When I first discovered minimalism I was excited about the prospect of simplifying my life. However, I was nervous about what it would mean to embrace minimalism as a lifestyle because of some of the misconceptions I had about minimalism.
I had heard stories about minimalists who only owned 100 possessions, lived in their cars, or only owned the clothes on their back and what they could carry in their back pack. I admired their dedication and secretly envied how uncomplicated their lives seemed from a distance. But I knew that kind of lifestyle just wasn’t realistic for me.
Gradually, as I began to investigate minimalism and move towards a more minimalistic way of life, I’ve learned that there is no one way to do minimalism. It’s no a club with a set of do’s and dont’s. Rather, it’s a way of approaching life that encourages you to remove the things in your life that are distracting you from the most important things. It’s about having more success through less excess. How that looks is as different as each person.
You may have some misconceptions about minimalism. Here are the five most common ones I’ve come across:
1. Minimalists live in cramped, bleak homes. You don’t have to live in a tiny place to live simply. My family and I live in what many would consider an average-sized home for a family of four. A home becomes cramped not so much by its size, but the amount of things that are in it. Minimalism is all about removing the clutter from your home so you have more space, not less. The more you get rid of the things you don’t need or want the more space you’ll have to decorate your home in a way that is meaningful to you and your family.
2. Minimalists have to give away all of their stuff. While it’s true that minimalism does involve giving things away, it doesn’t mean that you should give everything away. You want to eliminate the possessions that you don’t need or want so you can enjoy the things you do have more. Keep the things that truly matter to you and get rid of everything that doesn’t.
3. Minimalists can’t have nice things. Next to not owning anything, this is probably the second biggest misconception I hear about minimalists. Pursuing less stuff will enable you to save more money so that you can by higher-quality items that will, hopefully, last longer. It will also allow you to focus your spending more on buying great experiences for you and the ones you love, which, the memory of, will last a lot longer than any thing you could by.
4. Minimalism is bad for the economy. I have to admit this is a more recent one for me. If everyone bought less stuff, wouldn’t that hurt our economy? It’s a fair question, especially if you live in the United States. Joshua Becker tackled this question a while back with some really great insights. I’d encourage you to take a look at his response here to see how minimalism may actually have some long-term benefits for our economy.
5. Minimalism isn’t realistic for most people. I spent decades living under the mistaken idea that clutter was just part of life. While it’s true that we can’t always control what happens to us (an inbox full of emails, handling the estate of a dearly departed one, inheritance, excessive gifts from well-meaning loved ones, etc.) we can control what we decide to do with what happens to us. Clutter will always find a way into our lives, but we do not have to allow it to remain in our lives.
Minimalism is a great way of life. It can allow you to get rid of a lot of the junk in your life so you can have more time, energy, and space for the things that really matter to you. And, as a by-product, you will experience more joy, freedom, and meaning.