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When the hype-dust settles, what is a minimalist lifestyle?

I’m a minimalist: I like to spend time outdoors and in nature, and my home is (mostly) simple and minimal. But when I look at the lifestyle of others who also identify with the minimalist movement, I wonder if my definition of ‘what a minimalist is' is really the same as theirs. In this article, I’m going to lay out some questions that came up for me, and then I hope to answer them through my own experiences with minimalism.

The minimalist lifestyle has become fashionable in recent years, and there's a lot of hype around it, but I wanted to cut through that hype-dust and get the facts straight.

What does it mean to be a minimalist?

The first question that came up for me was what does being a minimalist mean? Is it just spending less money than you would otherwise spend, or is it something deeper than that?

One thing I’ve found in my year of minimalism is that spending less is not enough for me. I don’t think that spending less than you make and having no debt is a minimalist lifestyle; it’s more like the bare minimum to survive, but it’s not a lifestyle.

I don’t want to be a minimalist by default. If I’m not happy with my life, I won’t be a minimalist. I’ll be a minimalist when I’m happy with life.

I think that the problem that occurs when many attempt to be minimalists is that they try to do everything at once. They want to be a minimalist, they want minimalism as their lifestyle, and they want to be a minimalist without compromising.

The problem is that the first two are mutually exclusive. I think the way to be a minimalist is to start by focusing on the things that are essential, and then build up your life little by little.

I’m not sure whether it's an advantage or a disadvantage to be a minimalist in the age of Instagram and Facebook. Some people think that the only way to live this lifestyle is to have nothing, but it's not true, I'm just using less than everyone else. It's not the same thing at all, but maybe it's good to get away from people who are obsessed with the new and the latest gadgets.

I know that if I don't have a few things I enjoy, my life doesn't feel complete. But sometimes it's good to say “I don't need this.” I don’t know if it's a more wonderful life, but I'm glad that I can be happy with things I have. There are so many different ways to be happy.

If you want to be happy, you need to talk and communicate with others. I know that if my friends and I don’t see each other often enough we're going to feel lost, so I invite them to be part of my life.

The “minimalist” lifestyle is one that I feel very comfortable with. It's not so much about doing things—it's more about how I think. It's about making choices based on what brings me pleasure and minimizing the things I don't need.

And if you look at how many people live unfulfilled lives, it's easy to see that there's nothing wrong with living like I do.

So how does this lifestyle fit into the world of minimalism?

It all started with something that one of my friends said to me. She said something that made me think, “I don't need half of my things.” And I realized that I had bought most of the things I had because they were recommended by others. I thought that if they were good enough for them, then they must have been good enough for me.

Uh oh…that's a big mistake to make. No matter what you look at in the world, you're going to find a million examples of people who have wasted their time and energy chasing something that wasn't going to bring them what they wanted.

The things I thought were important to me didn't serve a purpose in my life. They were just things that I thought were cool to have around.

I was wrong about the point of life.

It's impossible to live a life of purpose when you're chasing things that don't serve you.

It doesn't matter if it's the latest iphone,  or the newest pair of shoes, if it doesn't serve you, then it's just something that will be keeping you from being the person you want to be. It's just a burden. It takes away your time, energy and attention.

It's not that you're wrong to want it, it's just that the things you think are important aren't important.

At first, I thought that my new minimalist lifestyle was going to be about helping me find myself, but I was wrong.

I was wrong about the point of this lifestyle.

It's not about finding yourself, it's about being your best self. That doesn't mean it's just about happiness or fulfillment, but rather becoming everything you might not be if you keep chasing things that aren't serving you.

There is a point when your life is at it's best when you're in front of the people who are important to you, doing what you want to do, and being the best you that you can be.

I've lived so many years of my life chasing things that weren't important. I'd go to college for no reason, then get a job that wasn't fulfilling. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, but I had the urge to change it.

…so what is a minimalist lifestyle?

It describes the process of living in an intentional way using only the things that make your life worth living.  Things that are not necessary to keep you alive or functional or hold value to you and your life should be eliminated.

minimalist lifestyle

It's a way of life that many people have found to be useful. It helps them achieve their goals and makes satisfying personal choices.

In the past, I would have told you that my new minimalist lifestyle was about providing me with the things I needed to live. I thought it was about providing me with food, clothing, technology; but it's not.

