“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” – Jackie French Koller
Minimalism is a lifestyle that is based on minimizing the excess in every area of life. Some minimalists live in tiny houses and count their possessions, while others live in 3,000 square feet of suburbia. In the 5 years I have been involved with the minimalist community I have encountered people from every walk of life who desire to live simply, and just as many ideologies about what living simply really means.
Many people equate minimalism with frugality. If we are minimizing excess, that means we should minimize the amount of money we are spending, right? Still others equate it with mindful, eco-conscious living. You can’t throw out what you don’t love to buy new, because buying isn’t simple! And then you have another subset of minimalists who wear designer clothes and carry a MacBook pro under their arm. They buy less, so that means buying quality that lasts. Isn’t that minimalism? After all, buy nice or buy twice.
There is no black and white answer to this lifestyle choice, but I’m going to share some of my thoughts on the matter.
Minimalism Is Unique To Each Person
I am a firm believer that minimalism needs to work for you and your unique lifestyle. No one else can tell you that you have too many coffee mugs or shoes. You need to decide for yourself what minimal is, and often that is a journey taken in several steps. For me and my family minimalism looks like getting rid of furniture we had sitting around but weren’t actually using. It saw me getting rid of my sewing machine and other hobby supplies that I loved, but didn’t actually use on a regular basis. It means I give my books away as fast as I read them so someone else can enjoy them instead of adding more clutter to my shelf. And it means I have more than one paper planner because that is what works for me.
I would never make a sweeping announcement about how someone else should live their life, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.
Minimalism Is Not Synonymous With Frugality
I see a lot of judgement in minimalist groups over what other spend on their possessions. “I would NEVER spend $50 on a planner!” While minimalism often leads to more fiscal responsibility and saving money is a great side affect, it really has nothing to do with the basic premise.
For me, minimalism is about being intentional with what I bring into my home. That often means I am buying less, which means I can spend more on the things that really matter to me. For example, I am one of those minimalists with the MacBook pro. But, I got rid of the iPad, Kindle Fire, and other electronics that were unnecessary clutter. Since I don’t have every single gadget ever made, I was able to spend a little more on the one with the most functionality for me.
Minimalism IS Synonymous With Living Within Your Means
Now, just because minimalism doesn’t mean you have to clip coupons or use holey towels doesn’t mean you can just buy whatever you want. Living simply means learning to live with enough. We bought our house in October and we shopped at the bottom of our price range. This has enabled us to pay off debt faster, and we will have the house paid off within 7 years. We didn’t buy the most expensive thing because a less expensive thing will last us just as long and serve the same purpose. Being in debt is a sign that your priorities are out of line and you are living beyond your means.
As you can see, there is no simple answer to finding a balance between buying high-quality items that last vs. being as frugal as possible. You need to define what minimalism means to you and what it’s function is in your lifestyle, and make purchasing decisions based on those values.
For me living simply means buying less plastic, thinking about purchases and not impulse buying, and often choosing quality over a cheaper price. What does it look like for you?