When I first got acquainted with the term minimalism, I looked at the definition from various perspectives, through the eyes of bloggers like Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) or author Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist).
It became clear that a pattern emerged. Minimalism was more than a new ideology or principle to discard things.
It became an alternative way of living in a busy world and eliminating life’s excesses, focusing on what matters. It was the lifestyle you created to enjoy more time, space, fulfilment and freedom by having and doing less.
With every new concept or ideology, our minds are trained to look for the faulty and the negative. It is the same with minimalism.
There’s no denying that a minimalist lifestyle may not be ideal for everyone. It should not be forced, either, on anyone. Shooting the messenger won’t help, either. Understanding what it is and what is NOT will.
In this blog, I set out to look at what minimalism is NOT, and thankfully there are plenty of myths and untruths to debunk.
1. Minimalism is NOT impossible.
Some may say that it’s virtually impossible to make do with less in today’s world, filled with all kind of comforting things, happenings, and solutions to problems. There’s plenty of options for everyone to partake in, and you shouldn’t deny yourself the choice and pleasure of doing so.
This view looks almost exclusively at the physical aspect of minimalism and the false notion that survival means acquiring more items or doing more activities to bring success and fulfilment in our lives.
Life is not defined by excess.
Minimalism is going at the heart of it and trimming out whatever you do not need because it weighs you down and deters you from achieving what you truly desire.
There is more to minimalism than purging away material possessions, though. Think about the positive impact on your relationships, health, wellbeing, and time management.
There’s also the opinion that having fewer material possessions cannot possibly guarantee happiness, either, so why bother at all?
Minimalism aims to carve a path to a more manageable, effortless and uncluttered life. It wants you to derive contentment from this life by cutting out the excess. It is about allowing freedom to spend more quality time on things and activities that bring joy and happiness.
It is not, by all means, an impossible journey to make. Challenging, yes, but not impossible.
2. Minimalism is NOT a competition.
There is no single approach to minimalism, so there shouldn’t be any competition. Do not compare yourself or copy other minimalists because they seem more popular or more focused than you.
There is no such prize as the ‘best minimalist.’ Minimalism is individual-specific. There are as many views or advice on minimalism as its practitioners.
What is useless to you may not be considered wasteful or excessive by other minimalists. Each person adopting the lifestyle must live their own version of minimalism.
3. Minimalism is NOT extremism.
There’s this wrong assumption that minimalist living means having less than a specific number of clothing or items in your house, or worse, giving up (almost) everything you own.
I think the right approach is to define your journey into minimalism.
Find your own minimalism. There is no fixed goal or nirvana to reach.
It is not about letting go of all possessions but finding contentment with the few(er) items you have left, those items that mean something to you.
4. Minimalism is NOT asceticism.
On the previous note, there is a misconception of minimalism as an extreme way of living, much like asceticism. Asceticism involves self-denial of many things and pleasures, which is having and doing less, one of the tenents of minimalism.
While asceticism includes minimalist principles, the opposite is not always true. As James Latham puts it in his book, Minimalism – More of Less, while all ascetics may be termed minimalists, not all minimalists are ascetics.
Minimalists are not ascetics simply because minimalism is not tied with a spiritual pursuit or desire to find meaning in divinity. The goal is to attain fulfilment in the simplicity of living, not through abstinence or austerity. Therefore, minimalists do not deny certain pleasures and things that matter to them.
5. Minimalism is NOT the same as essentialism.
While the two concepts are very similar in thought, choosing less over more, they are not the same or interchangeable.
Minimalism is a tool to eliminate the unnecessary and enjoy fulfilment and freedom in the way we live.
It filters through the clutter – both physical and mental – and reaches for the essential amidst the noise, confusion, and greed of modern times.
This way, minimalism incorporates essentialism – cutting down to the essential.
Being an essentialist, though, does not make you, necessarily, a minimalist.
More specifically, essentialism refers to the ability to focus on one thing at a time, concentrating your energy and effort on specific goals to work better and smarter. It means prioritising the essential and trimming down the choices to what is most important to achieve.
Unlike the minimalist, the essentialist does not focus primarily on having fewer material possessions. He or she is only concerned with doing the essential things, choosing the next essential item or task from various options presented to him, making the right choice from the daily chore of possibilities, hopes and expectations.
In a nutshell, minimalists start their journey by having less, while essentialists focus on doing less.
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