“The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates

Another key phrase coined by Socrates is “to know thyself is beginning of wisdom.” While no one likes being pigeonholed, many of us crave clearer self-definition through the use of effective tools for analysis. This is because, somewhere deep down, you know that by knowing yourself better you will be able to approach life in a more healthy, joyful and sustainable way. It’s only by knowing who you are that you can reach your full potential. In this article you should be able to identify some inherent aspects of self that will help guide your practice and simplify how you address challenges on your path to holistic minimalism.

4.1 The Aesthetic Minimalist: Less Just Looks Better!

First off, while many of us have a very specific image that comes to mind when we think of a minimalist space, there are as many possible “looks” to a minimalist space as there are people to create them. There’s no one model, no “THE” minimalist aesthetic, despite all the hype. That being said, if having a space that looks good to you is one of the most important factors motivating the lifestyle shift to minimalism, that’s important to notice.

If this is the case, it’ll probably be a lot easier for you than for some to not accumulate stuff because anything that comes into your space that doesn’t fit with your vision of beauty will be automatically rejected (assuming you have total control over your space…). Aesthetic minimalists feel personally offended by what they consider visually unappealing. If you have been secretly hiding this part of yourself for fear of being accused of having “ridiculously high standards”, it’s time for you to embrace your inner aesthete.

Knowing what is and isn’t beautiful to you is a great quality to have when it comes to creating and maintaining a minimalist living environment. So long as you don’t try and impose your perspective on others. Not everyone sees beauty in the same way. Go figure. As long as you use your aesthetic sense when making personal lifestyle choices rather than as a universal law that should be applied by everyone, everywhere, then anyone who takes issue with your lifestyle choices is reacting based on their own insecurities.

One thing to watch out for when aesthetics is your main motivator is that you may not find it as easy to apply minimalism to the intangible areas of your life, like digital, mental or relational clutter. Being aware of your Aesthetic Minimalist nature will allow you to put more focus on simplifying the areas of your life that may come less naturally to you.

4.2 The Essentialist: What Do You Want Versus What Do You Need?

“Be ruthless! Say no to everything that is either not essential or doesn’t add something of value to your life.” Dee Waldeck

For the Essentialist, all the interest of minimalism can be boiled down to “separating the wheat from the chaff.” You may look at this as “quality over quantity,” or, in other words, what holds or adds true value in your life and what is unnecessary surplus? From objects to relationships, the essentialist tends to evaluate based on need versus want. Of course this can be challenging to pinpoint if we have unexamined attachments to consumerist paradigms that push the idea of “needing” material goods in order to be a) successful or b) truly happy. But if you already tend to break things down to the essentials and this is what draws you to minimalism then you probably already have a solid analysis of the difference between needing and wanting, even given the pro-consumerist context most of us live in.

If you don’t, then recognizing yourself as an Essentialist is going to be incredibly useful in creating a personal system for screening things with an essentials-only criteria. It’s also important to remember that any one person can be, and is usually, a mix of several of these Minimalist types. What you need to identify is really where your most deeply ingrained core-values lie – what makes you tick when it comes to minimalism?- and how can you use that knowledge to help you work through bumps along the road to cultivated simplicity.

4.3 Experiential Minimalism: Keeping It Light Enough To Travel

“A forest bird never wants a cage.” Henrik Ibsen

As Taryn Williford of Apartment Therapy explains, “The hallmark of the experiential minimalist is a belief that the pursuit of experiences is more universally important than the pursuit of things. So while the experientialist does own very few possessions, it’s merely a symptom of their chosen lifestyle rather than an outcome of any intentional curation.” [1]

In addition to valuing experiences over things (a super useful perspective to integrate into your minimalist practice in order to make it last, no matter what your main type is!) the experiential minimalist may shy away from the burdensome responsibility associated with owning, and thus managing, material goods. They value freedom of mobility – the option to just pick up and roam the world whenever they so choose – more than most. This usually translates to their attitude surrounding relationships and work as well. You may tend to go for all-in, immediate depth of connection over slowly evolving partnerships. You may be more attracted to freelancing or self-employment over being beholden to an employer of some kind for any significant duration. Seasonal work, okay. But 30 years working and living in the same place with only a couple weeks of vacation per year? The experiential minimalist balks at this idea.

If this rings true to you then minimalism is likely, as stated above, a side-effect of your preferred mode of life. If, however, the experiential minimalist profile resonates but you find yourself living a life that feels utterly constraining, it may be time for you to make some radical changes. Just saying.

4.4 The Thrifty Minimalist: Living SImply Makes Sense Financially

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” Epictetus

The financial pluses of simple living are becoming and more obvious to the wider population. In Canada one of the bestselling books at the moment, “Do You Really Need It?” (translated from the original French “En as-tu vraiment besoin?”) was written by a career accountant and offers “self-defense techniques against overconsumption and financial naiveness.” The book looks at 40 key areas of a person’s life and how, essentially, being thrifty can lead to increased personal freedom.[2] If the financial logic of minimalism is what drives your decision to make it your chosen lifestyle, you may not need quite as much coaching in this area.

