I really love the definition of a minimalist person from vocabulary.com. It simply states that a person may be called a minimalist if they have an interest in keeping things very simple. I love this definition because it opens up the concept of minimalism and makes it accessible to everyone.
There is a huge focus on decluttering and getting rid of ones stuff in the world of minimalism speak right now. Because of this, many people tend to discount the idea that minimalism is for them, or that they can be a minimalist.
At the heart of every minimalist is a desire to connect with what is most important to them and what they value. ~ Jodie from Simple Minded
Google “minimalism is boring”, “bad for you”, or “a crock of you know what”, and you’ll find many results. The story usually goes something like this – the person read Marie Kondo’s book or subscribed to the idea of throwing out most their closet or belongings and now they’re having a “holy crap what have I done” moment.
As a rebuttal to minimalism, an article from Architectural Digest attempts to swing the pendulum completely in the opposite direction touting messiness is where it’s at. They explain that messiness has many benefits and makes us more creative. The article even cites a study that says piles of clothing on the floor are an organizational system. I personally love that last one as I used that organizational system for years!
So who is right? This question takes me back to the definition I shared earlier, that an interest in keeping things very simple is a minimalist trait. However, my idea of keeping things simple is completely different than someone else’s. Yours may be too and that is the beautiful thing about minimalism, regardless of what you’ve heard – there is no right or wrong way.
Most likely you fall into one of the minimalist types shared below. If you’d like to know more, keep reading to discover your minimalist personality type.
What Makes Someone a Minimalist?
Does having a perfectly decluttered home or zero debt make you a minimalist? Can you be a minimalist if you are not rich? Live in a big house? Live in a colorful house? Like to collect things? Are messy?
I’ve read many books and articles on the subject and have personally been practicing minimalism in one form or another since the early 00s. What I’ve learned is the most important determining factor for whether someone is a minimalist is actually not based on their number of “things”, “size of their living space”, or “size of their bank account”.
What makes someone a minimalist is knowing what they value and choosing to live intentionally and according to those values. The result is many times a reduction in things, but not always. Minimalism does not always look the way we might think.
I often speak about knowing your “why”. When we don’t know our why we coast along letting life’s circumstances and other people control how we spend our time, money, and ultimately our lives. We accumulate ideas, relationships, experiences, and belongings without much thought often leaving us feeling out of control, unhappy, unfulfilled, and discontent in the end.
At the heart of every minimalist is a desire to connect with what is most important to them and what they value – to remove excess and/or things that don’t align with those values.
What Minimalism is Not
It is not a one size fits all solution. It is personal. Where most people fail with minimalism is trying to subscribe to someone else’s idea of it. Let’s take a look at some of the common misconceptions and discuss what it is and is not.
How Many Things Your Own
Minimalism is not about how many things you own. Just because there are some who are able to completely live out of a backpack or others who choose to live in sparsely decorated spaces, that doesn’t mean that you have to do the same.
The goal of minimalism is not to own as few things as possible. Instead, it is a focus on assessing the things you need in your life to live comfortably and without unnecessary clutter and/or possessions (whatever that looks like for you).
We are constantly bombarded by the media and society telling us what we need to be happy and successful. Embracing minimalism is about tuning those voices out and listening to your own voice.
It is about letting go of and removing things from your life that do not add value and in fact subtract value or move you further out of alignment with how you want to live. It’s about gaining control over your life by removing things that have become barriers and/or burdens.
Decluttering and Getting Rid of Everything You Own
Minimalism is not the same as decluttering. While decluttering can be used to edit your belongings – the act of decluttering alone doesn’t make one a minimalist.
Minimalism is also not about trying to get rid of everything you own. The end goal is not to see how little you can keep. Instead the goal is becoming intentional about what you keep and becoming better at recognizing material possessions that steal your time, energy, money and joy.
It is a mindset and form of mindfulness. As you become more mindful and aware, the natural progression is you start to get rid of things that no longer serve you.
Minimalism is not about depriving yourself of things you enjoy and love. Many people assume they have to give up most of their stuff, live with the bare essentials, or give up their collections, hobbies, and other activities that have physical materials attached to them.
This is not true. Minimalism can actually make more room in your life for the things you love. While minimalism is definitely about getting rid of items that are unused, clutter your life, or are kept out of guilt or a sense of obligation, it is not about getting rid of items you love and use.
If you love books, have books. If you love crafts, keep your crafting supplies. If you love multiple sports, you’re allowed to have the sporting goods needed to enjoy and participate in those sports. Minimalism is about creating more joy in your life, not taking it away.
Just For the Rich and Financially Free
Minimalism is not just for the rich and financially free. The idea stems from the belief that you can’t afford to buy nicer, higher quality things if you don’t have a lot of money. Most people with this misconception also worry that they won’t be able to easily replace an item if they declutter and decide they need it later.
Minimalism can ultimately help you save money in the long run and spend less when it is used as a tool for evaluating what you truly need. There is also no rule that says you must buy new items if you are a minimalist.
