Does it mean having a sparsely furnished home? A monochrome colour scheme throughout? Or is it a Pinterest-esque spartan rack of carefully curated clothes? Do you look on longingly wishing your home or wardrobe resembled these enviable, clean, styled images? Or does it evoke feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety or feel like a threat to your piles of stuff? Perhaps the minimalist aesthetic doesn’t appeal to you - it’s too cold, uninviting, and frankly, unrealistic.
Over the last few years, we’ve been bombarded with interior trends flanked with white walls, white floors, seemingly empty rooms with minimal furnishings and decoration; books about the life-changing magic of tidying up; whittling your possessions down to the bare bones and only surrounding yourself with ‘things’ that bring you joy; Instagram accounts and blogs who continually spruik the benefits of getting rid of your stuff. But does it make sense for you to apply all of these ideas in your life - will you be happier with less?
Well the good news is that minimalism doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. There are many different ways that you can approach a minimalist lifestyle and lots of motivations for doing so. You have plenty of freedom to choose the style of minimalism that is right for you.
This type of minimalism focuses on living off of only what you need. The aim of this approach is to go for quality over quantity, ensuring that what you own will last a long time. Owning only a few high-quality items will enable you to rid yourself of unnecessary clutter. You can have one set of very nice dishes that last, instead of multiple sets of cheap ones that keep breaking or you’ve bought because they were on sale or trendy. Go for higher quality, timeless clothes that will give you years of use and help you to express your personality; instead of cheap garments that are poorly constructed or go ‘out of fashion’. Just remember to keep it small - minimal, even. Don’t go overboard, high quality clutter is still clutter. Invest your money in what you need and get rid of the rest.
Environmental minimalists are concerned with their impact on the world and keeping it to a minimum. Your aim is to try and minimise the amount of waste you create, and to develop self-sufficiency by living off the land a little more. For example, you can make things from scratch (and choosing sustainably sourced/grown raw materials), grow your own food or lessen the amount of plastic you use. Environmental minimalism isn’t necessarily about owning less, but consuming less overall and minimising your impact on the environment.
Experiences over belongings
This sort of minimalism is often borne out of necessity and not always from a conscious decision. Often these types of minimalists are focused on collecting experiences and making memories. They are less concerned with material possessions because they tend to weigh them down. This lifestyle is one of adventure and exploration, you will always be on the go. Your belongings are more likely to be packed in bags rather than stored in cupboards. Because of this it is often easier to own less, because there is less to take with you.
Minimalism for aesthetic
Minimalism isn’t always about a lifestyle choice, it can also be purely for aesthetic purposes. This kind of minimalism is all about the visual aspect of minimal living. There is less on display in your home and everything is clean and orderly. However, having less on display doesn’t always mean that you own less (although that can help). Most of your other belongings could be stored away in cupboards out of sight, as long as everything on display is aesthetically pleasing and minimal. Because of this focus on the visual, this sort of minimalism can also tend towards a preference for brand names and luxury items. Once again, it’s all about the aesthetic and design.
This style of minimalism is an active choice and an approach used to help improve your state of mind. Decreasing clutter and reliance on material possessions can help to clear the mind of stress, guilt and other negative feelings. This style of simple living can help you to be more mindful about how your choices impact your relationships, finances, and the world. It is about designing the life that you want to live and finding joy in the structure and order of minimal living.
Regardless of your reasons, if you are planning on becoming a minimalist you will likely need to start reducing your clutter. One method of doing this could be to throw everything out with the rubbish, but this isn’t the most eco-friendly way. To reduce the amount you need to throw out, you could try selling items, either online or with a good old fashioned garage sale. If that doesn’t lighten your load, you could always give away the rest, either to friends and family, or to Goodwill. Failing that, you try to recycle as much as you can, do the research and find the best way to dispose of your items before throwing them in the trash.
Minimalism is a very personal choice for all who choose to embark on the lifestyle. It’s important to find a style that fits your needs and goals. It isn’t all about depriving yourself and going without, it’s still important to enjoy your life and interests within your minimalist lifestyle. Sometimes this can be difficult because hobbies can require a lot of equipment (e.g. crafting) which can create a lot of clutter and take up space. A great discussion on how to achieve a balance between your minimalist ideals and your hobbies can be found on the Minimalists blog. The key is to find the balance that works for you, and most importantly, that you are a living a life that brings you joy and fulfillment.
No matter what your reasons for taking on a minimalist lifestyle are, the important thing is that you are reaching the goals you set out to achieve. When you are deciding to give minimalism a go, it’s important to also decide on what it is you’re hoping to achieve. Whether it be wanting to clean up and declutter your home, trying to minimise your impact on the environment, clearing your mind and decreasing your stress, or all of the above, minimalism can be a useful method to achieve this. Keeping your goal in mind during this process can help keep you on track and motivate you to continue. At the end of the day, it is you that decides what your minimalist life looks like, and how it works for you.