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What Does Minimalism Mean?

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

Let’s play a game. Which type of minimalist are you?

1 - Just starting out. I don’t even know what minimalism is, but I love Marie Kondo.

2 - I throw things away...occasionally. But it’s not a practice for me or anything.

3 - My walls are bare and I purge through my closet every Sunday. I’m a professional minimalist.

Minimalism is an all-encompassing practice—there’s no judgment here. If you’re a #1, welcome! To all the twos out there, you’re on the right track to a lifestyle of minimalism. And threes, sounds like you’ve got it covered. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from you!

In all seriousness, minimalism has all kinds of meanings. Stick around and learn a little more about what minimalism means and how it can impact your life.

A few definitions

1. “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom,” — The Minimalists

2. “A desire to live with less.” — Be More with Less

3. “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” — Becoming Minimalist

4. “The process of identifying what is essential in your life and eliminating the rest.” — The Minimalist Vegan

As you can see, minimalism isn’t limited to one definition or practice. Here’s what it comes down to: Minimalism really is what you make of it. You’re in the driver’s seat—you decide what you want to get out of your minimalistic habits. Let’s look at the way minimalism has changed over the years.

History of minimalism

It’s the great debate. Minimalism comes in so many forms that there’s no concrete answer on how or when exactly it developed. With that said, historians can pinpoint an age when minimalism was routinely practiced and acknowledged as a movement in the 20th century.

It began with a “less is more” ideology, which extended its impact in different areas of life—art, music, literature, and organization, to name a few. It began as a philosophy, rather than an aesthetic. Architect Stephen Chung defined it well, saying, “Minimalism is all about creating a specific ‘moment’—a feeling, an experience, or framing a particular view.”

Nowadays, it’s often thought of as a design or aesthetic, but history shows us that minimalism is deeply rooted in philosophy, ideology, and the psychology of the human experience. It’s both a practice and a movement that has progressed with time, and we’re lucky to be able to adapt it to our own lifestyles.

What does it mean to YOU

As you can see, minimalism has all sorts of meanings. It’s often mistaken for being an extreme practice. Some people think minimalism is only about purging and limiting yourself to a small number of material possessions. There are even people out there that think minimalism is just for clean freaks! You get the picture—there are all sorts of ways to view it.

The important thing to note is that minimalism shouldn’t be scary or stressful. So the next time you take a look at your messy kitchen or crowded closet, think about simplifying your life. You don’t need to sell all of your stuff and completely change your life, but a few spring cleaning sessions could be good for the soul (and your sanity!), so try giving it a shot.

Just like any practice—whether it be religion, a way of life, diet, etc. —it comes down to you and what you want to get out of it.

Despite the twists and turns in the journey of minimalism, bring yourself back to your inspiration to become a minimalist. What are your wishes? What do you want to get out of this? Minimalism is for the person practicing it and no one else. Sure, you can seek advice or guidance about the practice -- and you’ll find great insight! But at the end of the day, this is your journey. Embrace it and enjoy the learning process.


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