The 6 Most Popular Minimalist Types
To be clear there are no rules that you have to follow to call yourself a minimalist. The philosophy of living with less has already existed for a long time before we gave it the trendy name "minimalism". Now the word has formed many different types and sub-movements. These help us to identify ourselves with the ones that resonate more with our values. Here are 6 popular types of minimalists.
1. The Aesthetic Minimalist
The word minimalism originated as an extreme form of an abstract art movement in the late 1950s. Therefore, it’s hard to separate it from aesthetics. That’s also why most of us think of fresh, clean spaces and modern furniture when hearing the word. At least that’s what we can observe in mainstream minimalism.
Aesthetic minimalists focus on expressing a clean and fresh lifestyle especially when it comes to home design, fashion and photography. This has become very popular in social media platforms over the years. A good example of an aesthetic minimalist would be Jenny Mustard.
Though minimal aesthetic is beautiful, for me it’s a by-product of a much bigger picture which is intentional living.
2. The Essential Minimalist
Essential minimalists concentrate on owning things that only bring real value and joy to their lives. Each thing is mostly picked intentionally and always serves a purpose. For them there is no reason to own more if it’s not necessary. They pick quality things that last longer and prefer multi-purpose clothing that can be mixed and matched with different outfits. They are also not emotionally attached to their belongings. They give away what no longer serves a purpose to those who may have use for it.
A good example of this type is Ryan and Joshua from The Minimalists. Through their blog, podcasts and books, you see their focus on intentional living. They point out that any unnecessary possession won’t bring you joy. The time, energy and money you invest in such things are more useful for contributing to other people's lives.
3. The Financial Minimalist
Financial or frugal minimalists are concerned about saving money. Mostly they follow FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early), a movement that has become very popular through Mr. Money Mustache. They strive for financial freedom by avoiding unnecessary expenses and building wealth. They prefer public transport or cycling over owning a car, rarely replace things that still work fine and try to repair things that don’t. On the other side they find ways to grow their wealth faster by investing in the stock market or real estate and with side hustles.
Knowing that one’s wealth is not determined by how many expensive and aesthetic luxuries they own allows them to live frugal. Therefore they automatically own fewer possessions. Not spending money enables them to reach FIRE sooner and that brings them joy.
Reaching financial independence allows them to have no obligation in staying at a job they dislike and to pursue something that gives them more purpose. At the same time they enjoy their simple lives by treasuring what they have. They enjoy spending their time with people they love and learning about financial literacy.
4. The Green Minimalist
Also called eco-minimalists, green minimalists focus on protecting the environment. Cutting down the waste and living with a smaller footprint are their highest priorities. That’s why they fill their homes with environmentally friendly products. They live frugal too and try to repair and repurpose their belongings. By having less consumption they help reduce the harmful impact of mindless consumerism on our planet. They see minimalism as a pro-environment and anti-consumption mindset.
Not owning a car and shopping second hand or eco-friendly and quality products that last longer help them reduce their carbon footprint. They shop mindfully and make sure that they don’t bring any unnecessary things into their lives that cause harm to the earth.
Having the preservation of the planet in mind, most of them follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, like Youheum from Heal your Living. She is also known for her mindful and quite extreme minimalist approach.
5. The Nomad Minimalist
Nomad minimalists live out of a backpack or tiny temporary space to travel the world. Their focus is to experience the world without tying down to a permanent place or financial burdens. Instead of embracing materialism they see creating memories of their experiences as most important. Good examples for nomad minimalists would be Colin Wright from Exile Lifestyle and Sorelle Amore. Colin is an entrepreneur and writer who changes his location every four months based on the votes of his readers. Sorelle travels the world while sharing her phenomenal photography skills.
Their journey to minimalism often begins with living minimalistic while backpacking. I have experienced its benefits on my world trip in 2019. That's how my journey to minimalism began too. Traveling with fewer distractions allowed me to be more present and enjoy the place and culture.
For some nomad minimalists minimalism is just a practical way of moving around. For some it is challenging fun how little they can live with.
6. The Mindful Minimalist
Last but not least are the mindful minimalists. Their highest priority is having peace of mind. By owning fewer things they automatically reduce mental clutter. Further, this reduces distractions and gives them the ability to focus on self-reflection, self-love and personal development.
They aim for fewer possessions and more headspace; for being present in the moment with their thoughts, feelings and emotions. As the other types, mindful minimalists pursue an intentional and meaningful life. They constantly work on shaping a better version of themselves and adding value to other people’s lives. An inspirational example of a mindful minimalist is Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.
Defining minimalism for myself
I'm not trying to point out which of the 6 kinds is the best. All of them are representations of our values. They are somehow interconnected with each other and we may have many of their attributes in our lives. Yet, I find it important to focus on the kind of lifestyle that helps us most. It is important to define ourselves for ourselves otherwise others will do, as Christine Patt brings it to the point at her TEDx Speech. What I don't want is to be another follower of mainstream minimalism. It should be less about aesthetics but more about the practice.
For me two kinds resonate more than others: financial and essential minimalism. I started my minimalist journey to escape the suffocation of my stressful and expensive lifestyle. By cutting down expenses I rapidly gained more freedom and peace of mind.
I have developed the habit of buying only essential things because I already have everything. As I learned more about minimalism, I embraced other attributes from different kinds as well. Especially being mindful about self care and my core values. It has become a powerful tool on my journey of developing a better me.
Lastly I would say that we should have a combination of all values mentioned above. Learning how to be mindful of our possessions and reducing physical and mental stress helps us to become better humans. Finally this adds value to the rest of the world.
What kind of minimalist resonates with you most? Let me know and leave a comment below!