Throughout human history we’ve never had so much stuff in abundance that we would voluntarily choose to have any less than we can get. Given the chance, it’s in our nature to take everything we can for the sake of survival.
But in modern times, taking has gone way beyond the necessities of food and shelter, and consumerism has taken over to the point that we’re killing our own people and destroying our own planet for the sake of the latest gadgets.
Thankfully, in the last couple of years, things have turned the other way and the minimalist movement has picked up momentum.
While I’m happy that news about minimalism has become mainstream, I’m not a big fan of articles that show people sitting like monks in their bare one bedroom apartment with a toothbrush and a towel laid out in front of them.
These articles only show one type of minimalism, and in my opinion intimidates regular people for who it isn’t feasible to live under such extreme circumstances.
There is still so much misunderstanding around what minimalism actually is. Here are the top five misconceptions I hear most often:
Top 5 Myths
1. You can only have 100 [or insert number here] things or less. Don’t you dare have 101 things otherwise you’ll have to get rid of something! Only kidding, there’s no need to keep strict numbers on your possessions. Just follow the general rule of only having what you need, clear out every now and then, and you’ll be fine. The world will keep turning if you have a few more things than an arbitrary number plucked from the sky, yet people think that minimalists are obsessed with counting each sock. There are some who do, but the rest of us spend our energies actually living our best lives.
2. Your home/walls/furniture can only be white, no fun allowed. Although I’m a big fan of minimalist interior design, it’s really only a Pinterest/Tumblr hobby, not reality. Let’s look at the bigger picture. Rather than focus on the things that we don’t have, or are depriving ourselves of, let’s focus on what we do have, and which of those things give us the most joy and add value in life. This applies not just to how we decorate our homes, but also to the people, commitments and things we spend our time on/for every day.
3. You can’t want or have nice things. Let’s be clear, cheap is different from frugal. Being cheap means buying things of low quality that you’ll have to replace after it breaks. Frugal means buying only what you need, and looking for good deals for things of good quality. Therefore, you can be frugal, but still buy expensive things because you expect it to last a long time. In any case, even if it is a nice thing, if you need it, you’re allowed to buy it! So called ‘minimalists’ might frown at your fifth pair of shoes, but if you need an extra pair because running and hiking shoes are actually different things, you can have both!
4. You need to be a young single male who likes to backpack around the world. Er, no. You’re allowed to join The Minimalist Club™* whether you’re old or young, male or female, or if you have a partner or family, even if it means you’ll have a couple more things, they’ll still let you in. Kids need clothes and toys and you can’t just wear the same two things every day because you have to look respectable at work. You can live out of an actual house if you wanted, and you don’t have to travel if it’s not your thing. We all want different things in life, and as long as you can afford those things that are useful or make you happy, you’re allowed to have them.
5. You can’t get attached or sentimental about anything. Minimalism isn’t hard-core non-attachment Buddhism. You’re allowed to like the things you own, or feel sentimental about things that mean a lot to you. We’re all human after all, and we all have a favourite mug/sweater/keepsake that would make us unhappier if we lost or broke it. As long we bear in mind that although stuff will inevitably be in our lives, life is not inevitably about stuff.
If all this sounds to you like I’m making excuses for ‘non-minimalist’ habits, then you’ve still got minimalism all wrong. There aren’t any rules. People think that minimalism as a lifestyle means having less, when in fact what it really means is having more. Don’t fall for these misconceptions—do your own research and find the path that suits you.
*Unfortunately there is no such thing as The Minimalist Club™