It’s important to have a page devoted to this answer.
My wife understands minimalist living and participates to an extent, but one of my sisters-in-law thought minimalist living was about something it’s not. I forget the exact origin of the remark but I think I typed on facebook that I was anticipating buying something and she replied with something akin to “you don’t need that, you’re supposed to be a minimalist.” It was then that I realized I should offer a definition of what minimalist living means to me.
Being minimalist does not mean you don’t get to buy stuff. It does not mean that you sleep on a floor, eat only white rice and shave your head. It’s not about living in a monastery, living in a van or shunning objects, people or experiences.
I guess I’ll try to explain it this way. A flashlight is a good item to own. It’s good to have when the electricity goes out. It’s good for camping and it’s good to have when you need to head to the basement in a tornado warning. But do you need 7-10 flashlights around your house? In an average house there are likely a half dozen flashlights in all corners of the place. One flashlight might take those massive lantern style batteries that are hard to find and are expensive, 3 might be cheap plastic and have come from a discount store, 2 more maybe are not where you thought they were because your kids took them outside and who knows what happened after that. Perhaps you don’t know if the batteries are good in the flashlights you have seen around the house or whether you even have spare batteries or whether there are some broken or burned out bulbs in some of them.
Now what if you had one really good flashlight that you used for everything? Maybe it has a specific place where it’s kept so you know where to find it. It’s used often so you know how fresh the batteries are. Maybe it’s really good quality so it costs a decent chunk of money. But because you have purposely made a choice to have one good flashlight that could last the rest of your life and you have no others, that’s part of minimalist living.
Another way to describe it is the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle. It’s application is used to explain all sorts of things but it applies to possessions pretty well too. Of all the clothes you own, you wear 20% of them 80% of the time. Of all the DVDs you own, you watch 20% of them 80% of the time. So why not only own the 20% of the clothes you wear regularly and own the 20% of the DVDs you watch regularly. Is it hard to do this? In this day and age it shouldn’t be, here’s why…
That old necktie you’ve been keeping around just in case? Ditch it. The style’s not coming back and if that once-in-a-lifetime occasion come around where you need a tie like that then go buy one or even better, simply borrow one from a friend (we all have friends that will never become minimalists.) But really, chances are good that you aren’t going to need that tie. Your “just in case” scenario probably isn’t going to happen. You don’t need to hang onto the stuff you don’t use. What about the DVD you bought because it was on a really good sale? You’ve never actually watched it even though it’s been on your shelf getting dusty for 2 years…time to get rid of it. If someday you actually want to watch that movie chances are pretty good it’s at the library or in the video rental store or online.
That’s minimalist living. Having what you want, not what you think you need.
I searched the internet for some other definitions and found a great article where the author asked 6 of her favorite (and, not coincidentally my favorite too) minimalist living bloggers for their definitions of the lifestyle.
Please click here to read answers from some of the leading minimalist bloggers out there.