Minimalism 101: An Introduction to Minimalist Living

minimalist flower

I consider myself a “minimalist”.

Now that can mean a variety of things. One thing I do not mean is I’m a painter and my artworks consist of squares and rectangles filled with primary colors. Thus I make the distinction between minimalism as a distinct aesthetic style and minimalism as a lifestyle. Although I can certainly appreciate minimalist art done well, what I want to discuss here today is minimalism as a way of life. I want to use this as an opportunity to introduce the minimalist lifestyle to those who have never heard of it before. So let’s get to it…

Broadly speaking, there are two parts to minimalism: decluttering and adding value. I will talk briefly about these and end with reasons why you might want to become a minimalist.

Decluttering is a fancy way of saying getting rid of all the things you don’t need nor necessarily want in your life. Things that are just lying around either because (1) you don’t like them anymore or (2) you simply just don’t use them. These physical items can range from the very big (like a house) to the very small (old clothes). Eliminating the physical stuff is just the first step. The next step is eliminating the non-physical things that are negatively affecting your life. These include things like financial debt, toxic relationships, and unhealthy addictions. Of course, after discarding all these physical and non-physical junk, it is expected you learn not to bring them back in to your life down the road.

This part of minimalism is not as obvious as the decluttering part, but is perhaps the most important: adding things into your life that brings you value and joy. Popular examples include spending more time with your loved ones, cultivating your passions and hobbies, gaining new experiences, traveling, exercising, reading, writing, eating healthy, saving money, and helping others. Those are just some examples, but minimalism encourages you to to do what it is that you really want to do with your life.

Minimalism is not just about having less stuff, but also deliberately organizing your life around your values. Minimalism is the transition from a life full of stuff to a life full of positive and meaningful experiences. It’s about identifying and focusing on what is most essential to your life and letting go of the rest.

Those who will benefit the most from adopting a minimalist lifestyle are those who constantly feel like they are either weighed down by the things they own and/or overwhelmed with commitments. Minimalism is also for people who feel like they never have enough time nor enough money to do what they really want to do… people who, according to Thoreau, “lead lives of quiet desperation”.

For example, maybe the reason you don’t have money nor time is because you just bought a brand new car on loan and now have to work extra hours to pay off the loan. Now if the savvy minimalist were to buy a car, she would most likely buy used and never on loan. And the car must either be very fuel-efficient or very reliable (ideally, both). The minimalist saves money in three ways here: (1) used cars are cheaper, (2) not having to pay interest on top of a loan, and (3) by choosing a fuel-efficient car you pay less for gas and, correspondingly, by choosing a reliable car you will need less repairs. Of course, the minimalist would also consider the additional costs of owning a car: gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and parking. The minimalist will make absolutely sure the benefits of owning a car far outweigh the heavy costs. Minimalists are extremely careful with their purchases and even more so when it comes to big purchases like a car.

The reason minimalism may be helpful is it forces you to look at where your energy, time, and money is going towards. And it says it’s okay to let go of things you don’t really need nor want. If you think there is more to life than chasing material goods, then minimalism may be for you.

Some clarifications:

1.) Minimalists do not hate stuff. They understand the utility and necessity of some material possessions. In fact, minimalists usually love or cherish the few possessions they do own (like my laptop). Minimalists just dislike useless, valueless, and/or excessive stuff.

2.) No two minimalists are the same. Some minimalists own cars and some do not, it’s really up to you. There are many ways to manifest the minimalist lifestyle.

3.) That being said, there are surprisingly many similarities between minimalists. For example, many minimalists are health nuts. They are extremely conscious of what they eat and they generally take good care of their bodies. Also, many minimalists tend to enjoy traveling.

4.) I think one of the key words for understanding minimalism is the word “essential”. As opposed to “unnecessary” or “excessive”. Figuring out for yourself what is essential to your life is a constant endeavor for any minimalist.

If you’re interested in finding out more about minimalism, here are some additional resources below:

Also, questions and comments are always welcome and appreciated.


About eleganthinker

A philosopher in practice, but a poet at heart.
This entry was posted in Inspiration, minimalism, Philosophy, Self and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Minimalism 101: An Introduction to Minimalist Living

  1. Tiffany says:

    You can go further with the car analogy. A smart and saavy person would not buy a car; he or she would simply use public transportation when available, or simply rent a car if traveling further away. What I learned in driving school (this is termed ‘eco-driving’).
    It’s nice that you’re writing again. Keep it up! =)

    • Hello Tiffany,
      Thank you for your comment.
      I do not think it is up to us to judge if a person needs a car or not in their life. That ultimately depends on the person’s values and individual lifestyle. Some people need cars due to having big families and/or live in a place without any public transportation. Some people love the feeling of driving and/or love going on road trips with their friends. There are many scenarios where it makes perfect sense to own a car. That being said, I agree that many people, especially minimalists, make due without a car and get through life just fine.

      Again I want to emphasize Minimalism is not a competition to see who owns the least material objects in their life. It’s about evaluating whether or not the material objects in your life are actually contributing to your happiness and well-being. 🙂

  2. Fernando says:

    Hey Yt,
    I finally got some spare time to read your article. Although I wouldn’t define myself as a minimalist, I do think of minimalism as desirable way of life. It does seem smart to get rid of those things in life, either physical or not, that don’t add any value to it. I also think it’s a hard and laborious endeavor. I often find it hard to get rid of hurtful memories or relationships. Or, even when it’s just physical stuff, it’s often difficult to throw away seemingly useful stuff because of the fear that I may need it later, although it’s often not true.

    I would like to finish with something to reflect on: Do you think there’s a difference on adding value to your life through physical things, such as buying the latest gadget or having a luxurious car; and adding value through experiences, such as relationships and learning something new? Should we consider one way better than the other? I know it’s not a case of either one or the other, but I think that we should ponder on which one adds more to our lives.

    Btw, my next appointment at the blood clinic is on March the 1st . See you there 🙂

  3. Pingback: Spring Cleaning For Real This Time | ANY SHINY THING - Aging Well

  4. Pingback: Material Possessions: A minimalist’s view on Things | eleganthinker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s