Thinking about becoming a minimalist? But wait a sec! Do you really want to trash all your beautiful stuff and own nothing instead? Are you ready to sacrifice everything just to live a boring life in a room with a modern couch you are afraid to even sit on? Better think twice! – STOP! It’s really not that bad and I’ll tell you why.
Minimalism has reached a high level of popularity. Yet, its core message is very often misunderstood. That puts minimalism undeservingly into a negative light. No wonder that some start to cringe when hearing about it. It can be a fantastic life, but you need to understand its principles first.
So let’s clear the most common misconceptions about minimalism out of the way!
1. Minimalism is a trend and about owning nothing
Minimalism as a lifestyle might have become a trend, but only in a society that values consumption. Its principles are nothing new and at the core of it remains the need and want for simplicity. Many of our grandparents grew up in an era when simplicity was the way of life.
Today commercials are omnipresent and they are trying to tell us what we need in order to be happy. As a consequence, we have developed a hoarding behavior.
Own nothing? Here the word “less” is simply mistaken with “none”. This misconception is widely used as an excuse to proceed with mindlessly accumulating stuff. There are some extremes out there who challenge themselves with how little they can own. Some even count their things. If they are content with it, excellent! But nobody expects you to follow that. There’s also no minimalist inspector to knock on your door and count your stuff!
2. Minimalism is boring
On social media, mostly only one side of minimalism is being portrayed. As a consequence, people picture a boring and lonely life in a white box with modern furniture. They imagine minimalists holding a book in their hand and sitting on the floor next to their one and only plant with no sign of joy. Search for minimalism on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find exactly that.
But it’s quite the opposite of boring. Our focus isn’t to fill our lives with the newest fads and products. We don’t fill our calendars with nonsense just to stay busy or for having content to post into our Facebook feed.
Distancing us from all those distractions makes time for experiences that you normally have less or no time for. Some travel the world or finally start their long-awaited passion, others quit their boring jobs to spend more time with their family. It is totally up to you how you design your free time. So fill it with whatever excites you!
3. Minimalism is about decluttering
Mostly it starts with decluttering, considering the amount of superfluous possessions we own. But it’s much more about clearing away things that aren’t bringing us happiness and fulfillment. It is an important step in escaping the consumer-driven society. Nevertheless, decluttering alone doesn’t make you a minimalist because it’s not a one-time action. It is following and practicing its principles.
If you can make your home a reflection of you with intentionally picked things that you use and love, then that’s a beautiful approach to minimalism. After that you will have to ask yourself far deeper questions. I have listed them in point five.
4. Minimalism is about sacrifice and deprivation
Oh yeah, I love this one! Here’s where people freak out when suggesting them a minimalistic lifestyle. What scares them is having to give up most of their stuff and their expensive hobbies. Minimalism is not about what you give up, but about what you keep and enjoy. Deep in our core we know that there’s a huge difference between what we “need” and what society tells us to “want”. We just have to realize it.
Last week I got asked about what my travel pictures on this blog have to do with minimalism. It’s like “you’re a minimalist, shouldn’t you be avoiding that?” Well traveling is one of the things that makes me happy! And now that I have more time and money for it I’ll even do it more often. It’s funny how people start judging you when you no longer follow the path that the majority does.
For me, working in an unsatisfying job to sustain a superfluous lifestyle is deprivation. You sacrifice your most valuable asset which is time.
People also ask me often: “you only got one life, why not live it fully? What if you die tomorrow?” I believe that when your time has come, there is no escaping. I look at it this way: chances are quite high that you’ll get old and live a long and prosperous life. So why fill it with meaningless stuff?
5. Minimalism is a goal
If you think that minimalism is a medicine that solves all your problems then you are mistaken. Getting rid of your possessions alone won’t make you happy. It is not the goal, but a powerful pathway to a much richer life. Ask yourself the following questions:
Why did I let my stuff own me?
What is truly important in my life?
When did I become so discontented?
Who is the person I want to become?
How do I define my own goals and success?
Tough questions with difficult answers, right? But they are proven to be much more important than just trashing your excess stuff.
Not knowing why you‘re following a minimalistic lifestyle will make you discontented. Sooner or later you will be filling your home and time with new unnecessary stuff again.
Minimalism isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and you don’t have to be extreme in anything to be one. There are no strict rules to be followed, but simple principles to be understood. I want to invite but not force as many people as possible to live a simpler lifestyle.
That being said, you will see that the benefits are incredible. More time, more money, more focus, more energy, more opportunity to do those things in life that bring real joy – but remember, you choose to define it.