Minimalism Isn't All or Nothing

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Public Domain. Unsplash – Maybe your version of minimalism is keeping an empty calendar.

It's OK to be a partial or 'selective' minimalist, if you wish.

When you hear the word 'minimalism,' what comes to mind? I tend to picture the interior of a house, painted white and sparsely furnished. It's a beautiful space, if a bit empty and cold. There's a good chance that you have a similar mental image, too, as this is what most proponents of minimalism focus on – purging physical items from one's home space and, for some reason, always painting it white.

While there is valuable philosophy behind the purging of unnecessary goods, i.e. a decluttered space allows for clearer thinking and less wasted time spent tidying and looking for misplaced objects, this version of minimalism can feel limiting. Some people just don't like the look of a stark, white room with nothing in it, nor the level of maintenance that must be required to keep it looking that way, and so they assume that they can't be minimalists.

This is unfortunate. Minimalism is not black and white – I mean that literally and metaphorically – and people should feel free to interpret it as they please, based on their personal interests and aesthetic. For example, a person should be able to identify as a minimalist while living in a brightly colored space, decorated with a handful of funky bohemian furnishings.

Blogger Emma Scheib writes about how it took her a long time to realize this. In a guest post for Becoming Minimalist, she writes that she thought the movement was all about clearing clutter in the home, but in reality it's about more than that – clearing clutter in one's calendar and one's head.

"I was quick to answer ‘yes’ to any new request for my time, resulting in an overflowing calendar. These ‘yes commitments’ meant I was living under constant duress. I began to feel fearful of the life I was creating for myself... Thankfully, the concepts of minimalism taught me the importance of saying no and the courage to enforce personal boundaries that I’d never had before."

I like to think of minimalism as a philosophy that can apply to various aspects of one's life. Whether it's your social obligations, your wardrobe, your children's extracurricular activities and toy collection, your menu planning, beauty routine or approach to travel and gift-giving, you too can be a minimalist.

A broader definition of what it means to be a minimalist will make it more accessible to a greater number of people, which will encourage them to embrace the philosophy. That in turn reduces consumption, promotes face-to-face human interactions, frees up time, saves money, and improves overall quality of life. I also think it has a tendency to spread, and people who start out as single-area minimalists may eventually apply the philosophy to other parts of their lives, too.

The point is to realize that minimalism can be for everyone. Don't get discouraged if you think you can't live in a sterile, white space. You don't have to. Make it your own.