Minimalism is not necessarily….
1. Cheap. People often equate minimalism with the “college dorm room” look; particleboard and plastic. But you could be a minimalist who buys only objects of the very highest quality that reflect your exquisitely refined taste.
2. Frugal. Minimalism is often cited as a great way to save money. However, you could be a minimalist who buys whatever you need at the moment and then throws it away as soon as it isn’t needed anymore. Or you could be a minimalist who owns almost nothing but spends an incredible amount of money on night-clubbing, dining out, taking exotic vacations, feeding a drug habit, playing MORPGs, or engaging in any other relatively expensive, non-material-goods-related activity.
3. Practical: Minimalism venerates open space and few furnishings — which can be a lovely aesthetic but completely impractical when you’re trying to have friends over (where do they sit? what do they eat off of?) or find storage for your toiletries or kitchen supplies (minimalist design shuns cabinetry, unless it’s all but invisible). Heating those open spaces can also be a challenge (see #2, above).
4. Relaxing. Minimalists often argue that they have reduced their stress levels by owning and doing less. But you could own virtually nothing and still be stressed out by your many time commitments. Or you could do virtually nothing and still be stressed out about your family, friends, finances, health, and the like.
5. Green. Minimalism is often cited as a way to reduce the consumption of goods and fuel and thus promote environmental sustainability. But you could be a minimalist whose few furnishings are all made of endangered woods, whose few clothes are manufactured and dyed in environmentally unsustainable ways, who eats food that hasn’t been sustainably produced, and who travels all around the world without a thought about your carbon footprint.
6. Virtuous. Many minimalists suggest that they are living a life of clear vision and moral virtue and that not being minimalist means you’re either a consumption-brainwashed dupe or ethically corrupt. But a minimalist can be a fool, a liar, a criminal, a jerk, or a wastrel, just like anyone else.
Minimalism can be frugal, relaxing, green, and virtuous (and even cheap, although I don’t personally recommend it) — but not by itself. Don’t read a minimalist blog or two and automatically buy into the hype — be a critical consumer of whatever lifestyle choice you make, and make certain your behaviors all systematically align to reflect your core values, whatever they may be.
Image Credit: Footprints in Death Valley, by S. Bilodeau