In fact some of the highest quality clothing in my wardrobe was purchased for less than $5 by thrifting and some of my nicest home decor items were acquired on the side of the road. Yep, I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve collected other peoples roadside “garbage”.
Minimalism can work for anyone regardless of their budget or socioeconomic status.
About Cold Unfeeling Empty Spaces
Minimalism is not about cold, unfeeling, empty stark white spaces. This is a common image that comes to mind when some people think about minimalism. As I discuss this in this article, there is a minimalist aesthetic in art and design where the focus is on clean lines and austere spaces, but minimalism as a lifestyle doesn’t follow the same rules.
Your living space can look however you like. It’s more about having things you love and use in your space and not their design aesthetic. While a minimalist living space can have white walls and feature modern clean lines, it can also be warm, cozy and inviting, and colorful.
Like everything else mentioned thus far, it’s about knowing what you value and what you like and including those items in your living space.
A Challenge or a Set of Rules
Minimalism is not a challenge, a set of rules, or a game. Yes, you can find all of these items if you google them. And, if you’re someone who has an enormous amount of clutter, they can be a good starting point.
However, they are not a necessity or required. As mentioned earlier, one of the quickest ways to fail with minimalism trying to force yourself to adhere to someone else’s set of rules or idea of what it is.
For example, I love Marie Kondo. Her book has literally changed my life. However, there are some things I’ve gotten rid of by following her system that I now wish I had – especially books. I’ve actually taken to recollecting some of the books I initially got rid of as the recommendation in her The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up book is to keep no more than 30.
Challenges and rules can be a great place to start, but don’t feel defeated if you’re not able to follow them to a tee. Make learning what you love and value your end goal, not a number of items. I still personally struggle with this concept when it comes to my wardrobe.
13 Types of Minimalist – Which Type Are You?
Now that we’ve discussed what minimalism is and isn’t, it’s easy to see how there’s not one nice little box all minimalist fit into. I have to admit I’ve got a love hate relationship with boxes and labels. They can over generalize, marginalize, and sometimes do more harm than good when used in a negative way. But they can be useful tools.
In my quest to better understand minimalism, I’ve come across a couple interesting articles on No Sidebar and Apartment Therapy that classify different minimalist personality types. Being a huge fan of numerology, Meyers Briggs, and other personality systems, these classifications are right up my alley.
If you already practice minimalism they’re fun to read and may help you expand on your practice. If you’re new to minimalism, or think you can’t be a minimalist, perhaps they’ll provide some insight and ideas to help you see how minimalism can fit into your life. I’ve condensed the types shared in the articles and added a few of my own below.
Aesthetic minimalist are all about the visuals and keeping things looking clean and sparse. They may own a lot of things, but don’t keep them on display. Their belongings are organized, put away, and out of sight. If you imagine what most people envision when they think about minimalism; white walls, modern design, and very minimal decor, you have an aesthetic minimalists dream home.
What they love: The visual appearance of clean modern lines and spaces free of clutter.
You might be one if: If know your Mies Van der Rohe, I.M. Pei, and swoon over every item at Design Within Reach – you are probably an aesthetic minimalist.
These folks love a minimalism challenge and enjoy making a game of seeing how much they can live without. Owning less is a priority and they seek to cut their belongings down to only the essentials. Purchasing quality is at the top of their list and they always try to buy the best they can afford.
Ideally they want their belongings to last for many years if not forever.
What they love: Figuring out ways to do more with less and “trimming the fat”.
You might be one if: You detest shopping in bulk and prefer to buy only what you need on a weekly basis. You’ve paired your wardrobe down to 33 or less items.
Nomads at heart, these minimalists value experiences over things. Sometimes called a “backpack minimalist” these are the folks you hear about that own less than a hundred items and can fit everything they own into their car or a backpack. They own less stuff so they have the freedom to move about as they please.
They may not have anything against owning more things, they simply own less at the moment to support their nomadic lifestyle.
What they love: Figuring out ways to travel light with only the essentials.
You might be one if: You can imagine getting rid of all your stuff in order to travel or live tiny in order to spend more time doing things.
These minimalist value sustainability, green living, and the environmental impact of the stuff they own. Their biggest goal is to reduce waste and live off the land as much as possible. You can often find them composting, growing food in their own garden, homesteading, or aspiring to be a homesteader.
The sustainable minimalist will own more things such as land, tools and supplies if it allows them to be more self-sufficient.
What they love: DIYing everything and the satisfaction of providing for themselves, especially if done in a zero-waste eco-conscious way.
You might be one if: You made the outfit you’re wearing or ate at least one thing you grew in the last week.
Frugal minimalists share some things in common with the sustainable type such as growing their own food and their DIYing tendencies. However, their motivation is a little different. They are less motivated by zero-waste and more motivated by finances. Saving money is a top priority.
