5 Myths about Minimalism — Are you missing out?

I've seen a surprisingly high number of folks deriding Minimalism because it, they said, would lead to throwing away things you'd need later, and then having to buy them again. Bluntly: No. This is not how Minimalism works. Minimalism isn't about getting rid of shit for the sake of getting rid of shit. READ ON to find out the real meaning of Minimalism and how it can change your life for the better. Even if you just do it a little bit.

Have you built your tiny house yet?

Yeah, me neither. Fortunately, you aren't required to live in one to be a good Minimalist. It's one of the many myths about Minimalism I've seen floating around lately.

Let me take a moment to lay down some truth about this amazing lifestyle! Minimalism doesn't mean sleeping on a mattress on the floor, throwing away your favorite things, or only painting your walls white. Nothing quite so extreme! Like with any lifestyle, it's what you make it.

There are dozens of ways to be a Minimalist. Read on to find out the 5 biggest (and meanest!) myths I've seen about Minimalism.

Myths about Minimalism (which is actually pretty amazing)

Living in 200 sq. ft.? Nope! Just one of the many Minimalism misconceptions. Here are my favorite myths about Minimalism. And by favorite, I mean the ones that make me chuckle.

1. | You'll throw out something you'll need later.

I read the comment sections of an article recently. That was my first mistake. Never read the comments, no matter how innocuous the article seems (e.g.: an article on the benefits of Minimalism).

(That's a Mental Minimalism tip for you: Save your sanity by avoiding comment sections on the Internet. But I digress.)

In the comments, there were a surprisingly high number of folks deriding Minimalism because it, they said, would lead to throwing away things you'd need later, and then having to buy them again.

Bluntly: No.

This is not how Minimalism works. Minimalism isn't about getting rid of shit for the sake of getting rid of shit. (Tweet it!) Minimalism is about choosing to own only what's necessary for a good, full, creative life. It's the definition of "full" that changes for Minimalists: Fullness isn't achieved by owning things. It's achieved by experiencing things, doing things, making things, and so on.

How to Know What to Keep: A (basic) Primer

  • Do you genuinely love it?
  • Do you genuinely use it?
  • Do you genuinely need it?

If you answered yes, go on and keep it.

So don't think that in order to be a Minimalist you have to throw all your worldly possessions away. That is absolutely not true, and frankly, it's bad for the environment. Do try to dispose of things you choose to let go of in a responsible way, whether it's donation, repurposing, or recycling.

2. | Minimalism is stark, empty, and boring.

Have you been imagining your first apartment, with bare, scuffed white walls, vertical blinds, and a ratty futon?

Girl, nooo. Minimalism ≠ suffering through no decoration or design. That's not Minimalism. That's college.

You're definitely allowed to decorate with Minimalism. The catch is that you only decorate with art and objects that truly, genuinely make you happy when you see them in your space. It's not about hanging up your aunt's first attempt at embroidery because it would hurt her feelings if you didn't. It's not about keeping the ratty poster from your first concert for the band you don't even listen to anymore.

Minimalism's about intentional, purposeful choices. You choose what goes in your space, and you're a stern editor. 

Here are a few of my favorite Minimalist spaces on Pinterest. Don't you just drool over this kitchen and the huge table? I'd love to sit down and work every day in that kitchen! Or what about this bright, sunny bathroom? Wouldn't it be amazing for a spa-like soak? Or how about this lovely, calm workstation

So Minimalism is anything but stark and empty. And as for boring? Well, my grandmother always said bored people are boring people. So, maybe you just need to look more into your signature decorating style.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Want to see more beautiful Minimalist spaces + get easy tips for easing into a more Minimalist life? Follow me on Pinterest. You'll get loads of warm, beautiful Minimalist spaces, tips for easing into a more Minimalist lifestyle, and tricks for creating your own signature style, which might be useful if your space is looking boring. ;)

3. | You have to be vegetarian/vegan/child-free/an activist to be a Minimalist

There's this misconception about Minimalism that it's 100% Minimalism in all things, including family planning. I'm not sure what these people think happens when parents decide to become Minimalists after having children.

One of the most inspiring Minimalists around, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has 6 kids. Yes, 6. Minimalism is about owning less stuff to make room for what really matters to you. If family really matters to you, as it does for many people, then, of course, that's one of the things Minimalism would make room for.

