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3 Things Most People Get Wrong About Minimalism

Apr 07, 2024

Read time: 6 minutes

“I could never be a minimalist. It feels way too restrictive.”

This is one of the most common rejections of the minimalist lifestyle.

So today, we will discuss 3 things most people get wrong about minimalism.

Whether you’re just getting started with decluttering or seeking wisdom and encouragement to keep going — my perspective on what most people get wrong will help you gain clarity so you can push forward and reap the benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle.

Let’s dive in.

How I View Minimalism

As a spoken word poet (for the last decade), I’m particular about my word choices. This is because I believe language and vocabulary are important.

The point of vocabulary and having a shared vocabulary is that when you say a certain word or idea, people understand what you mean.

They have the same definition in their mind as you have in your mind.

So, I think it’s worth taking a brief moment to discuss my perspective on minimalism.

Here’s what minimalism is not:

  • Deprivation or living without
  • Empty walls
  • Avoiding your phone
  • Obsessing over how well everything is organized
  • Removing personality and expression from your home or life
  • Taking owning less to the extreme

To me, minimalism is more about attention than anything else. It’s a tool to assist you in promoting what you value.

Once you understand this, recognizing what you may have gotten wrong about minimalism becomes increasingly evident.

3 Things Most People Get Wrong About Minimalism

1) Measuring Success by How Little You Own

Traditionally, success is measured by reaching a specific result — we see this across every facet of life.

For example, paying off debt, getting a promotion at work, or walking 6,000+ steps a day. Success in these areas is determined by whether or not we reach that specific result.

Now, in the context of decluttering, it’s easy to assume that success equates to “owning less.”

However, unlike the previous examples I mentioned, owning less is not a straightforward or specific result that we can use to gauge our level of “success.”

For example, am I successful when:

  • I declutter my wardrobe down to less than 15 items.
  • I only own one coffee mug.
  • I create a modern and monochromatic home.

Metrics like these are inaccurate ways to measure decluttering success because where does less end? How do you know when you’ve reached it? Where is the line drawn between owning less and going to the extreme?

Truth be told, we don’t know.

So, a more accurate way to measure decluttering success is by gauging your ability to honor what you say is important to you.

Have you decluttered enough to prioritize your values without hesitation or distraction?

Have you decluttered enough to fulfill why you started this journey?

Have you decluttered enough to eliminate frustration and friction in your daily routine?

Questions like these mark a definitive line in the sand and give you a clear and specific result to gauge your level of “success.”

So, if your answer to either of these questions is yes, you’ve reached success. If the answer is no, then keep decluttering until you get there.

Your less may look very different than mine — and that’s perfectly ok.

2) Assuming Minimalism Is Only for Physical and Mental Clutter

There is an undeniable connection between our physical and mental clutter.

Although they can stand independently, and we can very much hold on to excessive clutter in both areas — our physical clutter often occupies our mental environment, and our mental clutter tends to tie itself to tangible items.

I say this because these are the two areas we focus on when we start decluttering.

Maybe we have too many clothes, a cluttered garage, a spare bedroom buried beneath mounds of stuff, or mental clutter that keeps getting in the way of life.

Whatever it is, clearing the clutter from our homes and finding practical ways to achieve mental clarity is a huge win.

However, I’m going to challenge you to go deeper and apply minimalism to other aspects of your life beyond the physical and mental clutter.

Take a look at your:

  • Finances: Do you have any outstanding debt, and if so, what is your game plan for paying it off?
  • Commitments: Does your schedule reflect how you want to live your life? (Are you spending your time intentionally? Do you have enough time for the things you love and enjoy?)
  • Relationships: Most people often forget that the people we meet throughout our lives enter our lives either for a reason, season, or lifetime. When I say declutter your relationships, I’m referring to those people who were in your life for a reason or season, but you’ve placed them on a lifetime pedestal.
  • Digital Space: Assess your digital environment, including your emails, social media accounts, apps, and files. Are they serving a purpose or adding unnecessary noise to your life? Streamline your digital presence by decluttering your inbox, unsubscribing from irrelevant emails, organizing digital files, and limiting time spent on social media.
  • Career: Your work should support your life and values, not be your life and the only thing you value. Consider pursuing a more meaningful career if you feel led to make that change. (Psst, it’s never too late, and you’re not “too old” either — let’s go ahead and shut that lie down now)

See, it is gratifying to have the freedom to prioritize the things and people that matter. By applying minimalism to more than just your physical and mental clutter, you can live a life you have creative control over.

3) Assuming Minimalism Is Only for Your Personal Life

As someone who works for themself and has spent 8 years in Corporate America, I’ve experienced firsthand (on both sides of the fence) how work can quickly dominate our lives.

So, it’s essential to recognize that minimalism isn’t solely applicable to our personal lives; it’s equally relevant to our professional environments.

Here’s how you can apply minimalism to your professional life (regardless of whether you’re a solopreneur, corporate employee, or student):

  1. Streamlining Your Workspace: Start by decluttering your physical workspace and removing items that aren’t essential to your daily tasks. A clean and organized workspace promotes focus and productivity.

  2. Simplifying Your Workflow: Examine your daily tasks and processes. Are there inefficiencies that can be eliminated or delegated? Simplifying your workflow can save time and mental energy — allowing you to focus on high-impact tasks.

  3. Setting Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Consider defining specific working hours (especially if you’re self-employed) and stick to them. If you work outside the home, avoid the temptation to bring work home or constantly check emails outside of designated times. Maintaining boundaries like this fosters a healthier work-life balance.

  4. Prioritizing Tasks: Embrace the principle of “less is more” when it comes to your to-do list. Focus on completing a few meaningful tasks rather than spreading yourself thin across numerous activities. Prioritizing tasks ensures that you’re directing your efforts toward what truly matters.

    (My priorities self-assessment guide includes a list of great questions you can ask yourself to reassess your commitments and define your priorities. You can read it here.)

  5. Embracing Minimalist Communication: Simplify your communication channels to avoid information overload. Consider consolidating email threads, using project management tools for collaboration, and minimizing unnecessary meetings. Clear and concise communication enhances efficiency and reduces workplace clutter.

    (In my business today, I use Slack and email, but during my 8 years in Corporate America, we used Microsoft Teams — Explore these tools and others like them to help simplify your communication channels).

I promise that if you incorporate minimalist principles into both your personal and professional life, you will be able to fully honor what you say is important to you — and there is no greater reward than that.


  • Stop measuring decluttering success by how little you own and instead gauge your ability to honor what you say is important to you.
  • Go deeper and apply minimalism to other aspects of your life beyond the physical and mental clutter.
  • Recognize that minimalism isn’t solely applicable to our personal lives; it’s equally relevant to our professional environments.

Your Next Steps

Whether you’re just getting started with decluttering or you’re seeking wisdom and encouragement to keep going — here’s what to do next:

  1. Identify your core values
  2. Use them to guide your decluttering and measure your success
  3. Once you have a firm handle on your physical and mental clutter, then go deeper
  4. Recognize opportunities where you can apply minimalism to your professional life

The key to success on this journey is the constant, disciplined pursuit of more clarity.

If you can do that, you’ll create a life that allows you to prioritize your values, put your family first, and enjoy a career that is fulfilling beyond the paycheck.

I hope you’ll consider this!

See you next week.


Whenever you’re ready, here’s how I can help you:

 The Decluttering Starter Kit: Skip the overwhelm and jumpstart your decluttering journey. This comprehensive course will teach and guide you through my multi-step action plan for decluttering with less overwhelm and more progress each week. Get access here.


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