What is minimalism?

People often misunderstand minimalism and see us, minimalists, as weirdos who own one plate, and two t-shirts and have empty rooms with white walls in their house. Minimalists in their minds also have a fixed prescribed number of items which they must not alter or increase. While I have white walls and many extreme minimalists have almost no furniture minimalism is not an instruction manual on how to live your life. We are not weird or saddos that deprive ourselves of life’s pleasures.

It’s quite simple: to be a minimalist you must live with less than 100 things, you can’t own a car or a home or a television, you can’t have a career, you must live in exotic hard-to-pronounce places all over the world, you must start a blog, you can’t have children, and you must be a young white male from a privileged background.

OK, we’re joking—obviously. (The Minimalists)

So, what exactly is minimalism and how do minimalists live their lives. As with many concepts and philosophies, there is not one minimalism, but many varieties. Below I will explain the basic concept of minimalism and what it means to be a minimalist in my book.

You might have heard about The Minimalists, who I have quoted above, alongside Marie Kondo are the most famous proponents of minimalism and define it as such:

Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves. Want to own a car or a house? Great, have at it! Want to raise a family and have a career? If these things are important to you, then that’s wonderful. Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately.

I see minimalism to live with fewer ‘things’ in your life, be they material possession, hobbies, projects, or people. Instead of amassing endless material possessions of low quality or being engaged in endless activities and feeling stressed and overwhelmed, decide what truly matters to you and what adds value to your life.

I am cautious about what I purchase and concentrate on quality rather than quantity. So, for example, I will buy one pair of high-quality shoes in a neutral colour that will last me for many years rather than have many pairs of low quality.

I also think about whether I really need something before I buy it. Do I need that electronic gadget or will what I have suffice? For instance, I do not own a smartwatch as my tablet and phone do the same things.

On the other hand, I have multiple teapots because I use them all and they add value to my life.

In terms of non-material possessions, I have started doing fewer things, but for those that I do, I devote all my energy to them.

In a nutshell, one can sum up minimalism as intentional living. Lead a life that fulfils and makes you happy and that does not make you stressed. Don’t chase after something that advertising or keeping up with the Joneses has made us want. To give a concrete example, how many people have jobs they dislike and find stressful? Many people then do retail therapy or get drunk at the end of the week. Buying all these things means they need more money, which means they will work, longer and harder. In minimalism, you are mindful of what you consume and how you spend your time so you can do more of what matters to you.

One criticism of minimalism is that it is something for the middle classes and not for ordinary people. While it is beyond the scope of this post to define class, loads of people would describe me as middle class, I do not think minimalism is a class issue. Everyone regardless of their economic status can reduce the number of items they possess and things they do in their lives. Minimalists come in all shapes and sizes. There is Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, who is married with kids and a big house. There is Cedric Waldburger, a rich entrepreneur who owns less than 55 things and travels the world.

Like what you read above and want to give minimalism a go, below are some tips on how you get started on your minimalism journey taken from Intut Mint Life:

  1. Shop Quality, Not Quantity
  2. Digitize Movies and Books
  3. Eliminate, Eliminate, Eliminate
  4. Invest In Reusables
  5. Give Everything a Place
  6. Invest in Experiences
  7. Cut Meaningless Expenses
  8. Appreciate What You Have

I hope the above has given you some ideas of what minimalism is and how you could start your minimalism journey. I will go deeper into this topic in future videos.