I Asked My Friends What They Think About Minimalism – Here’s What They Said

It's very different depending on who you ask.

When you hear the word “minimalism”, you might conjure up images of a simple wardrobe that contains a few crisp button-down shirts, some basic tees, a couple pairs of shoes and a neutral color palette.

Or perhaps you imagine Steve Jobs and the iconic black turtleneck that became his daily uniform.

Or maybe it’s a capsule wardrobe filled with a rainbow of colors, wild patterns and your favorite concert tees.

Whatever you’re picturing, one thing is clear: minimalism can mean many different things to different people. And there isn’t one perfect definition for it.

That got me curious. I started wondering how other people perceive minimalism and what it means to them.

So, I decided to chat with some of my friends about it.

I spoke with a wide spectrum of people: some who have wholly embraced a minimalist lifestyle, some who are just starting their journeys and some who are simply curious. I even managed to convince my boyfriend to throw in his two cents!

Read on to find out what they had to say. I included a few of my own personal thoughts at the end as well.

Josephine, 27

San Jose, California

How do you define minimalism?

For me, minimalism is moving away from the idea that “more is better” when it comes to fashion and investing in fewer, higher-quality, timeless pieces. I used to always buy things that didn’t really look good on me, were cheaply made, slightly uncomfortable, or too trendy.

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year and it completely changed my mindset about the things I own and I realized that my overstuffed closet was actually a source of stress. Now I only keep the things I absolutely love and donate anything I’m unsure about.

Are there any ways that you incorporate minimalism into your lifestyle?

I wouldn’t call myself a true minimalist, but I’m working on incorporating minimalism into my lifestyle. I’ve embraced sustainable fashion, which I feel goes hand-in-hand with minimalism. I’ve stopped shopping at fast fashion retailers and recently rekindled my love for thrift store shopping.

I also put a lot more thought into what goes into my wardrobe. I identify specific items that are missing from my wardrobe rather than mindlessly buying whatever looks cute. When I do need something, I research the brands I’m interested in before making a purchase.

What’s your biggest minimalism victory? Challenge?

I didn’t think I would ever stop shopping at H&M and Zara and now I can proudly say I haven’t set foot in those stores for over a year.

Biggest challenge is that I’m redefining my style as I enter my late twenties and researching clothes can sometimes feel like a chore. I’m still trying to figure out what my go-to, reliable brands are. I know it’ll be worth it in the long run!

Just for fun (no judgement here), how many pairs of shoes do you currently own?
24, and proud to say I wear them all! Some I don’t wear as regularly, like heels for special occasions, but my shoe collection is currently the most edited part of my wardrobe and I’m pretty happy with it at the moment.

Stephanie, 30

Santa Clara, California

How do you define minimalism?

For me, minimalism is about keeping and purchasing only things I need and are truly important. It’s about eliminating excess in my wardrobe, décor, travels and day-to-day life.

My fiancé actually was the one who introduced me to minimalism and made me watch the Netflix documentary a few years ago (if you haven’t already watched it, you totally should!). He is a minimalist and has inspired me to slowly but surely get rid of excess, starting with my closet.

Minimalism isn’t meant to be restrictive, but rather, it is something liberating in the way you can rely on a handful of things that make you happy and fulfilled.

Are there any ways that you incorporate minimalism into your lifestyle?

As I mentioned, my fiancé has encouraged me to start with my wardrobe. He constantly reminds me it’s all about the essentials and having fewer, yet better things.

What’s your biggest minimalism victory? Challenge?

I’m proud to say I have become a minimalist traveler. My biggest victory was packing only a carry-on for a 2-week (plus some days) trip to Peru that consisted of visiting destinations with three different types of climates, including Machu Picchu. I have minimalist travel down to a science 😉

I also own less purses and they all are from ethical or sustainable brands, including AbleCuyana and Parker Clay, which I love to support. Before most purchasing decisions, I ask myself, “Do I need this or do I want this?” I’ve found this simple question helpful in my minimalist journey.

How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?

I have about 12 pairs now. Believe me, that’s a huge improvement from the shoe collector I once was.

Hannah, 25

Adelaide, Australia

How do you define minimalism?

It’s not very promising that I had to Google it, huh?

I guess I think that minimalism is living with intention. It involves the things we own, but that isn’t the entirety of it. It is a disposition and attitude that means you own only what you need and can draw value from.

It isn’t depriving yourself of nice things, it’s being considerate and mindful about what you choose to own, so that you’re not suffocated by stuff.

