Don’t let minimalism take over your life

How many items do you have in your wardrobe? Do you STILL have CDs and DVDs? How to reduce your items to single figures?


These are the kind of questions that are asked about minimalism by those who follow it and encourage others to follow suit.


And when first starting out on the minimalist path getting rid of as much as you can is addictive. But as time moves on I’ve questioned whether a constant push to own less, to have fewer items makes you a better minimalist.


At first these kind of questions and rules are a great way to clear some space and introduce minimalism into your life, but if your focus remains solely on how little you have then you are arguably missing the point of the process.


It becomes an arms race to the bottom as people strive to own less than others and show they are the most minimal. The competitive element and focusing too much on abstaining from stuff means you don’t get to enjoy the benefits and space that getting rid of items has given you; you bind yourself in a whole new way.


Minimalism is better viewed as a tool to enable a better life as opposed to a way of life in itself. I’ve come to realise this distinction over the past couple of months and it’s been an important one.


Your focus shouldn’t be on owning the fewest items you can but on what meaningful things you can fit into the space that is left. Minimalism is a means to an end, but if you’re not focusing on the end what’s the point in starting.


When the next article on how few items you can survive on comes out, I’m just going to ask the question ‘do I have enough to get by’? If the answer is ‘yes’ then that’s good enough for me, chasing the ultimate minimalist title is a race I don’t want to be in.


I’ll be out making the most of the new life it has given me instead.



19 thoughts on “Don’t let minimalism take over your life

  1. Right on. Sometimes Minimalism is about having more stuff, or accepting that we don’t need to own any less. I mean, I could spend big bucks on one of those merino wool dress shirts that never needs washing. Then I’d only need one shirt. In some ways, my life would be easier. On paper I’d be more of a Minimalist, but I’d have spent time and money (and the time spent earning that money) on that purchase instead of living my life. I’d have got rid of perfectly good shirts to buy a new thing I actually don’t need. Sometimes, obsessing about getting down to less and less, can as you say, be missing the point.

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  2. Lots of good things (like minimalism) become fashionable and thereby distorted. I think there might be something to be said for having say, enough clothes to make a full washing machine load & still be able to go out clothed. I can think of a few more weird examples but I won’t bore you with them – just thought that there may be a case for not having almost nothing?

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  3. Yes to this! The reason why minimalism appealed to me was because I felt my life had got out-of-balance. There is little point getting to the point where it is unbalanced in the other direction.

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  4. I’ve recently been having just this conversation with myself. I found myself wanting to read a few books I’d given up a month ago, and looking for wool that I’d recently got rid of, in order to make a small project. I thought to myself, I’ve gone too far. A bare home is not my style, I pick up hobbies and put them down according to the season, and I read and refer to books I have read already, I just don’t need ALL of them! I love my streamlined kitchen and my capsule (ish) wardrobe. I’ve never hoarded bathroom supplies or cosmetics. I just need to balance the other belongings better and recognise what to keep, not throwing the baby out with the bath water as they say.

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    1. It’s annoying to think you’ve got rid of something you needed Rusty, but we’ve all done it to varying degrees I reckon. I’d say the wool and books definitely fall into the ‘makes me happy’ category and justify their place in your home, even if you don’t use them everyday. M

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  5. Minimalism is a useful servant and a useless master. I merely strive to be a good-enough minimalist (by my own judgement). I like that minimalism can be applied in numerous ways to life and not just about physical possessions. Currently I’m trying to minimise my rubbish and having a purchase pause. No way am I ready for doing the year long challenge that Michelle is doing, but a few weeks of a purchase pause should help 🙂

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  6. I definitely find that, like most good things, minimalism is at risk of being observed as a cool hip unique new thing that eventually all the soccer moms will take up and fuel the absolute opposite of the original purpose.

    I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist usually, the same way I wouldn’t brand myself as a white dude. I’m myself, unique to any other, and you see exactly what you get. My lack of stuff doesn’t define me, my lack of stuff is a means to an end, and that end is for greater clarity.

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  7. Yes – agree wholeheartedly with this. I consider myself minimalist but still have a lot of clothes (although less than half what I did have – I managed to get down to one wardrobe instead of two) – but I need a lot of clothes for all the different activities I do – smart office clothes, casual (jeans) for friends/family… yoga clothes, Zumba clothes, tap-dancing shoes etc.
    And I also kept several dresses that I know would be useful for special/occasion wear (my size doesn’t change) as I don’t want to waste money buying fancy gear for the odd wedding or party when invited.
    I think a good tactic is to be able to state/write down – without looking – what you have (I could tell you every item of clothing I own) and then when you compare your list with the actual stuff, the things you forgot about you really don’t need :o)

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    1. I have two draws full of sports clothing which is used all the time. It’s my main wardrobe I have got down to quality clothing that was already their just got rid of the old stuff I wore all the time instead of the new.

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  8. A lot of becoming a minimalist can’t be done overnight and can take years and continued persistence. The focus is on asking the question does this item add value and will I ever use this again. The aim is also to reduce mental clutter and having a more organised life is one step that I have found to help. The first thing I did was move my Facebook app to the third page of my iPhone and replaced this with my pod cast app.

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