What do you think of the minimalism trend?

August 1, 2017

Minimalism, the decluttering lifestyle trend, has been on the radar for several years now. Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, helped bring attention to the movement, and to judge by the number of blogs and books devoted to the subject, it doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. It's said to appeal to millennials. And people resisting consumerism, materialism, and wastefulness. People overwhelmed with 21st-century life.

But is it just a trend? Does it make sense?

 I've read a number of these blogs and books about minimalism over the past few years. I've done the whole Project 333 thing, reducing the clothes in my closet. Decluttered and tried to simplify. And I've come to some conclusions about the whole thing.

Like anything, minimalism can be carried to an extreme. I've read blogs about it that are just silly. For two people, all you need, max, is four plates, four coffee cups, four towels, etc. Extra points for reducing that even more. Put your mattress on the floor so you don't have to clean under a bed. Get rid of all your books and only borrow from the library. 

Super simple, Zen living is appealing to some. But, to me, it only works if you're going backpacking in the woods for a couple weeks and you don't want to lug around a big heavy backpack. It just doesn't seem practical for real life. And, really, why?

Jennifer L. Scott, who has written the Madame Chic books, and has a popular YouTube channel, talks about a 10-item wardrobe. I think the concept of finding clothes you love and will really wear and feel good in is helpful, but I don't feel I need to strive for such an extreme.

For a recent prayer time with a couple friends.
      On the other side of the coin, there are hoarders, but I think we'd all say that isn't a good idea. We've seen the show. 

Then there are "preppers" who may or may not go to extremes, and just plain common-sense folk who advocate stocking up supples for emergencies, including storms and other natural disasters. Living in Michigan, with snowstorms and frequent power outages, I do like to have a supply of food on hand in the winter. Even if there's not a ton of snow out there, who wants to go out on icy roads if you don't have to?

The benefit for me of reading these blogs and books, especially a few years ago, was that it coincided with a change in my life circumstances. I was ready to clean up, clear out, and re-focus my energies.

Ending my homeschooling days and sending three children off to college really changed my life. I no longer needed a schoolroom, shelves of homeschooling books, or the extra food and pantry items for hungry teenagers and their friends.

It was time to clear out and get ready for the next stage. Books on minimalism were inspiring and got me motivated to organize and declutter.

It took me a few years, but I donated or threw out boxes and boxes and bags and bags of stuff.

As I re-thought my diet and my cooking preferences, I gave up my grain grinder and my canning supplies. After all, I've been trying to cut down on the carbs, and I no longer have a family of five to feed.

For the most part, I did well. But I was overzealous. There have been a number of things I wished I had held on to.

Why did I get rid of my canning supplies? Several years later, I'm wanting to can again. After all, my husband and I still eat. I still like to have things put away in my pantry. It's nice to give jam or pickles  as gifts for friends. 

Back in my grandparents' day, people didn't declutter. They held on to things just in case. The Depression was too real for them, and scraps and bits of food and fabric and string were saved, and used. (I read a book once called String too Short to Be Saved. A frugal New England farmer saved everything, and had a jar of string with that label on it!)

The minimalists tell us, get rid of it! If it doesn't spark joy, pitch it! (I think the underlying assumption is, that if you find you really need it, you can just go out and buy it again.)

I don't like clutter, and I like things neat and organized. But no one would accuse me of being a minimalist. Not with more than 1,200 books, 75 teacups, and drawers of antique linens. Not with shelves and drawers of makeup and jewelry and scarves.

If you want to treat yourself, get the Prismacolor colored pencils. SO much nicer than the Crayola.
And, as I've said, my Project 333 has broken down, mostly because I've gained back some weight, and my carefully curated closet doesn't quite fit. Even when I -- ahem -- get back into those clothes, that minimalistic of an approach probably is not for me, although it was a very useful exercise. 

To me, "spark joy" isn't always a useful maxim. Does a treadmill spark joy? Maybe it should, but it just doesn't. A better maxim I think is the old one, "have nothing in your house that is not beautiful or useful." A treadmill doesn't spark joy, it's not beautiful, but it is useful in helping me get some exercise.

So this is my idea:

*** (Try to) keep an organized, clutter-free home.

*** Love what you love and have as many as you want/can afford/have room for, whether it's books and teacups or yarn and fabric or shoes and handbags. (Just don't collect lots of everything!) Be grateful and enjoy.

*** Keep a reasonable supply of backup goods (extra towels and sheets for guests or illness, extra food and water for emergencies).

