“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.” —Richard Holloway
I am often asked the question, “So what is minimalism anyway?” It is a question I receive from people I have just met and from people I have known for many years.
I typically answer them with a short, simple explanation:
MINIMALISM IS OWNING FEWER POSSESSIONS.
Like I mentioned before, minimalism is intentionally living with only the things I really need—those items that support my purpose. I am removing the distraction of excess possessions so I can focus more on those things that matter most.
That is my short, elevator-pitch answer.
But oftentimes I desire to answer more in-depth. When people ask follow-up questions that allow me to explain simple living further, I like to add:
IT IS INTENTIONALITY.
It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, being a minimalist means intentionally promoting the things we most value and removing everything that distracts us from it.
It is a life that forces intentionality upon us. As a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.
Intentionality looks different for everybody, as no two individuals are the same, but it requires each of us to dive deeper and become more introspective about our values and passions.
IT IS FREEDOM FROM THE PASSION TO POSSESS.
Modern culture has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. They believe that more is better and have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store.
But they are wrong. Embracing minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess. It steps off the treadmill of consumerism and dares to seek happiness elsewhere. It values relationships, experiences, and soul-care. It lets us see all that we already have and reminds us to be grateful.
In doing so, we find a more abundant life.
IT IS FREEDOM FROM MODERN MANIA.
Our world runs at a feverish pace. We are too hurried, too rushed, and too stressed. We work long, passionate hours to pay the bills, but fall deeper into debt every day. We rush from one activity to another—even multitasking along the way—but never seem to get anything done. We remain in constant connection with others through our cell phones, but true life-changing relationships continue to elude us.
Becoming a minimalist slows down life and frees us from this modern hysteria to live faster. It offers freedom to disengage. It seeks to keep only the essentials. It aims to remove the frivolous and keep
IT IS FREEDOM FROM DUPLICITY.
Although nobody intentionally chooses it, most people live in duplicity. They live one life around their family, one life around their co-workers, and another life around their neighbors. The lifestyle they have chosen requires them to portray a certain external image dependent upon their circumstances. They are tossed and turned by the most recent advertising campaign or the demands of their employer.
On the other hand, a simple life is united and consistent. It has learned a lifestyle that is completely transferable no matter the situation. It is the same life on Friday evening as it is on Sunday morning… as it is on Monday morning. It is reliable, dependable and unfluctuating. It works in all circumstances. It is honest and transparent.
IT IS COUNTER-CULTURAL.
We live in a world that idolizes celebrities. They are photographed for magazines, interviewed on the radio, and recorded for television. Their lives are held up as the golden standard and are envied by many. People who live simple lives are not championed by the media in the same way. They don‘t fit into the consumerist culture that is promoted by corporations and politicians. Yet, they live a life that is attractive and inviting.
While most people are chasing after success, glamour, and fame, minimalism calls out to us with a smaller, quieter, calmer voice. It invites us to slow down, consume less, but enjoy more. And when we meet someone living a simplified life, we often recognize that we have been chasing after the wrong things all along.
IT IS NOT EXTERNAL, BUT INTERNAL.
In my first book, Simplify, I outline 7 guiding principles to help anyone declutter their home and life. The principles outlined in the book have helped hundreds of thousands find freedom by removing much of the physical clutter in their homes. The book concentrates almost exclusively on the externals of life. And while it helps people find freedom from external clutter, it does not take the next step of helping people find freedom and unity in their heart and soul.
I have learned embracing this lifestyle is always a matter of the heart. After the external clutter has been removed, we create the space to address the deepest heart issues that impact our relationships and life.
IT IS COMPLETELY ACHIEVABLE.
Becoming a minimalist is completely achievable. My family stands as living proof. We were just your typical family of four living in the suburbs accumulating as much stuff as our income and credit cards would allow. Then, we found minimalism. We have embraced minimalist living and will never go back to the way life was before. We stand as living proof that simple living is completely achievable (and unique) to anyone who seeks it.
Typically, I find that those who are generally interested in knowing more and take the time to ask the follow-up questions are drawn to the principles of a minimalist lifestyle. After all, it offers almost everything our heart has been asking for all along.
