Exploring Minimalism


Have you heard of minimalism? It seems that word has become quite popular recently, and for good reason. Many are struggling under the weight of overwhelming schedules and accumulated possessions. The idea of living simply, of having only what we need, is appealing. Recently, a group of three fellow organizers and I gathered with the goal of exploring minimalism. This group, who together have formed a consortium called FOCUS* to offer community education on organizing and productivity, identified minimalism as a topic that many people want to learn more about. Some recurring questions included:

  • What is minimalism?
  • Does it have to be “all or nothing?”
  • Is minimalism only for the young/single set?
  • Can you be a minimalist and a parent?
  • What’s the best way to incorporate minimalism into daily living?

We quickly acknowledged that if we, as professional organizers, were asking these questions, then others probably were as well. In response, we decided to form a casual meet-up group to talk about it. We picked a date, time and place for our first meeting, and invited the community to join us for a drink, some guacamole and conversation. In spite of a powerful storm, a group gathered at the local taco bar for a wonderful discussion. Here are some of the headlines from our first meeting.

We asked participants to define what exactly is minimalism? How would you describe it to another person?

Having only what we really need

Most of us feel we probably have more than we need.

Having what we need for what we love

The group resonated with the idea of identifying priorities, and then adjusting our time and belongings to align with the areas we individually identify as important. We also acknowledged that what matters to one person will likely be different from what matters to another, so no single solution applies. It’s okay to collect “more” for our hobbies and passions.

Weeding out… learning not to keep too much

Most of this conversation swirled around de-cluttering and decision-making. Attendees admitted that it can be hard to let go of things. Sometimes we are emotionally connected; other times we second-guess ourselves because we spent a lot on an item, got a great bargain, or received it from someone special. This process can be difficult. Shedding is not perceived to be as much fun as acquiring.

Having a way to figure out how much is too much

For one person it might be four plates and four mugs, but for another, it might mean a butler’s pantry full of entertaining pieces. There was also discussion on how to limit what is kept for a periodic or potential need vs. daily concrete needs and desires.

Setting boundaries so we know what to keep and what to shed

One idea that surfaced was the concept of boundaries. Living a minimalist lifestyle necessitates that we self-impose some limitations on how much we own and how much time we program. This isn’t an automatic process, and many people don’t intentionally draw definable limits. Minimalists have chosen to actively erect these boundaries to help facilitate a desired lifestyle.

A mindset

Minimalism is not a one-time event where we conduct a massive clear out and then return to “life as normal.” Instead, it necessitates a shift in thinking that is brought to bear on every detail of life. The minimalist seeks to cultivate a simple environment, and works toward that end every day.

After sharing our own thoughts, we turned to some wisdom from the “experts.”

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, a.k.a. “The Minimalists,” have shared this definition:

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.

Joshua Becker of “becoming minimalist” explains his approach as:

“an intentional journey to own less stuff… removing unnecessary personal possessions”

because …

“My belongings were not adding value to my life. Instead, they were subtracting from it.”

    *     *     *

One thing that became clear throughout our conversation was that minimalism offers true benefits. Minimalism shouldn’t be a painful process of loss, but a freeing pathway to a higher quality of life. Some of the benefits of pursuing minimalism that we came up with included:

  • Being able to do more and travel more
  • Enjoying a space we feel comfortable in
  • Less time spent taking care of possessions we don’t use or care about and more time spent enjoying the belongings we love
  • Freedom from the guilt of feeling we’ve wasted time and money

While the benefits of minimalism were evident, the group also acknowledged that it can be difficult to get started. Some of the hurdles to minimalism included:

  • The “fun” of acquisition, which entices us to buy more than we really need (a.k.a. shopping therapy)
  • The pressure to “waste not, want not”
  • A belief that we should hold onto things for our children or other family members
  • Inheriting possessions we don’t want, but feel we shouldn’t get rid of
  • Believing we need to be prepared for every eventuality (both positive and negative), instead of borrowing, renting or buying if the need arises
  • Living with other people who bring items into our space
  • The onslaught of digital clutter that is tedious or difficult to expunge

Overall we had a wonderful hour sharing and discussing. We ended our time by challenging everyone to identify one area of his/her life into which to begin incorporating minimalism.

*     *     *     *     *

Minimal Quest meets virtually on the third Tuesday of the month on a drop-in basis. If you want to join us, visit www.MinimalQuest.com for more information.

What are your thoughts on minimalism? Do you think it would work for you?


* FOCUS stands for Fairfield Organizers Creating Ultimate Solutions, and includes The Seana Method, Matt Baier Organizing, and Clutter Solutions LLC.

27 thoughts on “Exploring Minimalism”

  1. This is truly very interesting. I admit that I didn’t’ know much about becoming a minimalist, but this was not only informative, but truly enlightening, too. Thanks for sharing, Seana 🙂

    1. We really had a great conversation, and it was fun to hear everyone’s perspectives. Just goes to show how much people enjoy sharing a journey and getting to support each other!

  2. What a great group! Minimalist is more about a change in lifestyle just like eating healthier is not a diet. Minimalism is more about the improvement of where one is to where one wants to be. Thank you for sharing the results of your meeting. I have been on the minimalist path for a few years now and look forward to getting rid of more stuff especially memorabilia.

    1. It really is a “path,” Sabrina. I love that phrase. I agree that this is about positive change that endures. A long term adjustment to achieve a goal of a higher quality of life. Very exciting!