On the other hand, in a world where overconsumption is still (for now) the norm, you may find yourself labelled as stingy for being on the side of frugality. As with most of the minimalist types, it takes a certain amount of personal conviction to keep yourself centered. From the reduced stress of not “needing” as much money to live comfortably, to the knowledge that you’re making conscious choices that reflect your values instead of being pressured into just going along with the game, focus on the incredible benefits simple living has to offer and you’ll make it through any short term rut you may get in to.

4.5 The Mindful Minimalist: Less Clutter Gives You Inner Peace

“We are what we see. We are products of our surroundings.” Amber Valletta

The above quote pretty much sums up the feeling a Mindful Minimalist holds at the core of their motivational toolkit. When your environment is clean and clear you feel at peace. When it’s cluttered by objects, papers, or the day to day mess of life, you feel unsettled. While other minimalist personalities may be fine with things like a pile of dishes going unwashed for a night or cleaning up after a party a day or two later, if you identify with the feeling that clutter has a negative effect on your internal state, you’ll want to set up some disciplined habits taking that into account. If you’re already aware of the effect clutter has on you then you hopefully already practice all this. If not, try and organize your time so that you can wash the dishes or put away the laundry before going to bed; make a point of dealing with emails as you go so you don’t have to wade through digital clutter every day; have that hard talk with your partner so you don’t have it weighing on your mind all night. These things make a huge difference in the life of a mindful minimalist.

You’re also likely someone who needs a bit more time in quiet spaces and who may need more time immersed in nature. Make time for yourself to be in surroundings that reflect the state of peace you want to cultivate internally; go for regular walks in the woods, meditate or do yoga in beautiful studios or retreat centers, listen to soothing music, go sit in an old library or church/mosque/synagogue etc.You’ll find yourself inspired and re-invigorated by spaces that speak to the harmony you want to create around you.

4.6 The Environmentalist: Let’s Look At The Big Picture People…

Also called the “sustainable” or “green” minimalist, the environmental minimalist is interested in reducing their ecological footprint on the world. You know that reducing your personal consumption means taking responsibility for your impact on the environment and the intersecting issues around labor and production globally. Minimalism doesn’t stop on an individual scale for you…it’s a worldview that needs to be put into practice on a global scale. It’s a philosophy that should be applied to our entire system. You probably are often confused and dismayed (to say the least) by the average person’s lack of interest in downsizing because to you the need is so obvious and urgent.

One idea you could take away from the analysis of minimalist types is to see them as different leverage points you could use when talking to people about how essential adopting a minimalist lifestyle is right now. Because let’s face it…a lot of people will be more motivated by the idea that they will a) save money or b) be significantly more happy and free by living simply than they will be by the, to them abstract, notion that environmental collapse is just around the corner.

4.7 Seekers: In Need Of A New Start

The Seeker has experienced some type of major life event (a close ones death, loss of a job, or something else that has shaken your foundations…) and is in need of a complete reboot. You feel attracted to the idea of minimalism mainly because it means getting rid of most of what you own, if not everything, and starting over with a blank page. This is often a bit of a sudden and radical shift given the shock of the event, whatever it may be. The challenge here is to maintain the sought-after simplicity once the dust settles. What’s to prevent you from going back to accumulating as much stuff as you had before in your new life? For the Seeker Minimalists it could be worth it to re-read the other types listed above and try and identify which one(s) resonate the most with you so that after the first rush of purging you can continue find the motivation necessary to stick with it. Identifying your secondary type will keep you on a path that will insure you reach your highest potential.

4.9 Action Point Summary – Here’s What You Need to Do Now!

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” Albert Einstein

Having taken the time to examine your main motivation behind all this lifestyle choice stuff, it’s now time for you to get out there and put it all to practice. Taking stock of where we’re at in our internal landscape is often the first step to actually growing into the next manifestation of our highest potential. You can use what motivates you as something to come back to when you’re in need of a little boost back on track, but don’t be surprised if you revisit this concept at a later date and see your priorities have shifted, or even expanded to include several minimalist types. This is just one of the ways in which minimalism can transform your life on a foundational level.

  1. Identify your main minimalist motivation type.
  2. Make a list of the ways you can tap into your main motivation when the going gets tough.
  3. Prepare to surpass yourself!
  4. Check in with yourself regularly to see if your motivations have shifted as you grow and change as an individual.
  1. “These Are The 6 Types of Minimalist: Which One Are You?,” Taryn Williford, apartmenttherapy.com, July 23rd, 2018
  2. “En as-tu vraiment besoin?”, Pierre-Yves Mcsween, Sept. 2016, publisher: Guy Saint-Jean

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