*** Get rid of stuff that you really don't like or that you're reasonably certain you won't use again. Paper clutter drives me crazy, and I'm constantly sorting through that. I've also tried to get rid of most plastic, itchy fabrics, decorative items that aren't beautiful to me, clothes that don't suit me, books I don't like.

*** Resist impulse buying and temptations to consume. Unsubscribe to emails that tempt you to buy.  Unsubscribe from catalogs, or put them right in the recycling bin. If you really need something you can go looking online and probably find, or wait for, a sale. In the meantime, all that advertising won't be taking up your time and mental space.

Like everything in life, balance is a good thing. So while the minimalist trend has been helpful in identifying what kinds of things I like in my life, and helping me to get organized, I'm on the side of balance and moderation. Paring down to the bare minimum is really no fun.  The other extreme, hanging on to everything "just in case" or out of guilt, is just too overwhelming.


Speaking of minimalism, check out my teeny pillow.

Yes, this is what I sleep on. It helps my neck from getting all cricked up. It's a tiny travel pillow. I made these little pillowcases for it.

They won't let me bring my pillow to my overnight sleep study. No pillows can be brought in unless they're brand new, still in packaging, and they watch you open it. They're trying to avoid bedbugs. 


What do you all think? Are you a minimalist? Or do you love your stuff? In between?


  1. What an interesting post. I have been de-cluttering and tossing and donating and gifting for the last year. We are preparing to downsize next spring and I wanted to be ahead of the game. WHAT am I having a hard time giving up? My dishes!! Yes! My many, many dishes. I have sets of china and I love them all. sigh.... I did do the clothes thing though and that felt good. I won't tell you how many pieces I donated because I am ashamed to admit I had that many clothes. lol

    I guess I am somewhere in between. I no longer accumulate things I don't need....but there are also things I keep that I don't need!

    Great post- xo Diana

  2. Loved this and agree with you 100%. I am an organized freak and have all my stuff in it's proper place and absolutely no clutter. But, I do have a lot of stuff and I love it all. I have definitely pared down in recent years but still have more than most would think necessary.

    As to your little pillow. Have you ever tried a contour pillow? I have used one for about 10 years and it helps my neck sooo much. My chiropractor suggested I start using one.

    Good luck with the sleep study!

  3. We actually just moved into our new house - downsized - 5 weeks ago. I've been purging like a mad woman and have realized that my accumulation skills had gotten out of hand. I will be honest though and say that I enjoy "stuff" and that I enjoy shopping especially with girlfriends. I do not understand that minimalism to the extreme that seems to be popular with some. Don't they have family heirlooms?

    I enjoyed your post. :)

  4. Great post! I would say I am in between. Right now I am 'purging' books and other things. I have stopped buying just because I like something. I don't need any more 'things'.

    Happy Living life ~ FlowerLady

  5. I appreciate your honesty! I wondered about the Project 333 thing. Sometimes I have wondered if this entire mimimalism thing has been a set-up by the powers that be to prepare people for "less." The entire small house movement has me questioning the absurdity of it all.

  6. Deborah, this is really a great and well written post. I have never been a fan of this minimalist thing for myself. Sometimes I think some folks are just ready to follow a trend because it is the "thing" to do. When I look into a room and see so much white space, I sometimes wonder how people actually can even live in it. I am no hoarder but I do like my "stuff"... items that have been passed down through our families or that maybe we have even collected through the years is what makes home OUR HOME. To me, these things along with our memories are what connects us to who we are. Lord only knows that I need to get rid of some things...and I have, most recently when got the new floors in February...what a great feeling it was to get those closets cleaned out! I'm quite sure when it comes time for us to move to TN, possibly next year, there will be plenty more! I like to call my space "organized clutter"...LOL! No, the minimalist thing is not for me but to that I say "to each his own". Oh and by the way, I think your little pillow is just darling. Mine looks like a candy cane...it's called the Side Sleeper Pro and I will never go back to a regular pillow. :D

  7. Dear Deborah:
    Your tea setting and muffins look lovely in a warm and inviting home. I am not a mimimalist. I have a lot of "stuff" but like it neat and orderly!

  8. I enjoyed your thoughts on minimalism. While I have decluttered some, much of what I love is around me. If it has a story, I like to keep it as it is family history. Our kids at this point don't think that way and there is little at their house that tells a story. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a slight swing back to more warmth and color and things in our homes. I read recently that the tiny house movement is proving to be not as great as once thought. And so go the trends!

