“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” —Joshua Becker
Some people I speak with get nervous when they hear the term minimalist. For them, it conjures up images of destitution, barren walls, and empty cupboards. Rightly so, they decide that is no way to enjoy life. Believe me, I agree—extreme minimalism is no way to enjoy life.
Maybe that is why I use the term rational minimalist and find it resonates so well. If you walked into my home today, you would not immediately deduce that a minimalist lives here.
When you look in our living room, you would see a television, couches, a family photo, and a rug. In our coat closet, you would find jackets, baseball caps, and a few winter weather accessories. In our kids’ rooms, you would find books, crafts, and toys in their closet. Since deciding to become minimalist years ago, we have been on a journey to define what that means for us and how it fits into our life.
We live in suburbia. We have two young children. We are active in our community. We love to entertain, show hospitality, and host small groups from our church in our living room. I am a writer and my wife teaches. While not exceptional, our life is not identical to anybody else. It is our life—nobody else’s.
And if we were going to become minimalist, it would have to be a style of minimalism specific to us. It would require us to ask questions, give-and-take, identify what we most value, and be humble enough to change course when necessary.
Your particular practice of minimalism is going to look different from everyone else. It must! After all, you live a different life than everyone else. You don’t have to dive into the deep end of extreme minimalism and live with just the clothes on your back.
You may have a large family, small family, or no family. You may live on a farm, in a house, or in a studio apartment. You may collect antiques, stamps, or bottle caps. You may love music, movies, sports, or books. You may cherish old photographs, family heirlooms, or romantic letters from a lover.
Find a style of minimalism that works for you. One that is not cumbersome, but freeing based on your values, desires, passions, and rational thinking.
Be aware that your definition will not come overnight. It will take time. It will evolve—even change drastically as your life changes. It will require give and take. You will make a few mistakes along the way. And thus, it will also require humility.
But ultimately, you will begin to remove the unneeded things from your life. And when you do, you will find space to intentionally promote the things you most value and remove anything that distracts you from it.
Note: we are not condemning extreme minimalism at all. It’s simply not our particular style of minimalism.
Hi, I am just getting started, so have a long way to go, but hopefully I will get to my goal soon.
This is interesting. I grew up in an extremely cluttered home as my guardian was a hoarder. Rooms were packed floor to ceiling with other people’s stuff. Despite this, I never hoarded and have always been super clean and organized. I later learned that hoarding can stem from mental illness, which makes sense for reasons I won’t share here.
Nowadays I am an extreme minimalist at heart because I realize the only things that matter to me are my relationships, passion for music, and learning. I no longer value even my most sentimental possessions and constantly reduce what few things I have to better enable the lifestyle I want. My end goal is to break away from consumerism/capitalism to live in a self-sufficient community of like-minded people.
Given how we evolved as a species, the materialistic lives we live are completely unnatural; no wonder there’s so much mental illness in the world today. Our possessions almost seem to poison our minds, yet people generally think more is better. How ironic.
I grew up in a cluttered house where my siblings and I were neglected because my parents had no room for us in between all of their stuff. Their cluttered, disorganized lifestyle left me having anxiety about owning things because I feel like my mother will snatch anything I want to donate away and keep it, or my father will tell me I’m ungrateful for not keeping clothes that don’t even fit on my body and aren’t my style. It’s not a realistic fear, I live alone and my parents are in another state. I don’t feel free of an item until it’s been handed off to the thrift shop, or the garbage truck actually takes it away. My mother has even gone through the trash looking for junk she thinks got thrown away! We lived with a weird disparity where we didn’t have what we needed despite being drowned in things, and it’s hard for me to get rid of the emotional pain from it, even as I declutter more and more of the things I resent but keep because they engrained it into me.
Lizza, the fact you use the word neglect suggests there might be some nurture-related trauma. I believe it is possible to reduce/stop your emotional response to decluttering with therapy and self discovery. Your parents’ attachment to their possessions was definitely unhealthy and could stem from mental illness or being raised in extreme poverty. Understanding ‘why’ is important and can help us to accept and forgive a behaviour that caused us harm. This, in turn, can help us move on from the trauma that holds us back from fully enjoying life.
I embarked on a massive DeClutter when my grand daughter came to stay and there was no space, in the guest room, for her to put her things for the stay.
I have a chronic illness that impacts my energy production but that ashamed the day she left I gutted the room and moved all my ‘stuff’. I donated, binned, and out on eBay most of it. The thing is now when I go in the room, even though I love the neatness and lack of clutter, but it also feels soulless.
What might this mean? What is it telling me about me?
I have a new rule and I am inky allowed to have my things in my room. But then I question what are the other rooms for?
This is where my husband comes in because I would happily live in a two bedroom bungalow (I need a spare room for family as we live far away from everyone). Yet, my husband insists on a massive five bedroom home. And so, if I don’t fill those rooms I feel as though I’m living in a soulless home.
Thoughts invited …
I am an irrational minimalist, my walls are bare and there’s not much furniture (Not none though, see how I save myself there? :P), and there’s really not much of anything about except peace and happiness! And crumbs, so little stress, by gosh!!! I am not good at owning things, the devil take the TV for I have no use for it!!
Susan, I feel for you regarding heirlooms. Please remember that your home is not your family’s private storage unit. And whoever bought the items wanted them to be appreciated, so maybe go out and find people who will apreciate them. People give artwork to museums so many, many people can appreciate them. It is called philanthropy. Anyway, that is my thought.
Purnima Purohit says
Thank you for your inspiring words.
My version of Minimalism is thoughtful,premeditated ,quality buying .
Being plus size,in hindsight i have realized my closets were cluttered because of anxious stocking up of plus size products chanced on.
I made a conscious effort to curb this.
Produce and groceries, mo bulk buying just thoughtful meal planning and buying.