Many people get the impression that minimalism is inherently about extreme downsizing. They think that in order to be minimalist, they must live with as few items as humanly possible. But extreme minimalism does not benefit everyone. And this misconception can lead minimalists to new problems. But we can align our practice with the true principles of minimalism, to avoid this pitfall and experience greater benefits of minimalism.
Minimalism is not about downsizing everything possible
What is minimalism? Minimalism is the practice of evaluating the contents of our lives, keeping what serves us, and parting with what doesn’t. Ultimately, it is a tool that helps us free up our lives from what burdens us, so we can focus on what matters most.
The practice of minimalism looks different for every person, based on their unique needs and desires. Some minimalists have extreme space limitations and need to limit their belongings considerably. For example, we often hear of minimalists limiting everything they own to fit in a backpack. Others downsize to the extreme simply because they prefer having less items when moving from place to place. In these types of instances, extreme minimalism works for these individuals. But it’s important to remember that downsizing to extreme minimalism does not serve everyone.
To clarify, minimalism is not necessarily (or inherently) about getting rid of as many items as possible. Minimalism is the process of freeing our lives from burdens, and some things are not burdens. For example, just because you could live without a coffee maker, doesn’t mean the coffee maker is a burden. Maybe you love making and drinking coffee every morning. You don’t have to get rid of everything possible in order to actively practice minimalism. And extreme minimalism can create new problems when it’s not right for someone’s life.
Inauthentic downsizing can lead to new problems
When it is not right for our lives, extreme downsizing (or extreme minimalism) can lead to new problems, such as:
Less happiness. It is true that practicing minimalism can lead to incredible benefits and greatly improved happiness. But when we take decluttering too far, we are left without the things we need or desire in our lives. And we experience declutter regret. For example, when we over-declutter our hobby categories, we remove the things that we enjoy. We don’t feel happier when we deny ourselves the ability to own the things that improve our lives. And we may be left feeling like we can’t engage with the joys of life.
Wasteful and expensive replacements. Realizing we over-decluttered can lead to wastefulness. Items that were just decluttered have to be replaced when we realize we really did need that item in our life. This is unsustainable and can cause unnecessary expenses. Running into this on a regular basis can indicate that your minimalist practice is not aligned authentically with what you need and desire in your life.
Decluttering regret and discouragement. When we realize we are being wasteful, we can experience negative feelings about our practice (like shame and guilt). These feelings can discourage people from ever replacing the necessary items that were decluttered. And so, they may feel like they never have the things they need to take care of themselves. This can lead to people fearing they will regret future declutters, and it can discourage their future minimalist practice.
Practice Authentic Minimalism
Know that minimalism is an individual practice that looks different for everyone. Every minimalist has different needs and desires, and so they will have different downsizing requirements.
To experience the most benefits of minimalism, I encourage you to practice authentic minimalism. Base your downsizing decisions on your own personal needs and desires. Before you go crazy removing everything, take more time to evaluate your items and check that your decisions are right for your life. And ensure you are not mimicking other minimalists for the sake of it. Prioritize keeping items that improve your life, and declutter items from other categories to get the most out of your minimalist practice.