  9. Deborah, I just wanted to add my two cents on this topic. My first thought is this "It is a bunch of nonsense" But also, when we live in a world of hoarders and have no one taking care of what they have. I can say, well if you can't make a place for what you have and make it lovely then go bare baby...
    But I loved how you explained how what you read and even went with much of this movement to even regret the getting rid of some things. Your discussion on this topic is well written and I enjoyed it!
    I love my pretties and my linens and things that as Debby said make our house our HOMES...
    I no longer go to garage sales and I only bring in what is needed at this point. But each Spring and Fall I try to deep clean and purge a few things that I no longer need or love ;o)
    The tiny house movement makes me think, it's not for me, except for when it comes to dusting LOL
    Blessings to you and yours! I will check out those color pencils as I use them for my Bible study and my journaling. Also your pillow is very tiny, I sleep on three pillows or should I say I sleep sitting up!
    Hugs, Roxy

  10. This is a thoughtful, timely post, Deborah. I, too, go by William Morris' words "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." That whole "spark joy" thing just doesn't make sense. The toilet plunger sparks little or not joy, but it's a very useful thing to have from time to time.
    I like to have my things around me, but I've also learned to hold stuff lightly. It's just stuff. Everyone has different needs when it comes to stuff - my sewing room is filled with fabric and supplies, but they are neatly organized and I use them. And although my children are grown, I do continue to can, too.
    I hope your sleep study goes well and provides some answers for you.

  11. My husband and I moved from a large home 5 years ago. Decided to downsize, our sons are grown, have not lived at home for more than 30 years. We bought a new mobile home, 1150 sq feet. Because it was new, I was able to reconfigure the floor plan, design where the walls and windows would be placed, open plan in case either of us would need a wheel chair someday, (we are both still in the best of health, but you never know) Because I have a ton of books, like you do, I use the largest of 3 bedrooms,the master, for my library, office (computer area) art/craft space, and put in a walk in closet for my many rubberstamps, cardstock, paints,and art "stuff". I purged much when we moved,but kept my sewing machine, for (maybe I'll use it again) and bread maker (maybe again someday). I don't really miss any of what was purged, but sometimes I'll look for something,and remember it went to Good Will. Other wise.. less furniture (baby grand piano) which I do miss, but bought a keyboard,don't need a big space for that. Anyway, I agree with everything you posted here, I still have toys from when I was a girl, 70 years ago, some on display in "my" room, and some tucked away in an antique trunk. I'm a Virgo, so everything is in it's place all the time. Oh...I use a pillow just like yours. Maybe after seeing yours. I'll get out that sewing machine and make pillow cases that fit..(grin) Thanks for sharing, really enjoyed your post..Bonnie in WI

  12. Great post, and I have often wondered about your Project 333. I was so intrigued, but you know what? I found this past week, when trying to find something specifically suitable to wear for a film project (waist up), that I have a lot of clothes I don't like! When I was working, I had few 'play' clothes; now it's the opposite (few dressier clothes). I find I wear the same play clothes repeatedly - a set for spring/summer, another set for fall/winter. In other areas, yes, I'm a collector - vintage linens, purses, and dishes. But I think I'm a neatnik enough that I'm fairly comfortable, and would be okay to purge through selling or even giving, if I knew someone who actually wanted some of my stuff (drop donations sort of bother me, but I still do them). So, bottom line, I get where you're coming from, and I appreciate your frankness. And research!

  13. Much of what you said rang a bell for me. Our last child goes off to college in 2 weeks. I'm already getting rid of lots of stuff. We bought a small house (1100 squ ft) and that required us to shed extras. Still, my home has lots of "stuff" on all horizontal surfaces!
    I do think it's a trend, and our 20-somethings are reacting against houses full of stuff. However, I think it's a mistake to rid oneself of anything that's not useful and practical. Four plates? And what about BEAUTY? Some things we keep for beauty's sake alone. If they find beauty in minimalism, that's fine. But many people don't. And keeping something for its inexplicable beauty is good enough for me. Thus: teacups and yarn :)

  14. I'm with you, Deborah. I have minimalist tendencies because I dislike clutter and dusting. I do have a weak spot for teawares and stationery. Because I'm running out of space, I try to follow the "1 in, 1 out" rule, but don't always succeed.

  15. This is an excellent post and the comments are most interesting also. After clearing out houses when loved ones died, I should be getting rid of lots of stuff so my girls don't have to. Love Williams Morris's quote...golden...

