Many people who have read my blog or who have heard my thoughts on clutter would describe me as a minimalist.

While I don’t have a problem with that, I’ve chosen to focus on simplicity, not minimalism. Here’s why.

3 Reasons I Focus on Simplicity, Not Minimalism

Qualifications

First and foremost, I have too much stuff to qualify as a minimalist. While I know there isn’t an exact number that defines minimalism and a broad spectrum of people call themselves minimalists, I don’t meet the (imaginary) qualifications even on the far end of the spectrum.

We have too many collections in this house to be a minimalist by anyone’s standards. My daughter has a rock collection. And my other daughter has a stuffed animal collection and ‘art’ collection. My husband has a book, paper, and tool collection. And I have my soap collection.

We also stock a large amount of shelf-stable food and paper supplies. I like buying things in bulk and on sale when I’m sure they are things we will eventually use up.

I’m also a huge fan of toss pillows and candles and own many of them. We have an impressive supply of teas.

I feel like I’m writing confessions even as I say these things, which again confirms for me that I’m not a minimalist. Or if I was one, I’d at least be the rebel minimalist.

Definitions

Some may say the difference between simplicity and minimalism is semantics. That’s probably fairly accurate. The words we choose matter though. So let’s look at the definitions of these words.

Simplicitythe state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded

Minimalism: a style or technique that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity

Spectrum

I’ve been challenged in the way I view minimalism as I’ve seen quite a variety of people that call themselves minimalists. I don’t see minimalism as a cookie-cutter description. People aren’t defined by the total number of objects they own.

On the one end of the spectrum, you will find people who know the number of their possessions and can fit them all into a suitcase. Other minimalists choose to live in tiny houses.

More moderate minimalists aren’t as extreme with their lifestyle. However, by definition, minimalism is characterized by extreme spareness or simplicity. There are varying ideas on what extreme looks like. It all depends on who or what you’re comparing it to.

With minimalism, I think of trying to own as little as possible. The focus is on the necessities with the goal of not having too much beyond that. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that goal at all. It just isn’t my goal.

Goals

My goal currently is to live more simply focusing on what I use and love. I’m all for practicality and for owning less. My goal isn’t to be extreme though.

While I deeply admire many minimalists, my focus is on simplicity, not minimalism. I can’t say that my goals won’t ever change, but this is where I’m at right now.

I focus on simplicity, not minimalism because it feels more attainable. It’s less intimidating. Work on having less and being more mindful? Yes, I can do that.

Work to try to narrow down to just the necessities? That feels daunting and a little bit sad. Call me materialistic if you must. I do like some things.

You can join in the pursuit of simplicity without minimalism being your end goal.

I find joy in my toss pillows, candles, teas, excess paper products, and overstock of food. And I’m ok with that.

Every person gets to chart their own course and decide how much is too much. We all have different comfort levels with stuff. We get to decide on our goals and choose the journey that works for us.

frugal decluttering

Frugality

The Minimalists (and others in this space) have mentioned the 20/20 rule. It’s where ‘anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location’.

I understand the rule is designed to help you let go of inexpensive items you’ve been hanging onto for someday.

While I agree with weighing the odds on whether or not you’ll ever want or use those items, I’m also not comfortable with the idea of getting rid of low-cost items that you may need to replace.

Granted, I understand that the idea is that hopefully, you will discover you don’t actually need that thing, but I don’t want to over declutter and later regret what I’ve gotten rid of and then need to replace in an effort to be a minimalist.

I’m also a fan of getting deals even when that means I’m buying certain items that I know I won’t use immediately. This feels very un-minimalist, but it is very frugal.

From my point of view, it’s only a problem if your storage is taking over your home or you’re buying things you won’t actually use. I’m frugal to the core but have worked on balancing it with simplicity.

A shared philosophy

My journey towards simplicity began in response to being overwhelmed with too much stuff. My focus was on decluttering and simplifying in an effort to live a more intentional life focused on the things that matter most.

I wasn’t extreme in my process. I didn’t immediately get rid of over half of my belongings. My journey working towards less started with smaller decluttering tasks and behavior changes.

I’ve become more mindful of my purchases. I’ve minimized the amount of random junk that makes its way through the front door.

The goals of both simplicity and minimalism are to minimize distractions and live a more fulfilling life focused on the things that matter most. Both advocates for a less is more approach.

Treasured items get to shine when we take away the excess clutter. Simplicity and minimalism are both about being selective, purposeful, and intentional in what you purchase and bring into your home.

Whether you’re an extreme minimalist, cozy minimalist, aspiring minimalist or someone who chooses to focus on simplicity, not minimalism, you are welcome here.

There is room for all of us whether we choose to be extreme or not. You’ll find encouragement and support here on your journey to simplify your life.

Do you like to focus on simplicity or minimalism? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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39 Comments

  1. Upon reading a chapter in your life I felt as though I was listening to you talk about me! I love pillows and soft things. I have a collection of little vintage dolls I inherited from Macy’s in an old white mirrored shadow box on the wall that takes the place of having a picture there. It’s so cool looking! Thank you for making this post because I do get called they M word, especially at Christmas time. We have a tree and two boxes of organized old vintage ornaments I inherited (again) lol. Also some old mini pointcetta garland and mini white bulbs, a wreath from Good Will for the door. Takes us 30minutes tops. I rather be eating dinner and making cookies with family and friends. I love being easy breezy, so again thank you for putting it into perspective. It really helps. Sincerely Sherri💗

  2. I really love what your saying about simplicity vs minimalism. I think I’m in the same place where I don’t think I quite fit the “minimalist” ideal but I’m very happy to keep things simple. I just started my own blog to help people who live in all sorts of spaces and situations to simplify and organize. So nice to find someone else with a balanced mindset on this topic.