Are there any ways that you incorporate minimalism into your lifestyle?

Minimalism is one of those things that I daydream about. It often seems out of reach, but I have started to adjust my perspective and I’m seeking to implement minimalism in my wardrobe.

I am 24 weeks into a year without shopping and initially I was terrified to donate any of my clothes in case I ‘needed’ them at some point in the year. Since beginning my shopping ban, I have downsized my wardrobe to a third of its original size.

What’s your biggest minimalism victory? Challenge?

The biggest victory has been letting go of clothing that no longer serves a purpose. I was holding onto so many things out of guilt – I felt bad donating items that I’d spent good money on!

It’s been liberating to slowly curate my closet. I’m only interested in owning and wearing things that I absolutely love and feel great in.

As for my biggest challenge, sometimes it’s difficult to know how I should discard the things I no longer need. I’ve been able to donate most of my clothing items to thrift stores or friends, but sometimes you come across items that are worn out and aren’t able to be reused – researching the ways to recycle those items has proven a little more difficult than I imagined.

How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?

Oooh 16, that’s an area I haven’t downsized yet!

Kim, 28

San Francisco, California

How do you define minimalism?

Minimalism to me is to be more with less; it’s to own and keep items that are valuable to me. I want to own fewer, nicer things and to avoid clutter.

Are there any ways that you incorporate minimalism into your lifestyle?

A few months ago, I did an initial purge of my closet. I realized this clutter was causing more stress to me and I was pushing it off.

As I got rid of clothing, I felt a sense of relief. I now only buy clothes that I really like, are nicer quality and more staple items vs. the trendy items I used to always buy.

It’s just a start, but I want to get to the point where I love everything in my closet!

What’s your biggest minimalism victory? Challenge?

I would say those initial purges lifted off so much weight from my shoulders. The biggest challenge is that after getting rid of clothing items, I want to replenish with new items.

I’m also facing the challenge of transitioning from being a young adult to a professional late-twenties adult and redefining my style.

How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?

I’m embarrassed to even count. I have way too many shoes and they are spilling out of my closet. I haven’t done a big purge in this department.

But hey, baby steps. I am still a novice when it comes to the minimalist lifestyle, but I am trying to get it going.

Katie, 28

Orange County, California

How do you define minimalism?

The more I’ve practiced minimalism, the more I realize how it is such a personal choice and the more I’ve realized there is no wrong way. It took me a while to come to with terms with that.

I feel my personal aesthetic doesn’t fit into the “trend of minimalism”. But for me, I’ve learned that minimalism means just owning your absolute favorites, and keeping true to yourself in the process.

Are there any ways that you incorporate minimalism into your lifestyle?

I’m pretty new to the minimalist lifestyle, as it was my New Year’s Resolution for 2018. I have a long way to go, let’s be honest.

But the biggest thing I realized this year was when we were on vacation this past summer. I had no desire to shop. None. And if you know me, I basically lived for shopping on a trip.

Instead, my trip had me enjoying the scenery, the food and the wine. I couldn’t have been happier. I left with memories instead of things.

What’s your biggest minimalism victory? Challenge?

Ha! I think I just said it above. I’m so proud to have gone on a trip and not wanted to shop for clothes. Even my boyfriend made a comment when we hadn’t walked into one store after a few days.

Instead, I just spent that money on wine and good conversation.

My biggest challenge? Accepting my past. I know that might sound cliché, but I really can’t believe how much I’ve accumulated and spent on random sh*t I own and never use.

I recently did a closet cleanout, and was beyond frustrated with how much I still own. I ended up bagging four trash bags to send to donation and I’m still not done.

I’m trying to remember it is a journey and not a destination. Easier said than done.

How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?

OMG. Do I need to go count? Shoes were never my strong suit.

Adam, 27

Menlo Park, California

How do you define minimalism?

Because I work in architecture, the first thought that comes to mind when I think about minimalism is minimalist design. Distilling an object or concept down to its essence so that it becomes immediately recognizable and apparent to the viewer. From there, any modification or addition has to be very intentional and the reasoning behind it needs to be sound.

I suppose this idea can translate to other facets of the minimalistic lifestyle, especially when it comes to consuming. Having a solid reason behind every purchase can really help weed out the impulse buys and help facilitate a more minimalist lifestyle.

That being said, there are definitely times when I impulse buy and indulge. I am very short of perfect in this category.