  16. I loved this post, Deborah! I read the decluttering books too, including 'The Magic Art of Tidying Up' or whatever it was. I have a beautiful book on house organization. I also have hundreds of quarts of food that I canned (and am glad I have). When I asked myself the question, 'Does it spark joy' about most of my clothes, NO. About most of my knickknacks, YES. For almost every single book I own, YES. So that clearly wasn't working for me. LOL And truly for me, it is difficult to even ask, 'Is it beautiful of useful?' because I am able to see uses for almost anything. I think it's because my parents grew up during the Great Depression. They were not hoarders, and my mom was pretty spartan, but really, it seems that about a week or less after I get rid of something, I need it. I have one daughter who is a minimalist by personality, and another who sees joy in every book the flower ever created. :-)

  17. Deborah, I'm not sure I'm a minimalist, but my closest friends would probably tell you I am - I hate shopping, I like having a small house, I'm one of the rare women never heard lamenting my lack of storage space! :D I follow the one-in-one-out rule and so, though I have lots of cooking and dining stuff, the amount of it doesn't just keep expanding. If there's something I want, I have to want it more than something in that category that I already have, because something will have to go if I want to bring in something new. Everyone is different, and that's okay.

  18. I love your idea of a balance, Deborah. I don't like clutter, and have to keep a tidy house, but I have things out on my kitchen counter that I use and some that are just pretty to look at. I'm not afraid to get rid of things that aren't being used, but like you, I love my pretty teacups, and my cookware items. I also have lots of fabrics and yarn (but stored away) for sometime when I may need it!! You never know when some pretty scrap will come in handy!! Yes, I agree, with Jean, we are all different and that's what makes this world unique. This was a great post to ponder. Good luck with your sleep study.
    p.s. Your pillow cases are so pretty!!

  19. I'm definitely not a minimalist. I try to be neat and organized, but I simply love too many things.....I am a bargain shopper, so when I tire of something, I can let it go. I do need to clean out my fabric stash, though.....and I think I have too many plants. I'm getting tired of watering them. I do like to fantasize about a minimalist little apt. overlooking the Eiffel tower, now and again ;) xx Karen

  20. I'll never be a minimalist. My magpie tendencies could not let me to throw everything out. For years, the top of my desk has known a happy clutter of things I like to see around me for inspiration; every once in a while I do have to clear it all off and start again. But to have a desk with only a piece of paper and pencil and a lamp? No, that won't be me. And the goes for the rest of my home.

    Deborah, I so enjoyed reading your thoughtful post. I appreciated the peek into your life these days. I wish you grace for the sleep study, and I hope it would uncover some answers for you.

    Your vignette of the tea and muffins set out for your prayer-time guests looked so inviting and peaceful.

    Wishing you a beautiful weekend,
    Brenda xox

  21. Oh I loved this post dear friend!
    I DE clattered a lot when I remodeled the guest rooms, which were my two daughters originally and I had sooo to much stuff there I didn't even know or needed for that matter, but hey! I am traditional with my home décor, I sort of love everything, from dishes to furniture and it's home accessories, so no, I would never be MINIMALIST, lol..
    My kitchen is very equipped with all I personally use.
    If Minimalist décor is not going anywhere soon, it is not like a real NEW trend anymore. I've seen interior decorators here and in magazines get into this mix with the new and the old which I love.
    My main décor is as long as it looks cozy and warm, period!
    I love your new sleep study, it looks like where I want to go now!
    Big hugs and thanks for dropping by, you made my day !

  22. Dearest Deborah,
    Guess the word minimalist is a hollow 'hype' that somebody invented just for the purpose of writing about.
    It doesn't make sense as in this very world we have huge differences of goods and things among all the peoples living here.
    Yes, those that lived through Depression years, or through WWII, as my husband did for both, the meaning is so different. It is often circumstances in life that dictate what we have!
    No, I've never been a compulsive buyer and I'm very loyal to people, to pets, to furniture and to favorite clothes! As for jewelry, I've never invested in any costume jewelry, only the real thing and according to what we could afford at the time. Will keep that my entire life...
    As to size, I could be wearing my clothes from age 15; IF I happened to have any... No change so that is a bonus. Neither for shoes or boots.
    Our pantry has been changed since 2007 when I got diagnosed being Diabetic type 2. We now only buy healthier things with a minimum on sugar.
    With my kidneys only functioning both 34% I need to be VERY keen on my sodium intake so that is another issue of NOT buying canned or ready produced foods. Avoiding even most restaurants... except for their salad, bringing my very own dressing.
    Both of us have been decluttering the things that are no longer needed or used, I'm selling them on eBay and they will reach a happy new owner. Feels good and a household that is organized and will not look overwhelming IF something would happen to both of us... for others to handle that is!
    I've never ever trashed anything but given away for others to use or donating to Salvation Army.
    Hope you are doing well!


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