For me, minimalism is about balance. It’s also about the things that are important to me, and the things that aren't. I chose to take on a this lifestyle because it helps me live the way I want to live. I have found that in this day and age, it is essential to be able to choose not to have something in order to feel good about myself.

I have found that if I want to be happy, it's not about having or acquiring things—it's about being content with what you have. Minimalism is about being content with what I have, and being mindful of the process of getting to that place. It's also about learning to let go of things I don't need or want any longer—things that no longer bring me joy.

I don't need a big, fancy house to be happy. I don't need an extravagant wardrobe or piles of possessions to feel secure and loved. I don't need a lot of stuff to be fulfilled and content. I simply don't need much… and that's okay.

Essential components of a minimalist lifestyle

Don't own a lot of stuff. Don't own things you don't need. Think about what you really need, and then prioritize those items accordingly.

Lifestyle is a journey, not a destination. Being minimalist isn't about ‘being perfect'. The journey is not one-size-fits all, and you will come to discover your own way of living and discovering contentment and meaning in life.

Your essential components will be different than mine. You will become more and more aware of what makes you happy and content, and you'll learn to manage the essential items in your life in such a way that they give you the best balance of fulfillment and freedom.

What does a minimalist lifestyle look like?

It's all about the things you own. Owning less allows you to have more space, so you can have more stuff! It's about the freedom to travel, organize things in your home for efficiency, and still leave room for you to be creative. It's about away from the distractions of technology. And it's about living with less guilt.

Owning less allows you to have more space! It's about the freedom to travel, organize things in your home for efficiency, and still leave room for you to be creative.

It's about getting away from the distractions of technology.

And it's about living with less guilt.

This is what makes minimalist

The moment you stop needing something is the moment to toss it.

I used to be a hoarder of everything and anything, but having more stuff didn't make me happier…it made me miserable.

I try not to spend too much time dwelling on stuff I don't need, but when you have a minimalist lifestyle it becomes even more important to only buy what you know you'll use. it's a bit of a paradox…don't buy stuff you don't need so you can have more stuff.

I'm not saying that all you should own is the basics (a bed, a chair, a table and some dishes), but don't go overboard with your possessions.

It's better to be thought of as someone who likes minimalism, than someone who's an over-packer. After all, there's nothing wrong with owning a lot of things that you really love and use occasionally. It's simply a choice between not having enough stuff or having too much.

I'm not saying that you should only ever own things that you'll use or feel comfortable with, but just make sure that what you own is relevant to your life.

What is eco-minimalism?

Eco-minimalists choose to buy the things they need to live, and not worry about what other people might think.

It's a philosophy for people who want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and who are willing to make some changes. It's not really about avoiding consumerism, or becoming a tree hugger… it's about taking responsibility for the choices you make.

Why do people choose this lifestyle?

Many people choose this lifestyle because there is more to life when you choose to live with less.  

There are many reasons people choose to live with less but the primary reason is because they want to be happy more often.  They also love taking on challenges and having fun.  Many people choose to live this way because it is more economical, especially with the economy being so bad at this time.  It also allows them to save money for things they want or need.  Minimalism is not for everyone.  Some people choose to live this way because they want to travel or go on adventurous trips, and it allows them to do that more often when they live minimalist.  Some people choose to live this way because they want to remove the stress in their life.

Why do people choose to live this way?  This is a very good question, and one that I have asked myself many times.  My other half had the perfect answer, in my opinion.  He said that he chose to live this way because he wanted his life to be easier and less stressful.  That makes sense, and that is a good reason to choose this lifestyle.  This is a great answer, and I can see it being very appealing to many people.

I believe that the best reason for choosing to live this lifestyle is because it makes you feel better.  We all want to live healthier and happier lives, right? That's what we strive for at the end of the day.  If we can make ourselves feel better, and get rid of things that we don't need, then it's a good thing.  That's the basic premise of minimalism.

Minimalist lifestyle habits

These are the more prominent habits of minimalists.  You'd be surprised how many people are “minimalists-in-name-only”.  They still have more stuff that they don't need than the minimalists do.

These are the basic habits of minimalism.  As your lifestyle becomes more minimalist, you can add to them.

Reduce Stress – Minimalism is a stress-buster.  Minimizing possessions allows you to focus on what's important.  

