Defining Minimalism For Your Real Life

Inside: Our preconceived ideas about minimalism often hinder us from embracing a life that is sure to change the way we see and respond to the world. Here are five popular definitions of minimalism and how they relate to YOUR minimalism for your REAL LIFE. 

I really don’t like the word minimalism. As a self-declared “minimalist,” I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that, but there it is.

I love everything minimalism stands for, but the word itself? Eh, not so much.  It has a tendency to come across as cold, uninviting, and well, a little bit pretentious.

And the thing is, I’m not a minimalist. It’s not who I am. It’s merely something I do. I live a minimalist lifestyle in order to be the best me, live from a place of purpose, and operate at my highest level of contribution. 

If you’ve followed this blog for a good length of time, you know I used to be a bit of a perfectionist. Honestly, I probably still bend that way, just less so these days. But early on, my minimalism was just one more method I could use to control outcomes. 

However, like breaking in a snug pair of skinny jeans, my real life minimalism began to stretch and shape, moving to fit the life I’m crafting. I’ve got to say, it’s fitting quite nicely. Now, if only we could do something about that pesky title.

The Word Minimalism is Typically Associated With:

  • Cold and uninviting homes
  • Perfectly curated decor
  • Man buns
  • Limited to no hobbies
  • Uncomfortable (if any) furniture
  • Dress like a hobo (I mean, I guess I do that a fair amount)
  • Perfectly tidy home
  • No modern day amenities such as a washing machine, dishwasher, television, or a car
  • Hand washing your laundry everyday
  • Must live in either an RV, downtown loft, refurbished school bus, or in a VW van down by the river.
Definition of Minimalism
Photo by Lisa van Dam on Unsplash

For as long as I can remember, I assumed a minimalist lifestyle was an undesirable life of deprivation. It was for hipsters, monks and crazy people willing to live a life of discomfort, boredom and blandness. Minimalism could never be for me. Besides, life was just too short to settle for “less.” Life was for living to the fullest.

It wasn’t until my ah-ha moment, when I recognized the irony of my assumption.

I was the one who had been settling. Settling for a life chasing the wrong things. Settling for the monotony of managing possessions and striving for approval.

Minimalism helped me find my way back. Back to a home I love, a life full of meaning, and back to the person I was created to be.

A Little Clarity Can Go a Long Way

When someone learns I’m a minimalist, the first thing I try to do is explain away the crazy. I can’t help but assume they too have the same preconceived ideas about minimalism as I once did. I say things like:

“Well, I mean, we didn’t sell our house and car or anything.”

“We still have stuff, just like, not as much as before.”

“I don’t buy as many clothes as I used to. And we keep a simple wardrobe for our kids so mornings are so much easier now.”

“You’d probably think I was lying if you walked in my home around 4:30pm on any given weekday.”

However, if you take a closer look, if you really get to know me, you’ll see my real life minimalism has absolutely nothing to do with what I own or the type of items I opt to keep. In fact, you may even have less square footage, fewer spatulas, vehicles and modern day amenities than we do. While I’m constantly paring down, the stuff isn’t the point.

Real Life Minimalism

Our real life minimalism is messy and tidy, intense and calm, busy and slow. Because we are real people, simply putting one foot in front of the other, just like everybody else.

Here are a four definitions of minimalism that have helped shape my minimalism to fit me and the life I’m crafting.

Joshua Becker

“The intentional promotion of things that matter and the removal of everything that distracts from that.” – Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

Definition of Minimalism
Photo credit Jamie Lynn Photography

My minimalism came from the recognition that I get to decide what matters most. Nobody else gets to dictate that. I get to decide for myself which things to intentionally promote and which to ditch.

Greg McKeown

“It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution.” – Greg McKeown, Essentialism

Definition of Minimalism
Photo by Chungkuk Bae on Unsplash

While my becoming a minimalist simply began as a desire to own fewer toys, I quickly realized it was in fact, a search and rescue operation for my heart. Even now, every layer I remove reveals more about the way I was intentionally created.

My real life minimalism unraveled my soul. It’s through the clearing away of the unimportant that we discover who we are, buried deep beneath the rubble of our accumulation and overcommitment.

The Minimalists

“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” – The Minimalists

what is a minimalist

I use what I use. What I use is not the excess.

The excess is that stuff in the basement, back of the closet and shelves in the garage, waiting for my “what ifs.” I’m not concerned with pairing down to nothing. It’s about ditching that excess, so I can easily access what it is I do use and let what I don’t need become a blessing to someone else.

