learn more about ourselves, our motivations, and where our habits came from.
Minimalism benefits more people. Minimalism will always result in removing more things than decluttering. This means more opportunity to meet the needs of others in our community through generosity. Our excess can be a blessing.
Minimalism carves the way for lasting life change. Minimalism forces intentionality. It removes distractions and causes us to align our actions with our values by stripping away the excess in all areas of life. This short-term action results in long-term change for our lives and potential.
Minimalism offers longer-term benefits for our kids and the environment. In greater ways than decluttering, minimalism serves as a powerful example for our kids and offers greater benefit to the world around us.
Let me encourage you. If you need to declutter your life, do it. But don’t stop there. Take an additional step: Become Minimalist. It’s even better.