  3. I agree with much you said here. However, I think you’ve painted a somewhat unfair picture of minimalism. I believe most minimalists would recommend reducing possessions only to the degree that brings more peace and contentment and that will be different for everyone. I do abhor the term “minimalist “ because it’s so negative! When I began this journey about 40 years ago, we called it simple living or simplicity. I still claim those terms. I love your perspective!

  4. I try to remain mindful of the point made in Luke 12:13-21 about having to build more and bigger barns in order to store our wealth. When I found myself looking on the interwebz for bigger storage solutions, I realized I had more stuff than I needed. While I am definitely not a minimalist, I am aiming for simplicity. I used up what I had of certain stuff and didn’t buy more than I needed of that. I rehomed, gifted, tossed whatever else was needing bigger cabinets, closets, boxes, chests until the storage I already owned was sufficient. I am steadily trying to pare down, little by little. I also realized that judging what to keep by the ‘does it spark joy’ method didn’t work, because everything I own sparks joy. That’s why I own it. Instead, I use the mantras ‘what do you need it for?’ and ‘just how much of this do you really need?’ work much better for me. Yeah, simplicity is my final goal.

  5. this post helped me, and I want to check something with you:”while we focus on simplicity, we can add some varaity in different aspects” right?

    1. Thank you so much for clarifying the difference between minimalism and simplicity. I keep trying to be a minimalist but emotionally it doesn’t work for me. As I child of a airforce father we moved every two years, in order to adjust to the upheaval I became attached to things. Not only that, I am creative, I knit, sew, rug hook, etc etc. hence I have supplies for everything, I can not live without my hobbies. Simplicity is a goal I can attain and be happy with that. You can’t believe the weight you have lifted off of my shoulders.
      All the best to you
      Martha

  6. I knew “minimalism” wasn’t a good descriptive for my decor style & preferences (too severe for me), and now I realize “frugal simplicity” nails it. Thanks for the comfort and clarity!

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, But Isn’t “Frugal” even more severe than minimalism? Like, I have always thought of frugal living as living with next to nothing. where as minimalism is still having at least some stuff.

      1. Frugality isn’t about having nothing. It is about being very cost conscious and trying to get things for less or making do with what you have. Interestingly when the couponing craze was happening years back, there were frugal people hoarding tons of low-cost items. That isn’t as common anymore though.

  7. I love the title of your sight! The Simplicity Habit has long been a goal of mine. at the age of 75, I have done Swedish death cleaning but that sounds so morbid. I don’t want my children to have weeks of work to clean out my space when I die so it was a good project. I gave away family heirlooms to family members who wanted them. Other items I donated to shelters, etc.
    Our area recently endured a major hurricane. It was so comforting to be able to leave with everything necessary to live a good life including beds (pallets on the floor) cooking and eating utensils, wardrobe and food items for myself, my husband, and a grandson in a small car and an SUV.
    We don’t consider ourselves minimalists, but we do live a simple life. Simple food, clothing and furnishings for a home don’t mean sparse or Spartan living. We thoroughly enjoy our home. Our life is full. Visitors are amazed that we are so happy with so little.
    There have been times in my life when I had far too much stuff That stuff did not make me happier. Quite the opposite. So now instead of “death cleaning”, we are just living simply and loving it. We buy quality, but less of it. We each have “collections” of things we love, but when something no longer serves us we are happy to share it with someone who needs or wants it.
    Thanks for sharing yourself with us. Keep the inspiration coming.

  8. I was trying to be a minimalist but I was not sure about certain things whose were not convincing me, and I can relate with this article very much. It helps me feel more comfortable with the idea of decluttering in a less excessive way and keeping with love, thank you

  9. Love your description of simplicity vs minimalist. I’m very simple and actually don’t like a lot of decor. I, too, have too many paper and food items and take a ribbing for it, but I won’t apologize, as it’s stored efficiently and will eventually be used. We do have a few collections of my husband’s that could officially be called clutter, since he keeps them just to keep them and attaches sentiment to everything, but it’s kept to a minimum and largely out of sight. Everything else has a purpose or function and often pulls double duty as functional decor.

  10. I found this at exactly the right moment. Our home is being overrun with “stuff”, in part due to my sentimental attachments, combined with a mindset of “just buy it” and all complicated by having lived in a house twice as big as our current one. I’ve very recently started to explore the idea of minimalism, but like you I find it a bridge too far and it doesn’t fit the image I have today of a happy and peaceful home. Simplicity really is a better descriptor of what I’m going for, and this post today really struck a chord. Thank you, from a new subscriber!

  11. After the recent deaths of both my parents, I find thought I
    would be dealing with 40 years worth of storage— but I discovered that my mother had been holding on to (and moving across country) things like old phone books, files for houses and cars that had been sold 50 years ago, minutes she’d taken at ladies ‘ club meetings…not to mention all the unusable stuff that collects in a hoarders house. So when their house sold, so much of her clutter spilled over into my house. It starts to look hopeless some days.

    Anyway, I’m determined not to do the same thing to my executor! Everything is going to be clean, sorted, stored neatly and LABELED!

    I just found your website/blog and I am enjoying the articles, and as soon as I unearth my poor printer, I hope to start using the workbook.

  12. As a new subscriber you words resonate strongly with me. As a child my family immigrated to the US in the late 50s and have a lifelong gathering mentality, first from necessity and for too long a habit. For many a moon I’ve donated to pass on the blessings we’ve received but now at almost 73, I’ve come to realize it’s no enough. I’m owned by my possessions instead of the reverse. I’m not at all sure I’ll ever achieve living minimally but simply is very attractive. Thanks for sharing your perspective it really resonates with me.

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