Minimalism Misconceptions

Minimalism comes in many shapes and sizes. While there is no one, right way to live a minimalistic lifestyle, you do typically choose to live with less. In my minimalist approach, less spending, less stuff and less obligation, are all part of being a minimalist. I think more and more people are becoming interested in living real lives that don’t revolve around stuff, but are afraid to aspire to minimalism, because of a few misconceptions that I hope to clear up.

10 Misconceptions about Minimalism

Minimalism is an event – Minimalism starts in your heart and mind, not in your closet. Cleaning your closet does not make you a minimalist, but could be the start of it.

Minimalism is a religion – The only thing you have believe in to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, is that your life will be better with less.

Minimalists never spend money – Spending on the essentials and what matters to you, is different than a shopping spree at Target or spending a day at the mall. Minimalists often spend purposefully and vote with their dollars.

Minimalists are selfish – They may not spend on extravagant gifts, but because they have cleared the clutter in their own lives, they have the time and space to be more thoughtful about yours, and in turn become more giving.

Minimalists all live with less than 100 thingsDave Bruno and many other minimalists live with less than 100 things, but that doesn’t mean you have to do that to start applying minimalism to your life.

Minimalists live alone and don’t have kids –  I have a daughter and husband, Joshua Becker has a wife and two young children, Leo Babauta is married with 6 children.

Minimalism is extreme – It could be as extreme, but you can jump into minimalism anytime, in any situation.

You have to be born into minimalism – I did not grow up or live most of my adult life with less, in fact, it was with excess. Just like I stopped eating meat and became a vegetarian, I have stopped living with too much, and am becoming a minimalist. It’s your life, and you can change it, whenever you want to.

Minimalists don’t drive carsTammy Strobel from Rowdy Kittens doesn’t drive a car, but I do. Depending on your current life situation, you may need a car. I do, but choose to drive less.

If your partner is not a minimalist, you can’t be one either – While my husband is excited about simplifying our life, I am definitely leading the movement in our house. He may never want to get rid of as much as I do, and some days, I think he is afraid that he will come home and find out that I gave away the front door, and kitchen sink. That being said, I think he is noticing that the less time I spend on stuff, the more I spend on him and us.

If minimalism is appealing to you, keep in mind that you can dip your toe or dive right in!


  1. says

    Hi Courtney,

    As I learn more and more about myself and a life lived with my family and friends, I have started to move closer to a minimalist lifestyle. That is not to say that I have tossed all of my stuff in a dumpster (yet), but minimalism really makes sense to me as excesses in life don’t seem to lead to happiness.

    Also, I am constantly amazed by people like Raam Dev who give up most of their “things” and take on the challenge of improving the world. It is really inspiring!

    I love this list – especially because you mentioned a few of the more common sense ideas that seem to be misunderstood (the amount of stuff, kids, cars, etc.). Plus, the closet comment was really funny. :)

    Have a great day!

  2. says

    What a great post! I had some of these misconceptions when I first started out, too. I would love to live out of a backpack! But I’m not sure my son is ready for that. I might eventually get down to 100 things, but for now I am content to practice living with less as a general mindset, and even though I still have more than 100 things, I am ok with calling myself a minimalist. I like that you pointed out that it’s not an event. It sort of seeps into all areas of your life as you keep at it, and you end up reducing things you never would have thought of – maybe even speaking less. Its been a fun adventure so far. :)

  3. says

    Great post, Courtney. I’ve been moving towards minimalism myself and these are great reminders that there’s no one way, no perfect way, no competition involved and no point in not trying. Thanks.

  4. says

    You’re right — it is a journey. Ones with ups and downs; slips, falls, and get-back-on-your-saddle moments. We’re a family of five and honestly, some days are more minimal than others but as long as your trending in the right direction, you’re doing OK.

    While striving for/living a minimalist lifestyle is not a silver bullet, it is a HUGE stepping stone towards the realization that a ‘normal (non-minimalist) lifestyle is just not going to cut it in the long run when it comes to the health of the planet and the general health of society. By reconnecting with the essentials of life, I like to think we are helping to lead the way to a new kind of balance with the planet. Good stuff.

