A Minimalism FAQ

Minimalism: Questions & Answers

New to Minimalism? Start here.

If you're new to minimalism, this is where you should start. After learning about minimalism and simple living you might be left with a few questions; this is a quickstart guide with answers to the most commonly asked questions.

What is your definition of minimalism? What is simple living?

The two terms are largely interchangeable. Minimalism, to me, is simply: removing the excess and living with less. Simple living is about identifying what's important and simplifying your life by removing the excess to make everything you do more purposeful, more intentional, and more sustainable. It's the combination of an uncluttered environment and a simplified life.

Why be a minimalist? What are the benefits of simple living?

More time, more money, more happiness. Adopting minimalism and the practices of simple living helps us to avoid excess and live with less; removal of non-essential stuff helps us to appreciate what we have and focus on what's important.

Are there any rules to becoming a minimalist?

There aren't any rules per se; decluttering and minimalism are two different things but getting rid of anything that doesn't serve a purpose or bring you joy is a good place to start on your journey to a minimalist lifestyle. Making conscious and intentional decisions; focusing on prioritising happiness over owning things, and learning to be more self-aware and content with you already have is the focus of minimalism.

Isn’t the minimalist lifestyle boring?

What's boring about a life surrounded by the people and things we find useful or beautiful?

How can the less privileged benefit from minimalism?

One of the common misconceptions about minimalism is it's only for the privileged. Anyone can use minimalism as a tool to remove things from their lives that don't make them happy to make room for those that do. The only difference is the more privileged of us are able to get rid of the things the less privileged might want to hang onto "just in case." That doesn't make someone less of a minimalist or less able to simplify their life; minimalism looks different to everyone, no judgment.

How long have you been a minimalist?

I started decluttering and simplifying around five years ago, and have been living a consciously simplified lifestyle for about three. I didn't realise minimalism was a lifestyle choice until recently, it was just something I did naturally to improve my life.

What started your minimalist journey? How did you “become a minimalist”?

I wrote comprehensive post on my journey to minimalism; long story short, my interest in the minimalist aesthetic kick-started my jewellery brand and from there I learned it was a useful tool for simplifying my life.

What are the hardest parts of minimalism?

Breaking negative habits and dealing with the expectations of others. One of the toughest parts of minimalism is helping others understand why it’s so important to you. It means having (sometimes tough) conversations with people about your lifestyle choices and how that might impact traditions and expectations. Gifting is often a tricky discussion to have and one a lot of people struggle with; the exchanging of gifts is often expected at certain times of the year and some people can find the idea of not gifting difficult to adjust to.

What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when adopting a minimalist lifestyle?

Thinking it’s all about what you own (and how much of it) rather than why you own it. Getting obsessed with owning less and less is just as destructive as wanting to own more. Minimalism is about removing the excess not removing as much as possible.

How do you deal with physical things that seem so important or necessary?

Some things, like paperwork and documents, are important yet boring; keeping them altogether in one specific place deals with the issue of having to keep them around. Digitising these documents would be the ideal solution but that’s not always possible.

How do you deal with sentimental belongings?

Generally speaking, I don’t attach emotions to my belongings; I rarely, if ever, have sentimental feeling towards the things I own but I know it’s a sticking point for a lot of people. If you love an item and it makes you happy, keep it especially if it reminds you of someone special. If you don’t love something but feel emotionally attached to it, take a photograph to remind you of it and then let it go.

How do you deal with unwanted gifts?

I give them away. The alternative is hiding things somewhere where they will be forgotten about or eventually donated. There’s a lot of unhealthy guilt attached to receiving and giving gifts. Minimalism is about learning about and finding ways to cope with these emotions.

Do you think you’re wasting items when you get rid of them?

Yes, but hanging onto something to avoid the guilt of wasting it isn't the solution. If you don't use something it's already wasted; it's the sunk-cost fallacy. The best thing you can do is pass it directly onto someone who will use it, that's the only way to avoid waste but that's not always possible.

What was the hardest thing for you to change or declutter?

My book collection. I had a lot of books and there are still a few I'm reluctant to let go of. But that’s OK, I’ll either get rid of them eventually or keep them. There’s no rush to get rid of the things we’re not ready to let go of yet.

Have you ever regretted getting rid of something?

I can't remember anything I've given away. When you have an object in your hands it’s difficult to image a life without it but as soon as you let it go you easily forget you ever had it. The hardest part is letting go.

How do you decide what to keep and what to let go?

If it doesn’t serve a purpose or make me happy, I let it go.

How do you apply minimalism to other areas of your life such as beauty and style?

Keeping only what I need or will use. I used to stockpile beauty products and have a vast wardrobe of clothing, neither made me happy. I try to limit how much I allow into my life so I can live with less and appreciate what I already own more.

How do you deal with non-minimalists in your life?

With respect. With a partner who appreciates the minimalist aesthetic and likes a tidy, simplified home but who isn’t “a minimalist” (or even particularly tidy) it’s all about compromise. I'm a relentless declutterer and I like to keep a tidy home but I also respect my partner's space and his habits just like he respects mine; sharing a space has its challenges and some things are not worth fighting over.

How do your family and friends react to your minimalist ways?

I'm fortunate to have family and friends who somewhat understand my simple lifestyle. Simplifying Christmas was the biggest struggle I faced and it went (mostly) without a hitch. I find people are surprisingly open to new ideas if you take the time to explain them properly.

Do you count how many things you own?

Spartan minimalism isn't something I'm interested in. I keep a wardrobe inventory because it helps me maintain a happy equilibrium and keep my consumption in check. In general, I don’t recommend counting what you own, it’s a little obsessive.

How many X do you own?

It doesn't matter.

Once you decluttered, how did you prevent old habits creeping back in?

The most important thing you can do to maintain a tidy, clutter-free home is give everything a place and put it back there after use. If you want to nurture habits that stick, it's all about practice. These 5 habits will help maintain your space once you've decluttered your home.

How do you deal with hobbies that require tools or equipment?

When it comes to dealing with hobbies, tools, or equipment it's all about storage and finding the right solution for your situation. Hobbies can be messy and that’s OK. It’s better to adjust your expectations and keep the hobby than cut it out of your life for the sake of a “perfect minimalist home."

Are there some things you simply have to have? Or anything you simply can’t let go of?

Plants! I have shelves and shelves of plants in over 50 individual varieties. My botanical collection brings me a lot of happiness and learning how to identify them is a hobby.

What’s your number one tip for new minimalists?

Don't compare yourself to others. Everyone’s life looks different and therefore the things they own might be vastly different from what we choose to own. It’s not a competition.

Minimalism: Questions & Answers