6 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Minimalism

mbg Contributor By Cary Fortin
mbg Contributor
Cary Fortin co-authored New Minimalism: Declutter and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living, alongside Kyle Quilici. They also run San Francisco-based decluttering company New Minimalism.

Photo by Stocksy

Like yoga studios and juice cleanses, minimalism has evolved from a less glamorous past. Thinking about minimalism used to conjure up images of hard-lined living in sterile, monklike conditions. Lucky for all of us, the new brand of minimalism shows the trendy side of a life with less. Yet misconceptions about the age-old practice still exist, so let's debunk a few right now:

1. All minimalists are young bachelors.

While, yes, there are certainly a number of single dudes in their 20s and 30s living minimalist lives, there are also families large and small doing so, such as the Birch & Pine trio and Zen Habits home of eight. There are minimalist couples and roommates, minimalist baby boomers and millennials. Sure, it might be easier if you don't have to check with a friend, partner, or child before simplifying your home. But trust us, some of the most meaningful conversations you'll have with your living partners will come from deciding what a shared minimalist life will look like together.

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2. Minimalist homes are nearly empty and void of color.

No way! Perhaps one thing that most minimalists have in common is a reverence for items that are as functional as they are beautiful. It all boils down to being thoughtful and selective about your décor and surrounding yourself with things you love. This pretty much always equates to a home rich in personality and history.

3. You must own fewer than a certain number of possessions to be a true minimalist.

This is a false trap that I fell into early in my minimalism adventures when I decided to own only 100 things. When you focus on counting your possessions, you lose the greater mission: to live mindful, intentional, beautiful lives. There is no set number of items that can get you there. Instead, try to focus on a sensation: lagom. This Swedish word is sometimes translated as "enough," but it actually means "just the right amount." The best part of lagom is that it is inherently personal and fluid. Everyone decides what the right amount is for them.

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4. Minimalists must wear the same thing every day.

To be fair, some minimalists do swear by a more uniform approach to dressing. However, you can also be a minimalist who is passionate about clothing and personal style. To embody minimalism and maintain a sense of personal style, you simply do so from a smaller pool of options.

5. Minimalism is self-centered because it's primarily about focusing on yourself and space.

While minimalism might start in your closet or your kitchen, it's actually a part of a greater ethos of community and global sustainability. As you cut down on your items, you can donate the ones that no longer serve you to local nonprofits. (Soup kitchens take unexpired food, kindergartens take basic art supplies and paper, women's shelters accept toiletries, etc.) You will notice that you begin to care more about objects, how they're made, and what they represent. Plus, as you pare down, it will shift your purchases moving forward and change how you approach consumerism in general.

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6. There is only one way to be a minimalist.

True minimalism is inherently unique: It's about you, your experience, your truth, your goals. Where you live, who you live with, how you spend your time, what you're passionate about—all of it should be taken into account. The only time minimalism doesn't work is when you try to follow someone else's version of it. Feel free to try the strategies that others recommend, but let some stick and others fade away. At the end of the day, whether your home is quiet and white or an explosion of color and brimming with people is totally up to you.

This article was co-written by Kyle Quilici of New Minimalism.

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