There’s no such thing as letting people just live their life free from judgement. No matter what you do or don’t do, there are people in the peanut gallery judging your every move. I figured it was time to acknowledge some of the worst things being said about minimalists.
As with most modern day disputes the main source of negativity comes from a small but vocal minority. Almost every grievance about minimalism stems from being mis-informed or ignorant to the reality they supposedly hate.
Before we dive into all the misinformation about minimalism, let me tell you why I love minimalism. Minimalism took me from being an overwhelmed suburban housewife to living out of six suitcases with my family of four. Our entire life shifted from accumulation to exploration over the course of our minimalist journey.
What is Minimalism?
According to the dictionary, minimalism is a style of art, music, or design that uses very simple ideas or a very small number of simple elements.
But the minimalism movement is much more than the current definition describes. Minimalism is a lifestyle that seeks to shift focus towards the important things in life.
What someone considers important is a key factor that will determine what kind of minimalist they will become. Likewise, what distractions a person has in their life will dictate the types of minimalism that would help them.
Not everyone has positive feelings towards the minimalism lifestyle. People watching the movement from the sidelines, current minimalists, and ex-minimalists all have different criticisms.
I don’t want anyone to think people practicing minimalism have put blinders on and aren’t open to discussing weaknesses of the trend. While at times it might feel like I’ve drank the kool-aid, I promise, I give regular thought to the macro concept of minimalism.
Worst Things Being Said About Minimalism
Minimalism is just a trend, it’s not a sustainable lifestyle
It’s an interesting defense mechanism to paint minimalism as just a trend. Labeling something a trend is very dismissive. People avoid engaging in a behavior that is supposedly going to be short lived.
If I were to flip this argument around, I would assert that capitalism is just a trend. Powerful companies endlessly chasing profits and ruthlessly exploiting their employees is not sustainable. The shrinking middle class continues to see more and more evidence of their own exploitation.
People are sick of “distracting themselves from the pathetic emptiness of their meaningless, consumer-driven lives.” -Kat Stratford Minimalism is an attempt to take back autonomy.
Minimalism is boring, there’s no room for creativity or expression
Mis-information leads people to believe that minimalism only looks one way. The only quote, rule for minimalism, is that you focus on the important things. For some minimalists that might mean a rainbow color explosion on every single item they own.
Many artists using all kinds of mediums express themselves using minimalist principles. Canvas’s painted one solid color, sculptures with crisp lines, or glass creations intended to blend in with nature are all minimalist. Street art is minimalist too by some definitions of minimalism.
Becoming a minimalist can help creative people reduce distractions to have more time and energy to focus on their art. Spending less on clutter and more on art supplies could be their minimalist profile. Remember, minimalism is not a one size fits all lifestyle. There are many different types of minimalists.
Minimalism is too extreme, it’t not realistic for most people
I bet it doesn’t shock you to hear that minimalism is a spectrum. Yes, there are extreme minimalists who obsess over owning under a certain item count. But, on the other side there are people who practice minimalism light.
Think of minimalism like a buffet. You can go down the buffet and pick what you want while leaving the rest for somebody else. Some people practice minimalism in only certain areas of their lives, while others consider it a part of their personality and let it seep into every aspect of their lives.
Either way, if anyone tries to tell you that minimalism is only one thing, they are mis-understanding the concept entirely. Minimalism is what you make it.
Minimalism is only for the rich, who can afford to buy expensive, high-quality items
You didn’t think I was going to disagree with every negative thing being said about minimalists, did you? I actually do recognize that being in the mental state and financial position to embrace minimalism is a privilege.
Wealthier people can get rid of almost anything without fear that they could re-obtain that item if it became needed again in the future. Less affluent people are more likely to hang onto things just in case, because there is no guarantee they could afford to buy that item again if they needed it in the future.
Additionally, having more money does allow you to buy longer lasting items in the first place versus poor quality things. Spending more up front also provides the advantage of getting the exact right thing for their needs instead of a pieced together solution which is likely less minimalistic.
Minimalism is just a way for people to show off their wealth and status
It’s not hard to see how someone operating with a scarcity mindset would view minimalism as a wealth flex. Finding meaning beyond possessions is a privilege for those with more time and resources.
If people practicing minimalism is a trigger for you, I encourage you to reach out. We don’t intend to make people feel bad with our lifestyle. Of course, we want to embrace everyone. Helping people live more meaningful lives fills my soul.
