What’s missing from minimalism

Everything in life works better without clutter. But some minimalists take this too far and try to exist with the absolute minimum number of things they need to get by.

Does it matter how many things you own?

It certainly does matter if you get to the level of hoarding behaviour, where you have so much stuff in your home that you can no longer function normally. Up to 5% of people in the western world are now thought to be in this situation, and the numbers are increasing each year.

It also matters to around 30% of the population who, according to a survey conducted at About.com, say they avoid going home because they have so much clutter.

In fact, only 6% of people surveyed claimed to live clutter-free. Everyone else has more things than they need and is struggling to some degree to keep their home tidy, organized and as they want it.

Is minimalism the answer?

The message of minimalism is excellent. It’s clear the world needs to consume less. But the practicalities are challenging and it tends to attract people who are obsessive, compulsive, or both. I know of one person, for example, who got so enthused by the idea that she now only has one plate in her kitchen. If a friend comes to dinner, they have to bring their own plate with them.

But the main problem with minimalism is the basis on which decisions are made. I believe that each of us is here on earth for a purpose, and the possessions we keep around us need to reflect this — not so little that we can’t do what we’re here to do, and not so much that we are burdened and held back.

At some stages of my life I needed very few things, and at other times I have needed more. Twice in my life I have made such major course corrections that I got rid of everything I owned and started again. But this wasn’t driven by the wish to consume less. It was in order to follow the integrity of my higher calling.

Why minimalism misses the mark

Limiting the number of things we own in order to opt out of consumerism seems very admirable. But it misses the mark. It addresses the problem at the level of results rather than the cause. It does not take into account that we are spiritual beings incarnated in human bodies, and if each person were to follow their purpose, they would naturally have just the amount of things that they need and no more.

Consumerism and materialism are, in fact, symptoms of how spiritually disconnected modern society has become. Limiting how many possessions people have in their homes is not a cure for that.

There’s no quick fix for this situation, but there are ways to develop a more conscious relationship with your home environment and your possessions so that they can help rather than hinder you in your path. The first essential step is to clear any clutter you have.

Resources
Online clutter clearing courses
Creating Conscious Space online course

Related articles
Why people keep stuff
What’s your clutter ratio?

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Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2016, updated 2019


About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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6 Responses to What’s missing from minimalism

  1. Kate says:

    Thanks Karen – will do!

  2. Kate says:

    Wonderful article, Karen. I’m on my journey towards minimalism and I am keeping art I love, including rugs, cushions. I’ve still got a way to go (attic, garage, sentimental items), but it suddenly occurred to me that really, minimalism might be more effective when combined with feng shui.

    But, even on reading various books and websites, I keep coming across doubts with the feng shui process. I understand in an ideal world I’d get a professional, but I can’t afford it. Even with the feng shui where you line up the North part of the Bagua with the front door, I’m encountering problems.

    For example, I need to do my large patio and garden’s feng shui but do I align the Bagua with the entrance of the garden or is it an extension of my house’s alignment (which is a different direction from my garden)?

    There’s so much conflicting info on websites (or simply a lack of info for beginners of feng shui). As a result, I’ve stalled in my feng shui a bit, which is a shame as I was doing really well until this dilemma came up!

    I wish there was a book on feng shui that would enable me to feel confident about using this method. There’s so much info on decluttering, but feng shui sensible guidance is somewhat thin on the ground, I think.

  3. Pixie says:

    Although not a true minimalist, most Americans would likely consider me so. I can’t tolerate excess. I prefer to live simply and light. My home, intentionally, is just a bit spare.

    There’s only one category I have a large amount of: beautifully displayed dishes in lovely floral patterns. I like to cook and consider them to be functional art. I routinely use and thoroughly enjoy them. They feel like an indoor garden and absolutely lift my energy when I think about or look at them. Because my house is big, they’re not in excess within the space—but likely will be when I move to a smaller house. It will be difficult to reduce…

    In Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui you wrote about symbolism. So it makes me wonder, do I have a glaring blind spot in this one area—or am I just someone who takes great joy in floral print dishes?!? I realize I may be overthinking this, but it intrigues and makes me curious in light of my other tendencies.

  4. Marilyn says:

    “I know of one person, for example, who got so enthused by the idea that she now only has one plate in her kitchen. If a friend comes to dinner, they have to bring their own plate with them.”

    I remember mother’s apartment in San Francisco…where the only place to actually SIT without getting on the floor was the toilet! Hahahahahahaha!!

    Oh, I do miss her!! 🙂

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