In this post, we are going to explore the meaning of minimalism essentials, and the purpose they serve.
Here we share 7 key questions that will help you identify (and curate) these items in your own life.
If you’re ready to uncover what matters most, and build your personalized list of minimalist essentials, this post is for you!
Let’s jump right in..
How Many Items Should You Own as a Minimalist?
When I first embarked on my minimalist journey, this was a question that I became quite hung up on.
You’ll notice that lists of essentials are pretty popular within the minimalist community - from how many knives & forks you should have in your cutlery drawer to the optimum pairs of shoes in your wardrobe.
Go down too many rabbit holes and before long, you’re doubting whether you should own a kettle when you have a perfectly good saucepan.
Are ten books too many? I mean, do you even need a sofa?!
After your necessary survival essentials like food, water and shelter, everyone is going to have a different opinion as to what constitutes an ‘essential’. So it becomes virtually impossible to know where to draw the line.
How many items does a minimalist have?
The problem with a one-size-fits-all list or room-by-room approach is that it perpetuates the misconception that minimalism is about living with less. In truth, minimalism is about living with what matters.
What are the minimalist essentials?
Living with what matters could mean travelling the world out of a backpack to one person, and it could mean a three-bedroom house with a double garage to another. Basically, it’s going to be radically different depending on you as an individual.
It’s easy to use these statements interchangeably - after all, identifying what matters usually involves reducing the number of possessions you own. But there are significant nuances here.
So why is it so tempting then to search for the perfect list of ‘best minimalist items’? Probably because we want an instant fix - we’d much rather someone else do the hard work for us.
What is considered a minimalist lifestyle?
What I’ve come to understand, though, is that minimalism is more about the journey than the destination. And it goes much deeper than simply decluttering your surface-level ‘stuff’.
At its heart, embracing minimalism is an introspective process that involves real inner work and genuine curiosity to establish what you personally value and want out of life.
7 Questions To Identify Your Minimalism Essentials
Below is a list of some self-reflective questions that you can ask yourself to help curate your own list of minimalist essentials.
These questions will help you to identify the items that truly add value to your life - a process that can be notoriously tricky.
Throughout this process, try to keep the key principles of minimalism at the forefront of your mind:
- Moderation - be realistic about what you truly need and what are simply ‘extras’
- Efficiency - your stuff should streamline and systematize your life; helping you to work smarter, not harder
- Intention - be guided by your long-term values as opposed to the instant gratification of mindless stuff
It’s important to note that there are no right or wrong answers here. It’s the process of mindfulness that will help you to understand yourself at a deeper level.
1. Is it collecting dust?
A good question to start with is to assess how often you use the item in question. You can immediately gain a sense of how important something is by determining whether you reach for it on a daily basis.
Perhaps it’s your go-to pair of trainers or your trusty slow cooker.
On the flip side, I’d hazard a sneaky suspicion that you have drawers full of stuff you barely open - from cabinets overflowing with bathroom products that slipped out of date months ago to sentimental clutter that just gathers dust.
It’s easy to kid yourself that holding onto this stuff doesn’t really have any impact - but everything we own requires a certain level of maintenance.
By freeing up space, you unload yourself both physically and mentally of clutter.
It also means that you can find the things you’re looking for, it’s easier to keep your house clean and tidy, and you’re more focused on the things that truly matter.
2. Does it light you up?
The infamous phrase ‘does it spark joy’ was popularized by decluttering guru Marie Kondo, but how can you apply it to your own stuff?
Well, the simplest way is to ask yourself how you feel when you hold or use an item. You’ll notice that the things you truly love will briefly light you up.
Whether it’s the way your morning coffee mug hugs your hands or the cozy texture of your favourite jumper, there are certain things you own that just feel right.
This is definitely a useful question when it comes to multiples of the same or similar items that you own. When you can identify that something is your favourite, you can say goodbye to any similar items that don’t quite give you that same fuzzy feeling.
3. Does it pull its weight?
On the back of the last point, there will always be some strictly utilitarian items that don’t provide a whole lot of excitement but that you wouldn’t want to be without, either (a phone charger or a washing machine, for instance).
Don’t rush to automatically include these items in your minimalist essentials, though. It’s still helpful to critically assess what you really need.
For those of you who can’t resist a new kitchen gadget, you might find over time that some get neglected in favour of others that do the job better.
For instance, a hand blender quickly gets relegated when you introduce an all-singing and dancing multi-function food processor.
Identify those items that aren’t pulling their weight (plus are probably taking up a lot of countertop space), and streamline them so that you only keep what you actually use.
4. Does it fit your lifestyle?
Your possessions should empower you to live by your values and achieve your goals. If you’ve never really stopped to consider what your values are in life, then this is a crucial first step towards intentional living that will act like a compass to guide you.
For instance, if your health is one of your top priorities, then your smoothie maker may be a daily essential for you. But if health isn’t at the top of your list, then it will probably stay firmly at the back of a cupboard and never see the light of day.
I’m pretty sure that a smoothie maker wouldn’t make it onto any cookie-cutter minimalist home essentials list - and this is why I’d caution against a templatized format or tickable ‘How do I become a minimalist checklist?’.
By definition, your minimalist essentials should be tailored to you.
This is empowering because, in effect, it means that you can intentionally design your life in a way which aligns with your highest self.
5. Does it simplify your life?
If efficiency is a core principle of minimalism, then you should also be asking yourself whether something brings ease and simplifies your daily systems.
I lived without a dishwasher in my house for six months before deciding that buying one would free up a lot of my time in the evenings, as well as keeping my kitchen looking cleaner throughout the day.
If I was adhering to the ‘minimalist items for home’ stereotype, I’d probably have continued to struggle along without.
But adding this item into my life was an intentional choice so that I could spend more of my time on the things which matter to me (spoiler alert: that’s not the dishes!).
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6. Are you telling yourself a story?
Let’s be honest - we all have those things that we convince ourselves to keep hold of ‘just in case’.
“I haven’t read that book yet but I’ll get round to it - it’s a classic after all!”
“I’ll wear that dress when I lose a bit of weight.”
“That foundation isn’t quite the right shade for me, but it was expensive and it might come in handy when I get a tan.”
At a deeper level, letting go of the mindless things that we’ve acquired but don’t actually use involves unpicking the stories we tell ourselves.
For instance, the things we feel we should own or that others will judge us for, as well as idealised versions of ourselves and guilt over sunk investments.
These are often uncomfortable feelings to navigate. But in the process of decluttering these items, we not only simplify our lives - we make room for more of our authentic selves.
7. Would you buy it again?
So many of the things we buy are impulse purchases in the moment, and whilst they may give us a short-term dopamine hit of instant gratification, they very quickly lose their sheen.
There are likely plenty of things you own that you would hesitate to repurchase if given the opportunity again.
Whether it’s something you bought in the sale which you probably wouldn’t have purchased at full price, or a piece of clothing that is on-trend one moment but out of fashion by the next season..
So a good rule of thumb is to only keep those items that you would rebuy every day of the week.
Whilst we may discover the list of items that are right for us in this moment, it doesn’t mean there won’t be shifts and changes over time.
Again, a minimalist lifestyle emphasizes the journey we are on as opposed to reaching an idealised destination.
And the curation of your ‘minimalist essentials’ will be no different.
However, if we are practising self reflection, living in alignment with our values, and guided by the principles of minimalism, we will always have the list we need.
What about you?
What is on your list of minimalism essentials?
Let us know in the comment section below!