Like many Americans, I used to have a lot of misconceptions regarding minimalism. I thought it meant getting rid of all your stuff, living out of a backpack, and traveling the world. However, that’s just one version of minimalism — and a rather extreme one at that. Indeed, there are several iterations of the minimalist trend–whether that’s KonMari-ing your closet, Scandinavian style, opting for no-frills mid-century modern furniture. Since minimalism is so incredibly personal, there’s no “right way” to go about it. Let’s take a closer look at the practice and what it really boils down to.
What is Minimalism?
Minimalism is a philosophy that encourages you to remove the things from your life that don’t provide value. It’s rooted in freedom — that is, freedom from physical, mental, or emotional elements that do not add purpose, peace, joy, and intentionality to your life. Minimalism advocates reassessing your priorities and determining what really matters to you and what’s just excess. It means having a firm grasp on what you value most in your life and getting rid of anything that gets in the way.
Because what we each value is personal and unique to us, minimalism looks different to everyone. When applying minimalism to your life, you can create whatever version of the philosophy works best for you. It’s important to remember that minimalism is a state of mind, not a set of rules. The philosophy goes beyond material possessions and radiates through everything you do. By trimming the excesses in your life, you end up with more freedom — and that can make life less stressful and a lot more fulfilling.
Now that you know what minimalism is, let’s look at what it isn’t. Minimalism doesn’t call for getting rid of everything you own. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a hobby or collection that involves physical objects. Minimalism doesn’t require designing your house to have all-white rooms with little furniture and decor. When it comes to tangible belongings, minimalism is simply about having and enjoying the things you need and love and not worrying about acquiring the consumerist “more.”
Though living in a 400 square-foot home is not a minimalist requirement, I couldn’t talk about the philosophy without also touching on the tiny house movement. It would be like having a conversation about Christmas without mentioning Santa. The two are inexorably linked.
Those who have made the move to tiny houses in the last decade have done so for a number of reasons. Some are minimalists who desire to live modestly and be more conscious about how they live. Others have environmental concerns and wish to conserve resources while making a minimal impact on their surroundings.
For many Americans (especially millennials), tiny houses are less about minimalism and more about finances. They’re looking for smaller dwellings purely because they can’t afford the hefty mortgage that comes along with the average 2,687 square foot American home. Of course, there’s still the issue of property taxes, but I digress. Some even go so far to skip the tiny home and just live in RVs. Regardless of the many personal reasons behind tiny house living, these adorable little dwellings have become a sort of poster child for the minimalist movement — if not an inaccurate one.
So why do Millennials love minimalism so much? I think it’s our generation’s prioritizing of experience over possession, of freedom over status that is expressed in aesthetic and philosophical terms. We love tiny homes and clean, Scandi style not just because it looks good on Instagram, but also because we desire to live unencumbered lives, more defined by what we do than what we have. Well, also they look great on Insta. ;D
The Benefits of Minimalism
Embracing the minimalist lifestyle can lead to a whole host of unexpected (but welcome) benefits, such as:
- Less Clutter: Once you get rid of the physical items in your life that don’t bring you any value, you’ll find yourself with a lot more breathing room. As an added benefit, doing so makes it a lot easier to keep your house clean and organized!
- Improved Finances: When you’re only spending money on the things that matter (instead of on stuff you don’t need), you end up with a lot of extra money in your pocket. That money can be used to pay off debts, fund unique experiences (travel, concerts, etc.), or share with those in need.
- More Time: Time is not only a finite resource, it’s the most precious one you have. When you stop saying “yes” to everything little thing asked of you, you end up reducing the time you spend on things that don’t matter and focusing on the things that do.
- Better Relationships: The more time you have on your hands, the more opportunities you have to focus on your loved ones. You can get to know them on a deeper level, strengthen your bonds, and create lasting memories.
- Diminished Stress: Minimalism helps you develop a strong sense of self-control. You realize that possessions don’t reflect your self-worth and stop comparing yourself to others. Once you rediscover yourself and what’s truly important in life, you become a happier, more compassionate person.
Minimalism may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly an interesting counterpart to the familiar, consumer-driven life most Americans lead. Taking time to acknowledge — and cut out — the elements in our lives that don’t contribute to our happiness is a fantastic way to achieve real peace. Not only is it the ultimate form of mindfulness, living with such intentionality truly allows you to experience the most that life has to offer.
Have you tried any form of minimalism?
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!