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What is Minimalism? Defining Your Personal Meaning

Are you struggling to figure out what this whole minimalism thing is? It’s a buzz word that has been thrown around a lot in recent years, as you may have heard of the minimalist movement, minimalizing your home, living with less, etc.

But it’s a term that gets people wondering, what exactly is the true meaning of minimalism? How do I get started?

It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of tips, stories, information, etc.

Perhaps you imagine minimalism to be the act of purging all your belongings and living frugally.  Maybe you consider this lifestyle to be an impossible thing to accomplish.

You could even be thinking to yourself, there are too many restrictions, I could NEVER be a minimalist.

The Meaning of Minimalism

The truth is, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the definition of minimalism. It doesn’t fit into a tiny square box, there is no right or wrong way to go about it.

Why? Because nobody has the exact same intentions, values, lifestyle, hopes, or goals.

When it comes to the meaning of minimalism, think of it as more of a personal journey, defined on your own terms. You make the rules, and you can choose whether to follow them.

My journey to find the meaning of minimalism started exactly three years ago when I decided to leave my life behind in NYC and embark on a 4 month traveling adventure before settling into a new country to live for 6 months.

I had just one slight problem to deal with before leaving. I had no idea what to do with all my stuff. I had already decided not to check any bags while traveling, in order to avoid all the airline fees.

Without putting much thought into it, a week before my trip was about to start, I packed my essentials into my small red carry-on suitcase and donated all my belongings.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t a dramatic scene and I wasn’t sad to let these things go. All I was thinking was nothing was going to stop me from living out my new EPIC adventure.

I thought I would be tempted to buy things along the way, but I kept thinking well… it can’t fit in my red carry-on. 

Little did I know six months would turn into three years of living in a new country, as I kept the intent of minimal living. I learned by traveling with only what I needed, I started to realize the value of experiences and started to devalue things.

It wasn’t only about how much I could fit into the small space, it was more about what I wanted to fit into it and that’s when I became more intentional with what I was willing to make space for in my life.

If everything in that bag had a purpose, why not apply that to all aspects of my life? My personal definition of minimalism didn’t come to me overnight or from someone else, it came from a personal life-changing experience that I like to call “the small red carry-on.”

““Being more intentional with the life I lead.” is what the meaning of minimalism, represents for me. – Minimalism Made Simple”

To help guide you along, here’s how some amazing thought leaders have described minimalism and living a minimal lifestyle:

JoshField Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus | The Minimalists:

“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression.

Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”

You can find their book here.

Joshua Becker | Becoming Minimalist

“It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, being a minimalist is intentionally promoting the things we most value and removing everything that distracts us from it.”

You can find his book here

Courtney Carver | Be More with Less

“Minimalism is simply removing the things that remove you from your life. It doesn’t mean removing all of those things overnight, and what you choose to remove will change over time.”

You can find her book here.

Michael and Masa Ofei |The Minimalist Vegan

“Minimalism has traditionally been linked to pure, intentional art and design concepts. But we believe it’s much more than that.

We define minimalism as the process of identifying what is essential in your life and eliminating the rest. Less is more.”

minimalist definition

As you can see, these descriptions are COMPLETELY different from each other, inspired by personal real-life experiences and shared stories.

The definition of Minimalism is TRULY dependent on your own values and intent.

To avoid getting lost in the shuffle, perhaps start by asking yourself “WHY” you are seeking the meaning of minimalism.

Do you want to live a more intentional life? Do you want to declutter your home? Do you wish to simplify your lifestyle? Do you want to clear your mind?

Ask yourself why.  

What the Meaning of Minimalism Is Not

Contrary to popular belief, a minimal lifestyle is not about living in a tiny box, with white walls, a green plant, and sparking joy every time you pick something up.

I happen to like my green plants, don’t get me wrong. But I also happen to like living outside of the box. When things become as popular as living minimal has, they tend to get misrepresented.

While there are thousands of different meanings of minimalism, there are just as many things minimalism is not. Find some examples below:

  • Minimalism is not inclusive, but something that can be embraced by all.

  • Minimalism is not following a set of rules, there is no magical guidebook, and you won’t find any laws to abide by.

  • Minimalism is not an all or nothing approach, you can start slow and work towards adopting a minimal lifestyle at your own pace.

  • Minimalism is not only about physical declutter, but mental and emotional declutter as well.

  • Minimalism is not a lifestyle that is defined by others, but rather a journey that is defined by one person and one person only- YOU.

Now that we went through how to find the meaning of minimalism, how others define it, and what minimalism is not- how will you determine your personal meaning of minimalism?

What purpose does living as a minimalist serve for you? Share in the comments below!

Rebecca

12 thoughts on “What is Minimalism? Defining Your Personal Meaning

  1. I agree minimalism is about being intentional and gives you freedom from being overwhelmed, so you can focus on the more important things in life, like spending time with family and friends. One way to get started to build a capsule wardrobe.

  2. I loved this read. It is all about finding out what is important to you and prioritizing it! Minimalism can and should be simple and easy.

    1. Thanks SO much! It’s important to me to find out what my readers like to hear. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love this! I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of minimalism, particularly because of the mental and emotional benefits you refer to in this blog. May have to take the plunge and see how it goes! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I have only heard minimalism discussed as a decluttering concept. Your take is so much more comprehensive and interesting!

  5. I enjoyed reading your article. We have been trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle which includes focusing on intention and values. You give great information to someone who isn’t sure where to start or even if this is something that they want to pursue. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, I’m glad to be of help! Thank you for taking the time to stop by 🙂

  6. Thanks for the article.
    I feel for me it has to do with mental load. The less stuff I have, the less stuff I have to worry about. I see this all too often with friends and family who are always performing chores on the stuff they own. I understand this can go too far, but I’m happy with where I’m at.

    1. I completely agree! Less is so freeing, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

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