Achieve financial independence – Minimalists seek to achieve financial independence.  This means they live on what they earn, not on an income from investments.

Reduce clutter – Clutter is the enemy of minimalism.  Clutter draws your attention to the things you want to forget.  

Become less attached to possessions – Minimalists avoid getting attached to most possessions they're not using, and most of the things they do use are used regularly.  

Develop deep friendships – Minimalism is about developing strong, life-long friendships with like-minded people.  

Take the spotlight off of yourself – Minimalism is about taking the spotlight off of yourself and being more interested in what your friends have to say.

Reduce waste – Minimalists try to do as little as possible to avoid the environmental impact of their lifestyle.

Become more productive – Minimalists try to do as much as possible in a day, and focus on the important tasks rather than the unimportant ones.  

Pursue purpose – Minimalists pursue living life to the fullest in order to pursue their purpose.

Decide what you want from life, and then live that way – Minimalists have a clear idea of what they want from life, and then they live that way.

Be more social – Minimalists are more social, and try to make the most of their time spent with friends and family.

Simplify – Minimalists try to simplify their living space and possessions, which helps them live a simpler life.

The biggest difference between this and other lists is that this one emphasizes living in a way that's sustainable without buying more stuff, or having to spend more money on things you need.  If you can get by without ever purchasing anything, that's the most minimal lifestyle you can have and, honestly, not achievable to me. You need some stuff, but do you need all of that stuff?

What are some eco-minimalist things you can do?

Eco-minimalism is about taking small steps to reduce your impact on the planet, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by doing without. In addition to just doing without, here are some things you can do to reduce your impact on our planet.

  • Cut back on plastic. Cut back on paper products. Reduce waste.
  • Keep your car lighter by replacing the gas you use with tax-free gasoline, or by taking public transportation.
  • Don't buy new furniture. Consider ways to reuse old furniture.
  • Reuse what you can: take used clothes to second-hand shops, make do with less clothing (one less pair of jeans, or one less blouse), use used items for crafts.
  • If you're a parent, consider making your children's toys more environmentally-friendly.
  • Consider buying used books instead of new ones.
  • Consider second-hand technology (eBay, Craigslist, etc.).  For instance, many tablets can be bought used for less than half price of new ones.
  • Don't buy anything for a while if you don't know you'll actually use it, and get rid of anything that's been in your home longer than a year and you haven't used it.
  • Buy wisely by looking at the things you buy and thinking of how often you use them.

What is the difference between minimalism and frugality?

Frugality is the act of saving money. So if you're frugal, you're putting away money to buy things when they're on sale. You're cutting coupons and doing all sorts of things to save money.

Minimalism is more on the lifestyle side, where you're trying to simplify life and reduce the amount of stuff you have so that you have more time to do the things you want to do.

But Minimalism seems to be a fad, right now…

Minimalism is not a trend, and it's certainly not a fad.  It's an idea that's been around for a long time, but it's only recently gained traction in the media and in pop culture.  People are finally listening to it and realizing how important minimalism is for their lives.  It's not a fad, but it has become more popular than ever before.

Why minimalist? Why now?  Some people may be asking, “Why minimalism now?”  

There are a lot of reasons, but the main reason is that we live in an age where we can easily access information about everything .  We have the ability to research any topic and find an abundance of information and knowledge.  Yet we have forgotten how to take advantage of that information and how to ask the right questions in order to gain an abundance of insight and wisdom.  

Minimalism is an approach to living that will teach you how to live in the best way possible.  When you are able to look at an issue that is weighing on your mind and formulate the right questions, then you are able to find out what really matters in life.  Once you find out what things really matter, you will be able to live in the best way possible, which is through minimalism.  This is an approach that will help you live a better life and sort out your priorities.  Once you have sorted out your priorities, you will be able to live a better life.  

Now that we've cut through the hype-dust

I've broken down the gist of the minimalist lifestyle from my view, as well as others close to me and cut through the hype you get from all the marketing of this lifestyle.  

hype-dust

I've touched base on what the lifestyle means, some of the (most important) habits and shared some of my personal views and experiences while transitioning into this.

The best thing is that this post will give you a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to be a minimalist, as well as the habits and mindset that come along with this lifestyle.

What one part of the minimalist lifestyle appeals to you the most? The least? Which part would you like to learn more about?

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