    Be well!

  5. says

    Hi Courtney,
    I agree, that everyone will have to create their own version of what living a minimalist life is for them. Scaling down to what is doable for your lifestyle is a good start.

    Great tips!

  6. Annie says

    Courtney, Thank you for this!!! It is perfekt!!! The myths surrounding minimalism need extensive attention, and you’ve done so in an ideal way!!!

  7. says

    “If your partner is not a minimalist, you can’t be one either ” <– the hardest one for me to deal with! Sometimes I wonder how we'll ever compromise on our 'ideal vision' of our house, but I couldn't live without him, even if he does come with extra stuff!

  8. Mick says

    The mindset of most vegetarians is that they have a higher moral standard. In reality, Hitler was a vegetarian so there you go!

  9. Gael says

    Ahhh…..minimalism……..that label given, among others, to that condition which some of us are indeed born into…only we call it poverty. First you have to actually HAVE things, to be able to jettison them.

    • says

      That’s a pretty shallow assessment. Minimalism is about reducing invented needs, not just reducing stuff. It’s not choosing poverty for posterity, but working for stability, sustainability, simplicity, and a life with fewer distractions.

  10. says

    I feel kind of odd reading your blog, because I’m only 15 and my mother is a total packrat… Haha.

    But I love this blog, especially the family aspect. Someday, I want a ton of kids and I want to run a self-sufficient sustainable farm. And I like applying these concepts to how I take care of the family I currently have, the family I want, imagining how to apply it to a farm, and applying it to my school life. Applying minimalism to how I handle school and how I spend my money has saved my college savings, a whole bunch of space, a whole bunch of time, and it actually helped improve my grades because I’m not late to every class digging through the endless abyss of my locker or backpack for one assignment that has mysteriously dissapeared.

    So, thank you. And thanks for this post. I showed it too my mom, and I’m slowly warming her up to the idea that at the very least I can be minimalistic without “invading her territory”.

    Have a wonderful day.

  11. says

    Great post and very true. My rule is this: When stuff starts getting in the way of living, it’s gotta go. The problem with many is they fail to recognize when they’re stuff intrudes on their life… they accept it as normal.

    Minimalism is a way of living… and the best way to live, in my opinion. Cleaning out a closet once a year does not qualify!

    Kasey – You have great dreams and goals! I grew up with a pack-rat mom and it never prevented me from living the way I wanted to. I think I have even rubbed off on her in a positive way. (Though I still shudder when I look into her closets.)

  12. says

    This is very helpful. It’s a common misconception that certain lifestyles have hard and fast rules. Surely we can pick and choose ideas about life from various systems or approaches that appeal to us, without feeling compelled to ‘get it right’ all the time.

    Thanks, Courtney, for making that clear.

    I also appreciate what you say about being the one who is leading the change in your household, although your husband is enthusiastic. Sometimes it’s hard for partners or family members to adapt to their loved ones’ big changes because those changes inevitably impact on them too. They have to change their perceptions, often unwillingly. So it’s great when everyone in the family is supportive and signed up.

  13. Gina says

    I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago. It is giving me much food for thought. Thanks!

  14. andres says

    it is a simple yet wonderful journey where you discover that many of the things you have are just stuff, once you realize that you can live without it,becomes a new start, one where you start to think different about each thing you own.

  15. MotherLodeBeth says

    Someone who lives in a colder climate may need more clothes than someone who lives in Hawaii as an example. Someone in college as an example may need more books than someone who is elderly with failing eye sight. Someone who works outside the home my need things I don’t need. Someone who loves to cook and has folks over often may need more place settings than someone who likes take out and dining with a couple friends.

    When reading the Innermost House website I see a wee home akin to how we are evolving in how we live. Yet someone else may desire a small abode that is more eclectic. Anyone who has hiked or backpacked will know that as one walks one encounters side trails. Not everyone will take the same side trail, because it is not where they are being led.

  16. Beverly D says

    Thank you, Courtney. I find your posts so refreshing and inspiring. They keep me on track to a purposeful life. I so enjoy what you share with us!