Misconceptions have always swirled around the word minimalism.
When I first began speaking on the topic 10 years ago, I’d ask organizers not to use the word in the title of my presentation.
“Too many misconceptions,” I would say. Use simplicity or decluttering… people have less misconceptions about those phrases and will be more likely to attend.
And, in both of my books (The More of Less and The Minimalist Home), I took time to discuss misconceptions and explain how minimalism isn’t about subtracting joy from life, it’s about adding purpose, meaning, and passion.
But the conversation has turned over the past decade. People are no longer afraid of the word: minimalism. In fact, just the opposite is true.
People are intrigued by the idea and desire more of it in their lives. Just yesterday, I was asked to speak to a Women’s Group in January. “You were the most requested topic by our women,” the email said. The tide has definitely turned.
Minimalism has become more mainstream than I ever imagined.
But with this cultural acceptance of the lifestyle, I am noticing a new misconception emerge. The misconception becoming more and more prevalent these days is this:
Minimalism is to everyone what it is to me.
This week alone, I received three messages containing the misconception. They were worded like this:
- Minimalism means we should choose to waste less of our life stuck at work.
- Minimalism means we should repair, re-use, and buy secondhand as much as possible.
- Minimalism means you should use less words and write shorter posts.
These examples of “Minimalism means…” could be added to the countless others I have heard over the years:
- Minimalism means we should care for the environment and look for ways to live zero waste.
- Minimalism means we shouldn’t save money, but give it all away.
- A true minimalist wouldn’t be on social media.
- Minimalism means you should cut off every relationship that doesn’t serve you.
And the list continues.
Each time, the author makes the same misconception: What minimalism means to me is what it must mean to everyone else.
But this line of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth.
Minimalism is always going to look different from person to person based on any number of important factors: family size, socioeconomics, residence, occupation—just to name a few.
But even more importantly, minimalism is about promoting our values and passions in life. And because each of us have different values and passions, minimalism is never going to look to everyone else as it looks to me.
There are some minimalists who don’t view minimalism as a means to work less… they embrace minimalism so they can work more.
There are some minimalists who are not interested in buying secondhand items for their life…. they embrace minimalism so they can purchase higher quality items instead.
There are some minimalists who have embraced minimalism not because they want to write less… but because they want to write more.
There are many minimalists who adopt minimalist principles because climate change is of utmost importance to them… but there are also countless minimalists who are not nearly as concerned about the environment as others may be. The cause motivates some, but not all.
When I first embraced minimalism, it was because I desired more time to spend with my kids and there were no other motivations in mind.
There are some minimalists who have decided people are different than things and decluttering relationships is a much different conversation than minimizing possessions. They may have even embraced minimalism as a means to find opportunity to restore broken relationships.
In each and every case, minimalism means something different.
Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing everything that distracts us from it.
It is about owning fewer possessions and becoming more intentional with our limited resources.
But what we value most will always determine how it is lived out in our lives. Because what is important to me is different than what is important to you.