Minimalism is just an excuse for people to be lazy and put no effort into their appearance
Ok, this one is hilarious to me because I haven’t put on makeup or worn a bra in nearly three years. I was blaming that behavior on the covid era, but it probably does have something to do with minimalism as well.
Seriously, what’s wrong with people not putting effort into their appearance? One of the most outrageous lies ever constructed was convincing women that makeup was for their own self-confidence. God forbid a woman feel confident without the aid of purchased products.
Critics call minimalism lazy because they are socially conditioned to think things are supposed to be a certain way. Who makes these supposed expectations anyway? How someone looks is nobody’s business but their own. Minimalism allows you to look just dandy without makeup or some on trend look that you’ve been convinced is tied to your self-worth.
Minimalism is just another way for companies to sell more products and make more money
It’s interesting that a critic of minimalism would feel the need to stand up for giant corporations as if they need an advocate. From an economic point of view it is more advantages generally to sell more low quality pairs of shoes repeatedly than for all consumers to invest in high quality shoes. Anyone who can afford better quality items to begin with will usually spend less over time on that product category.
There is a mini industry surrounding the minimalist movement which promotes educational products, storage solutions, and wardrobe choices. I’m here for all of that considering the value minimalism has brought into my life. You might also consider that the minimalists creating products are extremely small business owners and supporting them has a huge impact versus the drop in a bucket your Amazon purchase makes to their business.
Can minimalism be practiced without spending any money? Absolutely. If you feel like you can dive in and become a minimalist without reading a book, investing in a course, or paying for coaching, by all means that’s 100% possible. But if saving a few dollars means you drag out the process for years, you might want to consider what your time is worth. You can become the person you were meant to be sooner because of the years current minimalists spent learning how to become better minimalists.
Minimalism is selfish, it’s only focused on the individuals needs and not the needs of others
On the contrary, minimalism is all about connection. Most people go buy a hammer if they need a hammer. A minimalist on the other hand would probably ask a neighbor. Being willing to not be autonomous is a very common aspect of the minimalist journey.
American culture has ingrained in us that the only person you can rely on is yourself. Minimalism considers consumer impact on the earth, creating community connections through borrowing, and fostering relationships through shared experiences.
I try to look at these negative things being said about minimalists with an open mind. Although, this one is just out of left field. Minimalism has helped me feel more connected than ever. I am much less stressed and therefore in a better position to be willing to help others while in turn becoming more open to rely on my community.
Minimalism is not culturally sensitive and does not take into account different cultural background and beliefs
It is true that certain cultural and religious beliefs engage in a lot of ceremonial activities that require stuff. Luckily, nowhere in the minimalist founding documents does it say that you must get rid of items you don’t want to be rid of.
This argument is just another version of whataboutism. As I have noted, there is no manual for this lifestyle. If a religious person wants to dedicate an entire wing of their house to possessions for ceremonies, have at it. Keep anything that brings you joy and allows you to focus on the important things in your life.
Just continue considering what your real goals in life are. You are under no obligation to keep doing the cultural or religious traditions of your past, just because you’ve always done them. Doing things out of habit is not the same as wanting to do them.
Minimalism is not suitable for people with children or those with a big family
As a mom, this is probably the most common push back on minimalism that I receive. People tell me that they intend to become minimalists once their kids are grown. Basically, they see the value in minimalism but want to delay action until they deem it socially appropriate to take the action.
I began my minimalist journey because of my kids not in spite of them. I couldn’t find my daughter’s doll and she got upset. My piles of crap hid the doll so well on the kitchen counter that I couldn’t find it. Watching Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and that one incident sparked my six year journey with minimalism.
My family wouldn’t be considered large with two adults and two kids. However, I’ve coached with families having four children who were happily pursuing minimalism. Parent’s say all the time that they would die for their children. Instead of dying, do the harder thing, truly live.
Minimalism For All
Whatever brought you to this article, I hope you found it. If you came here because you’re considering becoming a minimalist but something is holding you back, welcome to the community. Instead, maybe you’re part of the vocal minority who wants to trash talk minimalism, welcome to the community.
My intention here is not to judge where you are coming from but to inspire on where you can go. I used to be a corporations dream client. Consumerism was a hobby. Then one day I had a lightbulb moment. I hope my words can create clarity for other people seeking happiness in their lives.