The Myths of Minimalism

the myths of minimalism - sea

Note: We’re excited to introduce you to our special guest writer, Evelyn Hill, a minimalist, a vegan and a super talented creative. You can find more of Evelyn’s work on her Twitter and Instgram.

Growing up in a military family, minimalism was a way of life for me. Every couple of years we would move house — sometimes across the country, sometimes overseas. We never kept too much stuff and I was taught the value of what was necessary and what brought me joy at a very young age.

There wasn’t room for much else, to be honest.

So imagine my surprise when I realised that minimalism wasn’t how other people’s lives played out. It wasn’t until I found this blog that I began noticing the massive amounts of myths that plague the minimalist lifestyle — many of them I knew, from personal experience, to be flat out wrong.

So I’ve endeavoured to set the record straight about a few of them here. From me to you, here’s a list of ten myths of minimalism that need to be debunked right now.

1. Minimalism Means Throwing Everything Out

Nothing is gained by throwing everything out. Nothing. Not even Zen.

No, minimalism is more about learning what matters to you than just chucking your life into the bin. It’s about rediscovering your favourite hobbies and interests. It’s about letting go of things that bring you stress.

Minimalists don’t throw everything out. We’re not naked living in the wild, right? Right. You know what you can throw into the bin? This myth.

2. Minimalists Don’t Buy New Things

I’m a minimalist and I just bought new dinnerware and glasses for our kitchen. As you can tell, I’m not one for believing this myth at all.

Of course we buy new things, and I’m not talking about just food. We buy all sorts of things. But what makes this different for minimalists is that we are replacing, not adding, things we already own.

And you know what? Sometimes we do buy new things that make us happy. What we don’t do is buy without intention. There’s a big difference.

3. Minimalism Happens Overnight…or Must Take Time

Minimalism happens differently for everyone. No two people will approach it the same way, so it’s a little silly to say “it’s got to be done overnight” or “don’t shock your system — take it slow.”

We’re all different. We all need to make our own path to a minimalist lifestyle. We also need time to adjust to a new way of life, and that time period may be longer than for other people.

This isn’t a race. Take the time you need. You’ll know when you’ve become a minimalist, so don’t force it.

4. Minimalists are all Vegan and Ethical

My husband is a minimalist. He doesn’t know where his clothes come from. He also doesn’t always follow a vegan diet. Yet he’s still a minimalist.

It’s easy to say that all minimalists are vegan and ethical. It’s harder to actually accept the truth — that minimalists come from all walks of life. We’re not cardboard cutouts. They don’t make us in a factory.

We’re people who have come to the philosophy of minimalism for different reasons. Your reasons are valid. You don’t have to be vegan or ethical to be a minimalist. Please remember that.

5. Minimalism is a Number

You’ve probably noticed the amount of people who talk about owning less than 100 things, or even 50. This trend has contributed to the idea that minimalism is about a number — the lowest number of things a person owns. It’s a competition within the community. And in some cases, people are criticised for owning too many things.

This needs to stop.

Minimalism isn’t about numbers. It’s about what makes you feel productive and happy. If you own more than 100 things, so what? As long as you feel what you own is necessary and brings you joy,  then your perspective of this mindset is working well for you. In the end, that’s the only thing that matters.

6. Minimalists are Robots

I had a friend once refer to me as a Vulcan for my disinterest in keeping mementos from my adventures. That same friend then told me that’s why they could never be a minimalist — we just seem too detached and unemotional for their comfort.

Most minimalists I know are sentimental. We just keep memories alive through photos and journal entries rather than souvenirs. We’re not attached to material possessions — we’re attached to the feelings and emotions they bring us.

Treasuring a memory doesn’t mean we need to keep the material things that give us that memory. Those emotions live within us, and that’s something that the possession — or loss — of a material thing can’t take from us.

7. Minimalism is Unsustainable

This is something I’ve never understood — some people actually believe minimalism is unsustainable. Why don’t I believe it? Because I’ve been able to carry my life in a suitcase my entire life. For me, it’s been working just fine.

