What is Minimalism?

Updated: Jan 27, 2019

{What are the Rules for Becoming a Minimalist? + 7 Magical Tips from Marie Kondo}


First off, I’m not a self-pronounced minimalist. If anything, I’m quite the opposite. I’m a maximalist in the process of learning how to reduce the number of things in my life. 

I’m basically your average American millennial who grew up during the 90s and early 2000s. Like many of my peers, I am an indoctrinated consumer since practically infancy via TV, radio, print media; later on in my teens it was in the form of online shopping, smart phones, and social media apps. I grew up in an era of excessive bounty and never even thought twice about it. You could say that I’ve been both very fortunate and also blindly taking it for granted. 

Now that the age of 30 is creeping up on me, I’m am in the process of re-assigning value in my life. Put simply, I’m questioning and re-assessing what is most important to me and then working towards learning how to stay focused on those things. Out of everything so far, the movement towards minimalist living has had the most direct impact on my life.


Let's start with what minimalism is NOT. Minimalism isn't a competition for who owns less, doesn’t make you more or less enlightened than anyone else, and doesn’t suit everyone. If you want to collect seashells because it makes you happy, then do it. If you only want 2 pairs of underwear, go for it. There are no hard and fast rules, and anyone who says otherwise should know where to shove it. Just saying.

Minimalism IS a lifestyle choice, and lifestyle choices are never really a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. This is why there are so many varied opinions on the topic ranging from "extreme" minimalists who own 100 items or less, to the "really, you think only having 50 lipsticks is minimal?!" types of minimalists.

Loosely defined, minimalism is a form of intentional living and conscious consumerism. It's about letting go of things that you don’t need or want which are currently occupying time, space, and resources in your life. When the clutter is culled, it's about curating and cultivating what is left and deciding what comes next with the goal of personal contentment at the forefront of your own subjective planning.


SO.  Every year I go on a Spring cleaning rampage to reset and clear out my space. I was in the midst of looking up articles like “82 Ways to De-Clutter this Spring!” or “Top 10 Cleaning Hacks” when I happened upon an extremely positive review of Marie Kondo’s book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I impulsively bought it on Amazon with one-click ordering.

Once I had it in my hands, I read it in a single afternoon and then re-read sections of it the next day. The thing that I love about this book is that it is easy and fun to read while providing clear and simple steps on how to tackle decluttering your home and belongings.

This book, IMHO, is the book to start out with because it gives actionable advice on how to thoroughly declutter. It addresses the thought patterns, habits, and choices that lead to the accumulation of clutter and why it can be so difficult to let go of our belongings. The book also covers how to stay decluttered once you've accomplished sorting through your belongings in one big swoop. Marie Kondo also puts an emphasis on minimal living being an individual goal to consciously chose what you keep in your life, rather than giving restrictions or only focusing on what has to go.


1. Envision your ideal day-to-day life and exactly how it would look. Write it down. 

2. Set the goal of surrounding yourself with things that “Spark Joy” in your life. 

3. Give yourself permission to let go of the things that no longer bring happiness into your life, even if it once did and still holds sentimental value. Give yourself permission to let go of things you don’t need, don’t want, or don’t like.

4. Question the things in your life : “Do I need this?” | “Does this make me happy?” | “When was the last time I used this?” | “Could this bring more joy to another person?” (via donation or re-gifting) | “Can this be recycled into something that brings someone else joy?” | “Is this worth the valuable space / time / maintenance that it requires?” (See Full List Here)

5. Instead of feeling guilty, sad, or uncertain about letting things go, be strong and confident in your decisions and be thankful for the experience you did get out of those things. One of her examples is that maybe an unworn, new shirt teaches you what you don't like. Now you know to avoid that style or type of fast fashion in the future.

6. Once you’ve made space, it’s OK to thoughtfully bring new things into your life (with the idea of quality over quantity in mind) that "Spark Joy". 

7. You can apply all of the above statements to almost everything in your life, not just your belongings. For example, you can let go of friendships that no longer spark joy, be thankful for the experiences you gained from that person, and move on to letting new people into your life that do truly spark joy. 


Although I didn’t agree with every single suggestion she had in her book (I refuse to spend time folding underwear. Sorry, not sorry!), these 7 overall points from “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” sounded pretty good to me. I picked up a box of 30 gallon trash bags from Aldi and began my quest for things that "Spark Joy".

As I have continued down a path towards a more minimalist lifestyle, I've come to the realization that this is definitely one of those situations where you need to make a mess before anything gets clean and orderly. Also, that it's not going to happen in one day. Marie Kondo specifically mentions in her book that many of her clients take 6 - 9 months to complete the initial round of decluttering. And that's totally OK, because it's a worthwhile endeavor.

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