6 common misconceptions about minimalism

Let's get one thing super straight: there are no rules when it comes to minimalism.

I feel like I clarify this in every post, though it is worth repeating.

Now that reminder is out of the way, today's post is about the six most common misconceptions about minimalism. I hear them every day - from people in real life, online, even from myself.

This is to be expected from any radical (although not extreme) lifestyle. People feel intimidated, freak out and latch onto negative ideas. Once misconceptions become ingrained, they tend to stick around and serve as excuses. 

So, here are my thoughts condensed into just one post because ya know, minimalism and stuff. Let's not clutter up the internet with a series of posts, emails, and replies to comments debunking these. 

1 - Minimalism requires frugality.

It is difficult not to save money when you adopt this lifestyle.

I know I have. My total non-rent expenses now  (including food and transport) are almost equal to what I used to waste on unnecessary impulse buys.  This means that I can save more towards future goals (like paying off my student loans and travel. ) I can also ignore the classic financial advice given to students and buy as many Old Paradise Street iced takeout Americano coffees as I want.

I am also not at all frugal when I make physical purchases. I opt for higher quality items in timeless designs. In some ways, minimalism can be powerful for saving money and paying off debt. But plenty of people spend the same amount. 

Minimalism is not connected to your background or income. It can be beneficial, no matter whether you’re rich, poor or somewhere in between the two.

2 - Minimalists have to own a certain number of items.

If you gathered a hundred minimalists together in a room and asked each one how many objects they own, you would get a hundred different answers. Some might own just what fits into a backpack, others hundreds or even thousands.

In fact, most of them wouldn’t even be able to tell you anything more than a rough guess. The mere concept of ‘ownership’ is a vague one - what makes something yours? Does furniture count, or food, or pets? Should individual small items (like pens) count? What about shared, rented, or borrowed items? There are quite a few different ideas.

It all depends on your life - your hobbies, job, family, and dozens of other factors. A location independent, single writer has different requirements to someone with a home and kids.  

How many things do I own? Well, I do plan on writing a post soon with a breakdown of everything. This will be focused on quality, not quantities.  Some people will be surprised by how much I own, others by how little.

3 - Minimalists are all vegans. Or Buddhists. Or environmentalists. Or fit into some other category.

In some ways, minimalism does have similarities with certain religions, philosophies or diets. That does not mean they are linked, or that one must be followed in order to maintain another.  I became vegan around the same time I became a minimalist and the two are complimentary. It is a pared back way to eat. If I quit veganism (something I have been flirting with of late), I won’t also give up on minimalism and vice versa. 

4 - Minimalists cannot have hobbies/children/cars.  

Once again, there are no rules. Eliminate the excess, hone the essential. Everything else after that is up to you. 

5 - Minimalism is just an aesthetic.

It is common for it to be used as a marketing device. This does make me wince little at times, although it is important to be aware that aesthetic minimalism exists and is separate from the lifestyle. A black and white wardrobe or home isn't vital, though it is visually appealing. 

6 - Minimalism is a modern trend.

Not so. It may have been gaining more coverage in recent years, but the principles have been around for centuries - if not millennia- under different guises. It is a part of Buddhist teachings, early Chinese philosophy, Stoicism and other influential schools of thought. Minimalism pops up in 17th-century art, 1800s literature and writings from the Roman era. The terms used for it differ. The central concept is the same. Still not convinced? I guess I might as well point out that early humans would no doubt have considered the possessions of even the most hardcore modern minimalists to be excessive.