Is This the End of Minimalism?

Inside: I’ve been asked a number of times since the beginning of this global pandemic if I regret going minimalist. If the scarcity of yeast and toilet paper had me regretting my decision to clear the clutter. If this is in fact, the end of minimalism? My answer: not at all.


I couldn’t help but roll my eyes after stumbling upon an article in The Atlantic titled, The End of Minimalism. It was written by a person claiming the current pandemic has somehow proven to the world that holding on to extra magazines and t-shirts for an entire lifetime is far more prudent than learning to live with less. Take it from me, and the handful of minimalists I’ve reached out to, minimalism is far from over.

The last thing I needed during our three month lock down were stacks of extra mixing bowls and dozens of mugs. I didn’t miss my jeans from college- because believe me, I certainly wasn’t getting back into those pants during quarantine. No, I missed hugging my 92-year-old grandmother, and sitting side-by-side, laughing and toasting, with my best friends. With three kids at home, it wasn’t more toys I wished for, it was a moment of silence.

I see where the author of that article is coming from though. As the world began to shut down I wondered the same thing. Have I gone too far? Have I steered people in the wrong direction? Will we as a society now begin to barter with kitchen appliances, and need our old t-shirts and furniture to fuel our fireplaces? How bad is this going to get? During the peak of the shut down, while the world held it’s breath, so did I.

As the dust begins to settle, at least for now, what does this mean for minimalism from a minimalist? Is it over?

I say, no way. I regret nothing. In fact, it was minimalism that left me better prepared for this very situation.

Let me ask you this, what happens when the stuff runs out? No matter how much you stockpile, you’re bound to run out of something. What happens when what you’ve held on to doesn’t provide the relief you thought it would?

Minimalism is a practice in resourcefulness, contentment and generosity. It allows us to realize we actually need much less than we once thought. A minimalist mindset is far more valuable than extra spatulas, expired spices, or an overflowing linen closet.

Perhaps if I had minimized our possessions down so far that we were each sleeping on wooden pallets with a rock as a pillow and a sheet for warmth, I’d have some regrets. But that’s not the kind of minimalist lifestyle the majority of us subscribe to. This isn’t about determining to live with next to nothing for the sake of claiming “minimalism.” It’s about curating a life we love and long to engage in. It’s about eliminating the excess stuff that trips us up, holds us back, and distracts us from living the life we were made to live. None of that has changed because there’s a pandemic. In fact, it’s only helped to accentuate the things we love and need most.

Let’s allow this pandemic to become a litmus test, to help us redefine with greater clarity, what is truly essential and what is not.

It’s not uncommon on the journey toward a clutter free life to find yourself stuck on, “But what if I need it someday?” when ditching the excess. This global pandemic has brought us face-to-face with the things that are actually essential in a crisis. Yes, that may even include a few extra bottles of spaghetti noodles. A back-up blow dryer however, probably isn’t one of them. This is our someday. We can stop asking “What-if?” because we lived it.

Because of our experience in quarantine, decluttering our excess stuff and becoming more conscious consumers has become easier than ever. Instead of asking, “But what if I need it someday?” we can now ask, “But did I end up needing it during that pandemic?”

If anything, this pandemic has given us a first hand look into the fragility of life as we know it, and shown us that the clutter we’ve got stock piled in our closets, storage units and basements won’t be the things that save us in the end. It wasn’t the stuff we went running for when the world began to close.  No, we simply hoped to ensure we had the food we needed, a safe place to shelter, a job to come back to, community to lean on- even if only from a distance, a good book to read, and a bit of hand sanitizer.

In my opinion, what the author of that article is lacking is actual experience living as a minimalist. Minimalism doesn’t limit you, it frees you. It’s not deprivation, but prioritization.


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