The Pros And Cons Of Being A Minimalist

The widely touted lifestyle has its benefits — and its social setbacks

Jon Upshaw
May 3 · 5 min read
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

“When people visit you, they’re going to think you’re some kind of serial killer!”

This is what my sister-in-law told me when I mentioned I don’t own any furniture or television sets and don’t plan to own anything of the sort in the future.

It’s a choice that has gotten me a lot of flack from family members. It’s also a conscious choice I made because I realized what is truly important to me: investing my time and money into experiences instead.

You’ve probably heard of this type of lifestyle: Minimalism. It’s a pragmatic style of living brought into the mainstream by authors like Marie Kondo and influencers like Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus — a philosophy that emphasizes simplicity, mindfulness, and living a meaningful life with less.

There’s just one catch: “true” minimalism looks very strange from an outsider’s point of view. As someone who has lived this lifestyle pretty faithfully, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of questions about why I don’t own the essentials and turn down a lot of furniture from well-meaning family members. And doing so makes me feel like even more of a social freak than anything else.

Minimalism is just as good as it is bad — but there is a silver lining. Here, I’ll provide you with some pros and cons from my experience of living this lifestyle of little possessions.

Pro: Living with next to nothing means no clutter

If you’re the person who is tired of doing the routine spring cleaning every year, minimalism might just be perfect for you — it eliminates this process altogether, given that you can maintain a lifestyle of little possessions without going insane. I’ve found that intentionally cutting down on the number of things I own provides a sense of peace because it is incredibly easy to keep my apartment clean without requiring too much time. I even have a robot vacuum that can automatically run its course and keeps the floor clean now and then.

Of course, this kind of lifestyle is best suited for small studio apartments. I will not assume that the minimalist lifestyle is suitable for couples or those with larger homes that may want to decorate a little — that would be unrealistic!

Con: Living with little makes dating very awkward

What comes to mind when your lovely date invites you to their home after a romantic dinner? A cozy living room with the feng shui of a high-end suite, complete with scented candles and jazz music playing softly as tea brews on the kitchen stove?

Not when your date is a minimalist. Especially my kind of minimalist.

First, there is the look of disappointment when they walk in the door. “Oh… did you just move in?” They ask. Then I kindly answer that no, I have actually been living this way for a few years now. The looks my dates give me is priceless as they quickly realize that I intentionally keep my living room completely empty.

While it is something I don’t mind, living with few essentials can make your dating life less than stellar. Some people don’t mind it, some do. It’s an acquired taste.

Pro: You don’t feel the need to impress people

Living modestly provides its own freedom in that the need to impress people with your possessions and lifestyle just isn’t there. Living modestly also certainly saves you its fair share of time and money. For me, this means the highest degree of personal and financial freedom.

You start to recognize that when people go into debt, they are essentially selling their future time.

When you choose to cut down on what you own to only what is necessary, you start to see the patterns of consumption that play out as people live their lives — buying things they can’t afford, for people that don’t matter, for reasons that aren’t clearly thought out. The lengths that many of your acquaintances go through to rationalize going into needless and costly debt. You see time differently. You recognize that when people go into debt; they are essentially selling their future time.

This also translates into the use of social media. Not feeling the need to impress people means that the use of social media as a tool for approval-seeking ceases, freeing up time and mental clarity from distraction that you would have lacked otherwise. (Besides, it’s not like those companies are in it for you, anyway — they make billions from stealing your attention, and with it, your intention.)

Not feeling the need to impress others can have its drawbacks, however — and this can be seen in how it affects your social life.

Con: You won’t have a vibrant social life

A lifestyle of minimalism doesn’t just mean owning few possessions — it also means limiting relationships to those that truly matter and add value to your life — and vice versa.

You’ll notice this happen automatically as old friendships fade from your life. It’s a painful transition at first. You’ll try to hang on for dear life to those old acquaintances. You’ll try to strike up a conversation via text, invite them out for dinner, send them birthday wishes.

All out of subtle feelings of guilt for not “staying in touch” as much “as you feel” you should.

As these relationships fade, the internal pain will increase. As humans, we hold on to the memories we share with our old friends — but only at the expense of our self-development and greater potential. Letting go of these relationships will hurt — it’s a psychological response from our brain, which is hard-wired to resist change and fear novelty.

At some point, you’ll have to accept that you have simply outgrown some relationships, and that it is okay.

So now we’ve weighed some pros and cons.

A minimalist lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Some prefer many possessions of sentimental value, like family heirlooms and priceless gifts.

This essay was simply a look into my life, and some benefits I have gained from choosing to live with few possessions.

The best part is, even with my experiences, I’m still learning to practice intention with what I want to bring into my life. Minimalism is truly a lifestyle of humility and personal peace, and I do encourage anyone who is curious about this way of living to try it out. You’ll certainly have much to gain from it — life’s real treasures are enjoyed only when we choose to experience them rather than own them. And when you understand this, true fulfillment is always within reach.

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