  3. This is an exciting new venture that you’re pursuing! I love how you gathered this group to explore minimalism. Such a rich conversation ensued too. I’ve been fascinated by this movement which has risen in parallel to the organizing and mindfulness paths. If you look at the three of them together, it’s clear that people are trying to find a way forward that’s comfortable, enriching, and that brings out the best in what their lives can be. All of them seem to be an outgrowth or reaction to of decades of consumerism, more 24/7 digital accessibility, and fuller schedules. I wish you all the best with Minimal Quest. I can’t wait to hear more.

    1. If you ever want to take a (small) road trip, you are more than welcome to join us Linda. We really had a lot of fun. I totally agree that there is a pushback taking place here, manifesting in different ways. I think this is a positive trend and look forward to more movement in this direction.

  4. I love the minimalist movement and strive for this but tend to get caught up into acquiring new and better things lol. I am able to let go of the old things though which is good. It definitely is more fun to acquire than it is to shed things. Its also such a social thing to be out shopping with family or friends.
    There was an attempt at getting a minimalism group up and running in London but it was challenging to a) find a time that people were available and b) get people out and c) to have ongoing leadership.
    Kim recently posted…Getting Past Fear and Emotional ClutterMy Profile

    1. Forming new ventures always has its challenges, Kim. So far we are finding a “sweet spot” by meeting right after work for only an hour once a month. I’m lucky to have associates with whom to share the leadership. We all like each other so much that getting together for this has been a true joy!

  5. I love the idea of having less stuff, less to manage, and less to do! Letting go of the things that I don’t really care about gives me time to focus on the things I enjoy and care about!

    1. A client and I were observing that “less” really is “less… less to store and manage and deal with.” The upside, of course, is more energy and time and space for what we love. It is freeing if you can get to this mindset!

  6. Fascinating conversation! I just read a post on another blog about a decorator whose philosophy was “More is never enough” and it gave me the shivers! To me, that translates into “more just for the sake of more” rather than focusing on pieces or possessions that are meaningful. I did have to chuckle at the circle of life dilemma created by those things that we hang onto because we feel that we should pass them on to our children and (our children and ourselves) inheriting things we don’t want but feel obliged to keep. Now that is a minimalist’s conundrum!
    Mo recently posted…Rosé Round-Up – Recommendations From My TeamMy Profile

    1. That is a minimalist’s conundrum! With affordable furniture options, and ever-changing fashion, most children don’t want their parent’s stuff. It is a tough reality to find out that things you’ve meticulously saved are not wanted… and maybe even hard to sell. I love your point about focusing on pieces that are meaningful. That is what ultimately makes a space feel like home:)

  7. Great article! I love the many benefits fo minimalism that you mentioned here. The hurdles of minimalism are quite a challenge for many of my organizing clients on the path to a more simple life. Thank you for this concise look at minimalism. Your group is a wonderful thing, I hope it continues to grow and thrive.

    1. I hope it continues to thrive as well. We actually had a lot of fun, which is always a good sign. Gathering with a group over a drink is less intimidating that one-on-one sessions. There is a jovial spirit that makes it pleasurable:)

  8. I see minimalism and organizing as being on a continuum. When I read this post, all I have to do is substitute “minimalism” with “organizing” and it makes the same exact kind of sense. Granted, the extreme ends of the continuum resemble each other less than do the parts in the middle. I suppose one could have few possessions and be disorganized. And one could have a million completely organized possessions. But for the most part, to me, it’s all the same. The important thing, regardless of which word you choose, is to be mindful about what you own, what you need v. want, what you acquire, and how you eventually get rid of it. — Less clutter. More life.
    Hazel Thornton recently posted…Family history: Why organize it if you don’t care about genealogy?My Profile

    1. I so agree, Hazel. This is really about your mindset, and being intentional with what you choose to keep in your space and in your schedule. There is definitely a lot of overlap between minimalism and organizing… stops along that continuum!

    1. It was during that CRAZY storm on Tuesday (parts of CT were hit very hard). I thought a wicked witch was going to go flying by. But we were all gathered around a cozy table with a drink and chips and had a great time. By the time we finished, the storm had passed. I think it worked out pretty well:)

  9. I love that you are “FOCUS”ing on what is a current trend topic. The exploration with both professional organizers and meet up members give a new perspective on how collaboration and inquiry work hand in hand. I can’t wait to hear more about your topic and your collaboration.

    1. Always fun to take a bit of a risk and try something new. When we were talking about how to bring a conversation to the community, we decided we wanted it to be in a format that we would enjoy as much as the participants. So far, so good! Looking forward to our next session:)

  10. How fascinating, Seana! I just had a similar discussion with myself today. 🙂 My mom was a minimalist and I’m not. I certainly don’t stumble over things in my home, but a minimalist I am not. I was thinking about the differences between my mom and her approach to things and mine. I know that part of my move away from minimalism was my experience with my mom purging items that I found sentimental and wish had been kept. I do think that minimalism is a personal definition.I also think it’s a healthy exercise to continually evaluate the things in your home through a minimalist lens.
    I wish I lived closer because I’d love to listen in on the group discussions. Please continue to share more of your thoughts, observations and conclusions.

    1. That is so interesting, Susan. We often make a choice to live differently in a couple of specific ways from how we were reared, so that may be one for you. I can see that it would be sad if you felt sentimental items were removed that you would have loved to keep! I think we should discuss the familial impact of minimalism… might make a great topic for a whole evening of conversation!

    1. We really didn’t know. It went virtual with the onset of COVID, but turns out that expanded the size of our group. It’s been a lot of fun, and we’ve had great discussions each month!

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