On what minimalism isn’t

In last weeks post, I talked about what minimalism means to me, and the reasons why I’ve decided to become a minimalist. If you haven’t read that yet, you can check it out here.
Today, I want to discuss what minimalism isn’t.
There are a lot of misconceptions around the whole minimalism movement, and while it’s true that minimalism can mean different things to different people, I want to talk about some of the more extreme misconceptions so that you don’t get overwhelmed by them and feel put off from starting your minimalist journey.
Here’s my list of the five biggest questions I’ve seen come up when people start thinking about minimalism, and the reasons that I think they’re BS.

1 – You’re not a minimalist if you own more than 100 items.

There are four of us in our home, 2 adults and 2 kids. For us, living with 100 items just ain’t gonna happen. Ever. If I’m honest, even on my own, I can’t really see that happening. I’m all for getting rid of the majority of my excess stuff, but if I tried putting this ‘rule’ in place, my house would break out into all-out war. My kids are stroppy enough at the best of times, without me trying to impose some crazy, over the top shit like this.

2 – You have to sell your house and travel the world living out of a backpack.


I have two school-aged children, so right now this isn’t an option for us. Sure, once they leave home, I intend to make the most of my freedom and travel more. I will likely do so with nothing more than a backpack. But right now, my kids need the security that comes from having a fixed address, and I need the sanity that comes from ditching them at school five days a week and having a little time for myself.

3 – Minimalism means you can never buy anything.


No. Minimalism is not about depriving yourself. It’s about being more intentional about what you buy. If you genuinely need something, then, by all means, buy it. Just don’t get caught up in the whole consumerism trap.
Going out and buying the latest ‘must-have’ tech just because everyone else you know is getting one, or that cute dress that you saw that would be perfect for your cousin’s wedding next month (oh but wait, it doesn’t go with anything else you own, so you’re gonna need to buy new shoes and a bag, and you’re gonna want a shawl to go with it in case the weather isn’t all that great, and none of the thirty-seven lipsticks you have would really match it either, so you’d best pick up a new one while you’re in the store…) might be fun at the time, but be honest with yourself about whether or not you really need it, or if you’re buying these things just to keep up with everyone else.
And when you do make a purchase, go for quality over quantity. A well-made piece of clothing in a timeless style is going to serve you a lot better than an on-trend item from Primark. Yes, it might be more expensive, but it’ll last a whole lot longer and will be much better quality.

4 – Minimalism is all about a stark white environment devoid of colour.


While it’s true that too much colour can be wildly over-stimulating, minimalism doesn’t mean that everything has to be monochrome. By all means, paint your walls white if that’s what you want, but if you want to inject a splash of colour by hanging artwork on your walls or having bright cushions on your sofa, that’s totally fine. The key is to create a space that makes you happy.
In terms of clothing, I have a wardrobe that consists mainly of black, white and grey, but I pair these items with my collection of colourful Doc Marten boots (I’ve even been known to mix and match them so that each shoe is a different colour – I’m a creative soul, as in, I’m a little crazy sometimes). I don’t wear makeup or jewellery, so my boots are my way of accessorising. Using colour in your life doesn’t mean that you’re not a minimalist.

5 – You have to be a vegan to be a proper minimalist.


There are a lot of minimalism YouTube channels that also cover veganism, and if that’s the path that they want to take then good for them. But while the two things do sometimes go together, if you enjoy a non-vegan diet then that has no bearing on whether or not you can be a minimalist. I went vegan several years ago, and to be fair, it wasn’t an unpleasant experience. I gave it a shot for three months but ultimately decided that it wasn’t for me. I appreciate that being vegan works for some people, but personally, I enjoy eating things like chicken, bacon, chocolate and cheese. Not all at the same time, but you get the point.

All of the points I’ve discussed are optional, that’s the point I’m trying to make here. If you want to sell up, get rid of everything you own, be vegan, whatever – then that’s cool, go you! But please, don’t impose your choices on other people who aren’t at that point, and whatever you do, don’t belittle anyone who doesn’t follow the same rules that you do.
Minimalism isn’t about everyone following the same strict set of guidelines that must be followed to the letter, or you’re gonna get thrown out of the club. It’s about learning to live with less, to appreciate the things we have, and being more intentional about what we think, buy, say and do.
The thing to remember is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to what minimalism is (or what it isn’t). Minimalism is about finding what works for you and getting rid of what doesn’t.

2 thoughts on “On what minimalism isn’t

  1. Here here! Especially hear you on the minimalist opaque ‘cubey’ whiteness of a lot of photos of minimalism. I make the effort to keep things to a minimum and keep the clutter out, but most people don’t live in an Instagram photo 🙂

    • Thanks James. I’ll admit I do love my white furniture, but with two kids in the house the chances of our home ever looking like an Instagram photo are slim to none! We are trying to reduce as much as we can, but it’s more a case of trying to find a happy medium so that we are content with what we have and the boys don’t feel like they are missing out on anything. Slow and steady is the key.

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