The trick with a minimal lifestyle is knowing what works best for you. Make it work for your needs. That’s what minimalism is about — reducing the things in your life that stress you out to make room for the joyful things. If it makes you happy and doesn’t interfere with your life, you will sustain it.

8. Minimalists Have No Style

My friends will tell you that I haven’t got the biggest wardrobe or the fanciest home, but what I have got is style — loads of it. Do you know why?

Because the things I own are directly reflective of who I am as a person.

I don’t do trends. I don’t follow mainstream recommendations. I focus on the things that make me happy. And that means my style comes out naturally.

When someone says that minimalists have no style, what they’re saying is that they’re not seeing a style they recognise. They’re saying they don’t see trends. They’re saying they don’t see things they can immediately relate to.

And that’s got nothing to do with you. You’ve got style. Trust me, it’s there.

9. Minimalism Can Be Defined

Minimalism is more of a philosophy than a definition. It can be moulded and changed to fit our needs, whatever they may be. It’s a way of life. And because you and I are different, that means our ideas of minimalism are also different.

Are there underlying themes? Sure. Can you name them all? I’m betting the ones you come up with will be different from mine. And I’m more interested in knowing how you see minimalism than telling you if you’re wrong in your interpretation.

10. Minimalists Preach

No one likes to be preached to, especially when we feel like we may be wrong about something. And minimalists are the same — we don’t like to be preached to, so we don’t preach. For the most part, there’s more preaching against minimalism by friends and family than there is for it.

Some people forget that minimalism is a private pathway towards happiness. It’s not something that most minimalists want to preach about, because everyone’s path in this lifestyle is different. We can’t tell you there’s a right or wrong way to do something because there’s no one right way to do it.

So we don’t preach.

More Myths of Minimalism?

I’m sure you’ll find more myths of minimalism along the way, but don’t let it discourage you from finding out what this lifestyle can bring you. Like I’ve said before, being a minimalist is a private path you take. Only you can decide what will be right for you.

Have you uncovered any other minimalism myths you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

6 comments… add one
  • Kris Goetz 14/07/2016 Reply

    Love this article – great perspective Evelyn. Esp the part with the all our nothing, always 100% and the fact that is about being aware and yourself not a result of marketing ?

    • Evelyn 15/07/2016 Reply

      Thank you, Kris!

      I do believe that minimalism is always about being aware of who you are as a person. It’s about stripping away who we think we are and getting to the root of what makes us…us.

      Marketing, while it can be a great way to motivate people into taking action, doesn’t have to influence us to become something we are not.

      Thanks again for your comment!

  • Summer 18/07/2016 Reply

    Another myth: that decluttering = minimalism
    Too many people think they can jump on the decluttering bandwagon and that makes them a minimalist. But they fail to examine what those objects did or didn’t mean to them, and why they accumulated so much stuff in the first place. If you don’t examine these things, mindless consumption will creep back in. Minimalism is about making the space for the things that matter, and not being tied up in the things that don’t. Mindless decluttering probably won’t get you there, but mindful decluttering can.

  • Evelyn 20/07/2016 Reply

    So true, Summer! Decluttering doesn’t mean minimalism. My husband found this out the hard way — he lasted five months from a massive purge and then he had more stuff than before.

    What a great myth-busting comment!

  • Namrata 31/10/2016 Reply

    Nice article! Of course, not all “minimalists” are vegans, but one can’t be a true minimalist unless they’re vegan. Minimum carbon footprint, minimum animal suffering, minimum usage of valuable natural resources, minimum burden on Mother Earth… Minimalism need not be an ethical stance for many people, but to think of it, the philosophies of veganism and minimalism do go hand in hand from the ethical perspective 🙂

  • Fran 13/01/2017 Reply

    I think I would add: Minimalist = Frugal. It seems that so many people see minimalism as a way to save money only. That is not the purpose of minimalism, but can be a nice side effect. You can be a minimalist and spend a ton of money. It is just on different things and hopefully better directed to those things that matter. Instead of spending money on attaining and maintaining of “stuff”, minimalists are free to do other things with their money. Like save for retirement, fund college for their children, travel, eat a more varied and healthier diet, live in a safer neighborhood with better schools or give to causes they believe in.

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