Rachelle Crawford

“Minimalism is a guardrail, not a destination. It keeps us moving toward a meaningful life by allowing us to more easily identify and eliminate distractions.” -Rachelle Crawford, Abundant Life With Less

defining minimalism

My ah-ha moment was a double take, a shaken awake moment where I blinked the fog of sleep from my eyes and saw for the first time that I had been wandering in circles. Minimalism is a  guardrail that helps keep me on a course toward a more meaningful life.

The common thread that weaves through each of these definitions is this;

Live with Intention

It was this recognition, that minimalism was nothing more than intentionally using my time that shifted everything for me. My stuff was just one giant roadblock keeping me from the life I’ve always wanted. Not wealth, status, or the latest and greatest.

Just an undistracted life of purpose.

Whatever You Call it, Make it Yours

Call it living with less, minimalism, essentialism, simple living or an abundant life with less. Heck, come up with your own word, I don’t care. The most important thing is that we make it our own!

So here I am, with probably still a few too many toothbrushes in our home, working, relatively effortlessly at this point, toward less for the sake of more. This real life minimalism is for everyone. Join me. The benefits keep stacking. I promise, it’s worth it.

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Declutter Your Life

3 years ago I was overwhelmed with my life, while growing more underwhelmed with it’s direction by the second. It felt as though all of my time and energy was going toward the accumulation and management of STUFF. What little time I had left over went toward overbooking and overcommitting my family to all.the.thing! 

When introduced to the concept of minimalism and everything changed!

Living with less will gift you the time, space and much needed perspective to put the things that truly matter most first. If you’d like some help getting started download my FREE Beginner’s Guidebook to: Declutter Like a Minimalist. It takes a deep dive into the 7 important steps to getting started as highlighted in my popular post, Declutter Like a Minimalist.

It’s time to stop managing our families and start leading them!

Declutter Like a Minimalist Guidebook

11 thoughts on “Defining Minimalism For Your Real Life

  1. Good morning! This email had me laughing and nodding. I, too, have one too many toothbrushes so to speak. While getting to the essence of living a simpler more purposeful life, I thought I was simultaneously living a lie. How could I be a “minimalist” while having a house (not a tiny home, RV, lean-to..etc.), loving a good soak in a hot bath, and owning more than 1 pair of jeans? Yes, if you see our home at the end of the day it can look like a bomb exploded. Piles of papers, dinner cooking, talking, laughter and life’s mess. A happy home – perfectly imperfect. I know I’ve still got more to “remove” in order to attain where I would like us to be…there are still days that I look around and say, “but look how far we’ve come!”. We are focused more on our core values – family, friends and our community than we have ever been. We have learned that scaling back on “commitments” and some possessions has indeed created time & space for all sorts of fun (more outdoor time, personal time and creative time). We are in this for the long haul and look forward to what is next on this fun, crazy journey. Thank you for this post. We will be re-reading it often. Ps: no man-bun’s in this family… haaaaaaaa.

  2. Hello! I love this. ❤️ Our perfectly imperfect minimalism is sustainable for the long haul. Counting our toothbrushes is not! ???????? And I love your reminder to focus on how far we’ve come. It’s just so easy to forget. Thank you for sharing!❤️

  3. You’ve gently reminded us to free ourselves from the minimalist label … and simply live out this calling with grace and peace.

    Beautiful, Rachelle …

  4. I love this sentence: “Our real life minimalism is messy and tidy, intense and calm, busy and slow. Because we are real people, simply putting one foot in front of the other, just like everybody else.” I’ve been working (slowly) on simplifying my life (including possessions) for a couple of years now (ever since I read Marie Kondo’s book) but it’s hard to tell people sometimes because my house is still messy most of the time and I think they expect it to go from chaos to perfection overnight. However, when I do want to clean & tidy it’s easier now and I am starting to notice more calm and more time for myself, that’s my motivation to keep going.

  5. Thank you for this article, it really resonated with me. This part sums up my feelings perfectly: “I’m not concerned with pairing down to nothing. It’s about ditching that excess, so I can easily access what it is I do use and let what I don’t need become a blessing to someone else.” I’ve learned that spending less time on purchasing and managing possessions has left me with more time for doing things I really value – and also helps reduce our monthly credit card bill 🙂

  6. I, too, dislike the term “minimalist” because it sounds so innately negative. It stresses the getting-rid-of-things stage, but what about the positives that remain? I still love the term “simple living” and wish we would return to that.

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