Are there any ways that you incorporate minimalism into your lifestyle?

I loathe buying clothes for myself because it instantly triggers flashbacks to my awkward high school years, trying to pick out an outfit while simultaneously criticizing myself for choosing that type of item.

Because of this, I only buy clothing when I absolutely need to (once a year or so). When I have to make a clothing purchase, I identify whatever I need beforehand to make the process as quick and painless as possible. The most time-consuming part is usually trying the clothes on to make sure it all fits right.

I also try to stay away from brand names on my clothing. I prefer nondescript clothing that is subtle and quiet.

What’s your biggest minimalism victory? Challenge?

I’ll admit that one of my biggest weaknesses is books. Anytime I pass by a bookstore, I have to go in and explore, which results in a purchase almost every time. I’ve been able to crack down a little harder recently though because my bookshelf is getting too full of books that I have yet to read.

Sketchbooks are another weakness. I’m embarrassed to say how many half-filled sketchbooks sit on that same bookshelf.

In terms of a victory, I would say my closet. I don’t have a lot of clothing items, partly due to the reasons listed in the previous question.

How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?

I own six pairs of shoes: two pairs of work shoes, two pairs of street/weekend shoes, a pair of running shoes and some fuzzy slippers.

Lauren, 28 (Me!)

Menlo Park, California

How do you define minimalism?

I equate minimalism with mindfulness. I don’t force myself to maintain a set number of items in my closet – although I do enjoy a good capsule wardrobe challenge every now and then – and I don’t necessarily stick to a specific color palette.

For me, minimalism is purely about being more mindful about my shopping habits and culling that obsession to buy the latest and greatest. Most importantly, it’s about cultivating a healthy appreciation for the things that I already have. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called The Minimalists and there was one line that really resonated with me:

“Love people, use things. The opposite never works.”

Are there any ways that you incorporate minimalism into your lifestyle?

I used to view shopping as a way to pass the time. If I was sad, I’d shop. If I felt like celebrating, I’d shop.

But more often than not, I wasn’t buying things I actually needed.

I was also drawn to end-of-season clearance sales like a moth to a flame and ended up buying things just because I couldn’t pass up a good deal.

Now, I’m much more selective about the items I choose to add to my closet. I think about the versatility of my garments and how many different ways I can style them.

One of my favorite new pieces that I’ve introduced to my closet is VETTA Capsule’s black Mock Neck sweater from their new fall capsule (pictured above), which they were kind enough to gift to me. I love that I can wear it as a turtleneck on chillier days or detach the turtleneck and wear it as a crewneck.

I’ve also committed to buying only from ethical, sustainable, fair-trade brands and shopping second-hand at thrift shops (Crossroads is one of my favorites) or through apps like Poshmark and Vinted.

What’s your biggest minimalism victory? Challenge?

My biggest minimalism victory was getting through three solid months without shopping. During this shopping ban, I didn’t buy clothes, makeup, accessories or anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary.

It was tough at first and I remember feeling tempted whenever I saw a marketing email from one of my favorite clothing brands. So, I unsubscribed from those emails and started focusing on what I already had.

Eventually, I stopped feeling that itch to shop and it was so liberating. Even after the three months were up, it was a while before I made a clothing purchase – and it was a decision I made carefully, not something I bought on a whim.

My biggest challenge has been letting go of pieces that I’ve either spent a lot of money on or that I’ve received as gifts.

I’m a frugal person so it’s hard for me to part with items that I’ve invested in, even if I don’t wear them anymore. And it makes me feel guilty to give up something that someone took the time to pick out for me.

But I’ve learned that if it’s just sitting in the closet, collecting dust, it’s time to say goodbye and give it someone who will truly appreciate it.

How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?

I still have a lot of work to do in this category since I have a big weakness for shoes, especially after I discovered Everlane and all their gorgeous mules and loafers. Right now, I’m at 28 pairs (including running shoes, rain boots and bedroom slippers), and hoping to edit this down to 20.

Based on the variety of responses, it’s safe to say that minimalism is entirely individualistic. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to building a minimalist wardrobe. You aren’t bound to owning a set number of items in your closet, or sticking to a certain color palette.

At the end of the day, minimalism is about being more conscious about the choices we make. It’s being mindful about the way we choose to consume (and dispose) of our possessions, with the intention of becoming less dependent on things and more focused on finding contentment in what we already have. And I think that’s something we can all get on board with.

I’d love to know – what does minimalism mean to you? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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