If this perspective is completely foreign and you need more guidance on how to become a minimalist, you can find a list of our most popular posts here.
General FAQ About Minimalism
Will minimalism automatically make me content?
Although it is a great start, it isn’t an instant cure. It is a pathway, not the end goal.
Becoming a minimalist will give you more time and will free up more of your money than ever before. But we must focus on gratitude every single day in order to see the results.
It’s that journey of intentional self-improvement, and appreciating what we already have, that will bring us contentment.
What is a minimalist lifestyle?
It means living with things you really need. It means removing anything that distracts us from living with intentionality and freedom.
Is minimalist living boring?
Minimalist living is the opposite of boring. It removes mundane activities that take away from spending time with our loved ones. Once we rid ourselves of the unnecessary, we’re able to decide what will define our lives.
Some travel the world full-time. Others will find themselves more involved in their families’ lives than ever before. Becoming minimalist frees us to live a bigger life with a more passionate pursuit of our greatest purpose and goals.
Does this mean I can’t be sentimental?
Remember, less is not the same as “none.” There are no specific rules to simple living and nobody is required to get rid of things that bring value to their life. Most minimalists keep some sentimental items in their life… they just keep less than others. And instead of stuffing our sentimental belongings in a storage unit or a garage, we proudly display them in our own home.
For more reasons why you should switch to minimalist living, consider these stats:
- Adult Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing every year (US National Library of Medicine cites the EPA Office of Solid Waste)
- 20-21% of working Americans say they aren’t saving any money for retirement. Many of the ones who are saving put away no more than 10% of their income. (Bankrate.com)
- The average American household has 300,000 items (Los Angeles Times)
- The average family in America spends $1,700 on clothes each year (Forbes)
To get started with making your home clutter-free, I recommend this helpful Declutter Your Home Checklist.
Minimalism and environmental stewardship go hand-in-hand as well. Aquiring endless amounts of STUFF contributes to climate change, destruction of land, and the growing plastic pollution problem almost every step of the way.
To me minimalism is in the big moments which are made up of many small choices. I am practising no-spend weeks at present but yesterday realised I had no bread and wanted some for breakfast. The choice was hop in the car, go into the supermarket and get a loaf for about $4.00. However, I know if I try to do that I always come out with “must haves” that cost between $20 to $60. I would also be using the car on a day I choose not to. So to distract myself (and coincidentally to observe my desire for bread) I set about decluttering and cleaning my kitchen. Then I remembered while I was not employed I always made my own bread. I pulled out the flour, which was nearing expiry, and in the evening heated my house with beautiful breadmaking warmth and smells. The no spend day caused a change in my behaviour. It reminded me of a habit I really enjoy, helped me to see that going to the supermarket with a list a least fortnightly (better monthly) does keep me away from a money drain and means I use my resources better. Small actions have knock-on-effects.
Think it’s an off shot of one of the oldest religion in the world ‘JAINISM’ which is still followed by 1% of Indian population.
Just read on net about Jainism and you’ll take to minimalism like a fis to wzter
Paul James Lee says
Thanks for this post Josh which is very well written. It’s refreshing to find someone writing about values in a way that’s not sanctimonious or politically-coloured.
I remember attending a family event where we all arrived in big cars which were ranged out in front of the old family home. Now- I don’t have a car- I can’t afford one- but I was thinking to myself how glad I was not to be competing in that “talent show”. If I had a car, I wouldn’t be happy. It wouldn’t be big or expensive enough.
I find my life to be minimalist by default- Making money has been a struggle. It’s been tough, but I also feel a great contentment with not having been involved in the rat race. That’s not to say that I don’t need to fix my financial situation- I do- but I can only do it while maintaining my values.
I’m glad to say I’m debt-free, and I’m teaching my children to think for themselves. At least they’ll have that much if all else fails.
Perlin Faith Wong says
Thank you for this great article. I see the importance of living a minimalist lifestlyes. Declutter what unnecessary and focus what are most values & needful things in our lives.