I’m a Minimalist with a Home Full of Stuff
What minimalism really is and how you can apply it to your life
I’m 36, and I’m still wearing clothes I bought when I was in my early 20s. I drive a Toyota Yaris made in 2006, and my smartphone is an old Samsung Galaxy A10. I’ve had it since 2019. Its screen is cracked, and I’ve never bothered to fix it.
“I’m a minimalist!” I always say.
I like saying this because I don’t buy unnecessary stuff, can’t stand shopping centres, and overthink every purchase I make.
But is this what minimalism is? Can you say you’re a minimalist just because you have a frugal lifestyle? Who’s a true minimalist?
I’d never questioned my minimalist identity until a friend from abroad came to my house. She saw 15+ plants, all sorts of decorative objects, and walls covered with pictures and paintings.
“Sure you’re a minimalist?” she asked.
I wanted to defend my identity by blaming my partner — the person who bought most of the things displayed in our living room — but I couldn’t.
I couldn’t because I don’t mind having stuff in my living room. I value home decor. It creates a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and relaxing environment in my house. It makes me happy.
I realized I don’t buy stuff but have a house full of it. This got me thinking. So I decided to do some research into minimalism and what it means to be a minimalist.
How minimalists define minimalism
What is minimalism?
Bestselling author of “Simplify & Living With Less” Joshua Becker, defines minimalism as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing anything that distracts us from it.”
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors of the highly acclaimed Netflix documentary “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” say that minimalism is “a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives.”
Blogger Michael Ofei from theminimalistvegan.com tells us that “a minimalist lifestyle is the process of identifying what is essential in your life and having the courage to eliminate the rest.”
None of these definitions of minimalism includes “decluttering your home,” “living in a semi-empty room,” or “detaching yourself from objects.”
But minimalism is often associated with “owning less stuff.” Why?
Minimalism and stuff
I’m sure you’re aware that in modern society we tend to find our self-worth and happiness through the things we own.
Driving an expensive car makes you feel important. A new smartphone or watch gives you a sense of prestige. The bigger the toys you buy for your kids, the more you think they’ll love you.
Frantic consumerism got so bad that we necessarily needed a movement to curb its damaging effects on our psyche, behaviour, and happiness. We needed another “-ism”. But, although it’s often connected to owning less, minimalism is much more than that.
Minimalism is all about getting rid of what gets in the way between you and the happiest version of you.
It involves living a richer and more fulfilling life by removing anything that doesn’t make your life rich and fulfilling.
This is why being a minimalist can mean different things to different people. It’s a flexible lifestyle that you can apply to any area of your life, not just shopping.
Creating your own version of minimalism
You can apply a minimalist approach to goal setting, habits, relationships, web designing, art, photography, filmmaking, home decor, cooking, playing music, blogging, teaching, public speaking, technology, marketing, and whatever else makes you you.
It’s easy to do. You need to stop and ask yourself whether or not you can painlessly do without someone or something.
For example, I apply minimalism to shopping. Before buying ANYTHING, I ask myself:
- Will this object add significant value to my life?
- Do I really need this?
- Will I still be happy to have bought this ten years from now?
95% of the time, the answers are no, no and no. And the pleasure I get from knowing that I don’t need something is often greater than the pleasure I would have gotten by buying that thing.
I also adopt a minimalist approach to:
- Traveling: Every time I pack for a trip, I ask myself, “Do I really need to put this into my bag?” I spent a total of 41 weeks around Southeast Asia, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. All I needed could fit into a medium-sized backpack.
- Social relationships: “Does spending time with this person make me happy?” That’s how I curate a selection of very few friends.
- Teaching English: “Can I reach my lesson aim without using textbooks, slides, handouts, or fancy apps in my classes?” Yes, so I don’t use those.
- Writing: “Do I need this word? Can I remove this idea?” I do my best to kill anything that doesn’t add value to my message.
There are, however, other areas where I wish I could be a more efficient minimalist.
Goals, for example. I have too many and often find myself too scattered. I still need to have an honest conversation with myself and decide what’s really worth pursuing. Organising my day is another. I always have way too many items on my to-do list.
All this is to say that you can create your own version of minimalism. You can use it to make space in any area of your life, not just your home.
Minimalism doesn’t specify how many things you should own. It doesn’t define what your home should look like either. Instead, it shows you what you can remove from your life so you can focus on what really matters.
A minimalist approach is just one of the many tools you can use to live a happy life.
“Sure you’re a minimalist?” asked my friend when she saw my cluttered living room. Yes, I am.
I’m a minimalist every time I take the time to reflect on what improves my life and take action to remove what doesn’t.