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What is Minimalism?

Image: dan

Last year at this time I was clearing out stuff in a big way.  End of March 2011 was our huge garage sale where we sold most of what we couldn’t donate.  The house was more and more empty and we were signing contracts with a sweet couple who were planning on renting it beginning of May.

It wasn’t until much later that I even heard the term minimalism and was able to find like minded (similarly crazy) people on line.  Back then all I knew was that I wanted less space, less stuff, and more living for my family.  Now that I have read a bunch more on the topic and have been living the lifestyle for a while I wanted to do up a list of what I define a minimalist as.

A Minimalist is:

  1. An intentional person.  They see where they are going in life as something they can plan or affect.  They do not just accept what life throws at them as their fate. Sure, they don’t have control over the world, but they choose how they will respond to what is out of their control and steer their life in a direction they have decided on.
  2. A driven and focused person.  Similar to #1 they are making things happen.  They can still be laid back fun people to be around, but typically a minimalist isn’t just sitting back and watching the world.  They are actively taking part in life and the world around them.
  3. Un-Attached materially. Probably the most visible is the understanding that a minimalist has less stuff.  They are intentional about what they own and have only the things they want.  This can range from 50 or less things (the crazy, hard-core) to much more.  Many minimalists don’t count things but the number is often countable (vs the typical person or family in a first world country).   The idea is to not be limited or distracted by material possessions.
  4. Quality loving.  Goes with having less stuff.  The stuff minimalists do have is higher quality.  Less stuff means more money for the few things that are needed.  Also, the things a minimalist owns are often used much more often and need to be able to handle it.
  5. Priority Centered.  Minimalists know or are trying to find out what is most important to them and live their life based on that information.
  6. Society Questioning.  Just the idea of having less stuff is a little crazy when society as a whole is always looking for more, bigger, and fancier.  A minimalist has questioned this and disagreed with it and will often question other parts of society as well.

Being a minimalist isn’t a ticket into an elite group or defined by a number of possessions.  Being a minimalist is something that starts in the mind and is driven by intangibles (#1).  The visible and tangible is only a byproduct of intentional living decisions.

Anything I missed?  How else would you define minimalist?


  1. Kim Kim

    Thanks for the post summing up the Minimallist. I’m not there yet, slowly hacking away at my house. Clutter makes me stress, I never feel comfortable leaving for a weekend if there is clutter or too many obligations around, so I miss a lot of fun things. Recently I decided to break that cycle, starting by gutting out the house so starting this summer I can be out more with my family. I am tired of the fact that when someone says; “You have the house to yourself, what are you going to do?” My excited reply was “Clean or Catch Up On Work In Peace”. Nope, I am going to say something more like “Going Hiking With My Family”…. Thank you for all your posts, I look forward to following more in the future!

    • Kim, Yay! I am excited for you 🙂 We are all just ‘practicing minimalists’, you are well on your way. I still go through my house every few months and get rid of more…the process never ends, but it gets much easier the less stuff there is to go through. Enjoy the hiking 🙂

  2. Love it! You’ve come such a long way!! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Interesting take on the definition of a minimalist! I’m not quite sure I fit into that description despite being a self-defined minimalist. However, it’s always interesting to see another person’s take on what being a minimalist is to them 🙂

    • thanks 🙂

    • thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. I think a lot of minimalist are really brave people because they no longer have the armor of material stuff to define who they are… they really face themselves.

    • yep, it is easier to try to prove who we want to be (even to ourselves) than find out and show who we really are. …I am still trying to figure it out 🙂

  5. I love this – thank you! This is probably very close to how I would define myself as a minimalist.

    • 🙂

  6. Paritcularly love your first two points, they pin point exactly why we are driven to keep being a minimalist, but put in such as positive, loving way. Thank you.

    • You are so welcome. Thanks for coming by 🙂

  7. Based on your definition, I want to be a minimalist. 🙂 I feel like there are so many things to change, and I find myself getting impatient. I read a post on Leo Babauta’s blog about changing one habit at a time, but man, it takes some patience.

    • Paul. Yes, none of it is easy but the minimalism and the changing one habit at a time from Leo is lots of work initially and then it gets easier 🙂 Cleaning, organizing, or dealing with bad habits are a lot of work all the time 🙂 Good luck! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  8. What an eloquent post. I am trying and learning to be a minimalist and I must say it has made all the difference! A good and fulfilling life can be had cheap. Thanks for this post. I laid out my own journey on my very young blog at Do visit it if you have the time and share your expriences.

    • thanks so much for coming by. Good to meet you 🙂

  9. Christa Christa

    I just found your site and love it. I am a minimalist with a big family and sometimes feel as if I am the only person in the “real” world who lives and feels this way. Its always good to get on the internet and read articles by like minded people. 🙂 PS thanks for sharing some pics of your kids bedroom and closet, it was a good reminder that its time for another seasonal purge of the kids rooms at our house. 🙂

    • glad to meet you. I love the internet for finding like minded people too!

  10. It’s true…or it might be… I MAY BECOMING MINIMALIST! And I like it! I’m only getting there mentally now and I see my space having that potential and it is exhilarating!
    Thank you for your post!! I will be re-blogging it to feature on my blog as an A-HA I’ve encountered and intend to pursue with all I’ve got (and intend to give away- haha, a little minimalist humor growing within).

    • good for you. Mentally is the first step 🙂

  11. This post really gave me a lot to think about. I like your definition though it is totally different than what I was expecting (minus the less stuff and free thinking part). These are all qualities I want in myself more and I’ve always struggled with prioritizing. I’m indecisive and a bad time manager as a result. But, the way you defined these things gave me the thought that if I can slowly whittle away the outer edges of the least important in my life, similar to how one starts the process of narrowing down their possessions then, cut back more…again and again until I get to the core? IDK but, you’ve definitely given me something to think about and I really want to find my purpose and passion that I’m meant for (beyond caring for my family) and it’s been a struggle. So, thanks, I may be just a little closer. 🙂

    • yes! Life is much like our possessions. I am also pretty indecisive and struggle with time management, but small steps in the right direction make a big difference 🙂

  12. Bruce Christiansen Bruce Christiansen

    Hummmm… I am very new to the idea of a minimalist. Some seem intriguing. I do have a counter thought I recently came across by Albert Einstein who said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mine then what is the sign of an empty desk? I do have some clutter in my home but it seldom bothers me.

  13. rhill rhill

    I would also add that the minimalist does not feel the need to jump on bandwagons, or take sides politically, rather make independent, critically thought out decisions. One may feel free to pick and choose from life’s philosophies recognizing the we can be independent in our thinking and decision making…not club members.

  14. After moving towards a more minimalist living I’ve found that the remaining items I do have I want to be of the highest quality. As though I no longer want to be surrounded by poor quality generic products.

    I want to be surrounded by things that are more like art, well engineered and ethically made. A by-product of the process I think. Keep up the good work.

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