They seek to get the most out of their hard earned money by investing in quality items that will last for a long time, repairing and using what they have for as long as they can, and only replacing something when absolutely necessary.
What they love: Finding items for free, any kind of swap and upcycling.
You might be one if: You’ve refinished or painted a piece of furniture or have chosen to mend a blouse rather than buy a new one.
For the mindful minimalist, the focus is on removing excess as a way of finding more peace, calm, and living a less stressful life. They seek to devote their time and energy to things, people, and relationships that they value.
Living with less allows them to focus their energy on these things. They are mindful of how they spend their time and money and they practice moderation as a way to feel light, stress-free, and have more time to do the things they love.
What they love: Taking time to find items that resonate with their purpose and bring them joy.
You might be one if: Read books about practicing mindfulness and finding joy in everyday mundane activities.
Similar to the mindful minimalist, finding items that deeply resonate with their values is important to the sage minimalist. However, while the mindful minimalist seeks to have more peace and calm, the sage minimalist seeks to feel a sense of spirituality and connectedness to everything in their life.
They seek experiences and belongings in which they see beauty. They tend to own less stuff because they want to savor the things they experience and allow into their lives.
What they love: Sitting in silence outdoors in a beautiful natural setting or finding the perfect handmade bowl for their salad.
You might be one if: You talk to anything you own. Uh huh, I hear you talking to that inanimate object.
These minimalists are the outspoken ones that you hear going up against our consumerist culture. They are the ones protesting for change, urging you to go zero-waste, and sometimes getting a little bit militant with their ideas.
They live with less so they can follow their passions where they lead and they urge you to join them by living tiny, going zero-waste, eating vegan, ditching all your belongings, or whatever their latest cause – they speak it loud and clear.
While they may sometimes make you feel guilty about, well – just about anything you purchase, it comes from a place of passion and concern for the environment and sustainability.
What they love: Sharing their knowledge and pointing out ways the be more sustainable.
You might be one if: You’ve been asked to stop sharing your knowledge or pointing out ways to be more sustainable by a friend or family member.
Fed Up Minimalist
These folks are the minimalist who have drank the Kool-Aid that we’re typically fed from society. They’ve achieved the successful job, the big house, and all the stuff that comes with it. Yet, they’ve found themselves stressed out, exhausted, and surrounded by a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make them happy.
They’ve had a wake up call and are simply fed up with the status quo. These folks typically go minimalist and downsize in a big way, which usually comes as a HUGE shock to their friends and family who just don’t understand.
What they love: Decluttering on a massive scale and downsizing.
You might be one if: You’ve considered leaving your job, selling your house, or getting rid of everything you own because you are fed up and don’t like any of it.
The ethical minimalist shares a lot of the same qualities as the rebel minimalist they just go about affecting change in a different way. They are less militant and vocal with their ideals and choose to put their time and money where their ethics are.
They often shop ethically made items and donate to causes that have a positive sustainable impact. They support organizations that are transparent with their production practices, pay fair living wages, and support local communities and growth for everyone.
What they love: Supporting brands and organizations that have a positive impact.
You might be one if: Transparency and ethical practices are a determining factor when you shop.
These minimalist desire to be free from debt and financial obligation so they can live a carefree life and spend their time as they please. They may or may not be part of the F.I.R.E. (financial freedom retire early) movement. They are huge savers and have made the conscious choice to live with less in order to save as much money as possible.
Their goal is usually to earn enough money to be financially secure so that working is optional and they can spend their time on things they care about.
What they love: Watching their savings grow in their favorite budgeting app.
You might be one if: You deprive yourself of things so you can save more money.
This minimalist type seeks to know themselves and express authenticity in all areas of their lives. They want to be themselves and not subscribe to others ideas of how they should live, what they should own, and how they should spend their money.
They see their belongings as outward expressions of who they are inside and what they value. Their possessions have meaning and a personal story behind them.
What they love: Finding one of a kind things that no one else has.
You might be one if: You’ve had anything you own custom made.
This individual may be a secret minimalist or interested in applying some minimalist principles but avoids calling themselves a minimalist. They subscribe to just being minimal-ish.
Either they feel they don’t fully meet minimalist guidelines how they see them or they don’t want to carry the label or pressure that is sometimes placed on those who claim the minimalist label.
What they love: Collecting minimalist ideas and dabbling in minimalist practices to test the waters.
You might be one if: You’ve experimented with decluttering, a capsule wardrobe and other minimalist activities, but haven’t dare mention it to anyone.
Minimalism is not about depriving yourself of things you enjoy and love. ~ Jodie from Simple Minded
A Simple Minimalist Manifesto
If a minimalist person can be defined by the trait of keeping things very simple. Define what keeping things very simple means to you and then strive to intentionally live that way every day.
For me, it is about cutting through the noise and living according to my values.
Often the motto is “less is more”. However, I encourage you to look at minimalism not through the lens of “less” and the items you may let go, but through the lens of “more” and what you stand to gain.