With Minimalism, you choose what you have in your life. You aren't controlled by what you can't.

I'm not sure where the vegetarian/vegan/activist requirement myth cropped up, but it may have something to do with the notion that Minimalism is a socialist movement, aimed at destroying capitalism. And with socialists, I guess comes vegans. This is the only explanation I've ever been able to come up with. If you have a better idea of how these things became correlated, then do let me know!

(PS: You can be a Minimalist and still be in favor of capitalism. You can also be in favor of socialism. It's not a political statement. Minimalists still buy things; they just buy things more intentionally.)

But regardless of where the myth came from, it's not the case: You do not have to be a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, environmentalist, feminist, volunteer worker, distance runner, yogi, or any other hot topic. You do you. (And if you want to be any of those things: *fist bump*.)

4. | Minimalists are emotionless, unsentimental, and maybe robots.

Now this one's just mean. Minimalists have feelings, too!

I understand how this myth came about, though. Part of Minimalism is letting go of things, and sometimes those things have sentimental value. Letting go of sentiment can be really emotionally freeing, and lead to a huge sense of relief, freedom, and possibility. So it's not uncommon for Minimalists to say "I no longer want to keep Aunt Jenny's wedding gift on my fireplace mantel," or "I don't have to keep every drawing my child does."

It's not an easy process to let go of sentimental things. Believe me, I know. I have to let go of things my grandmother owned in stages, and I still have my My Little Pony collection (and two unicorn Beanie Babies).

When I decided I was tired of being held back by certain sentimental things, I took a picture and made a little tribute when I let go.
When I decided I was tired of being held back by certain sentimental things, I took a picture and made a little tribute when I let go.

But you know what? I never regret letting go of things after the fact. I miss the people whose memories are attached to those things, but keeping a necklace my grandmother owned, but never wore, isn't going to spark memories of her, and it's certainly not going to bring her back.

I choose instead to keep and display the stained glass hummingbird she hung in her bedroom window, and to drink from a glass with a roadrunner design just like the one on her favorite coffee cup.

I don't need her jewelry. She never wore it, and it's not my style. I'd rather donate it or sell it to someone who truly values it, and by default, truly values my grandmother's things. That way, I know it's loved.

It's sad to say goodbye to things we've attached sentiment to. But afterward, there's a huge feeling of relief from no longer having to keep something we attached meaning to when there wasn't meant to be meaning. It leaves room for things that truly bring memories — or make them.

5. | Minimalism is too extreme to be sustainable.

Now, this myth about Minimalism I can understand. I think there are 5 shows devoted to living in tiny houses on right now. If that's what most people are first exposed to when they hear about Minimalism, it's understandable that they'd think it involves a family of 4 living in a house smaller than an NYC studio apartment.

I mean, I know people do that, but tiny houses are not for everyone. They aren't even for every Minimalist. I enjoyed Dan Erickson's post on 5 Reasons the Tiny House Movement is Doomed to Fail: And 5 Things We Can Do About It. It sheds some essential light on those in particular.

There's ~ 5 shows on network TV about tiny houses. Not shown is DIY Network's version. It isn't hard to see how this myth about Minimalism came about.
There's ~ 5 shows on network TV about tiny houses. Not shown is DIY Network's version. It isn't hard to see how this myth about Minimalism came about.

Purging is like holding your breath. At some point, you have to stop. This is just your body showing you your limit.

This doesn't mean you suddenly buy out all the Lisa Frank trapper keepers that Wal-Mart found under a bunch of boxes in their storeroom and put out on sale and re-fill your clutter-free spaces with them. It means that you reach your limit, and you stop purging. You don't add to it when you don't need it. It's just a natural fulcrum. You might wobble a little bit, but you'll eventually stabilize.

Everyone has a different point to reach before they stabilize.

How do you know when you should stop purging? Subtract until you can't subtract anymore without adding stress to your life or taking happiness away.

That's your fulcrum.

What other misconceptions have you heard about Minimalism?

There are plenty more myths out there about Minimalism. I'm sure you've heard a bunch yourself. Feel free to share them with me!

I hope you're inspired to lead a more intentional, creative, full life. I'm always here for you if you need a little guidance.