The word minimal is an adjective, describing a small amount, quantity, or degree of something. It can be defined as the least amount possible (yourdictionary.com).
In the current minimalist movement, the term minimalism is usually assumed to refer to a minimal amount of “stuff.” But minimal can refer to amounts of anything. You may, for instance, prefer to strive for minimal spending, minimal working hours, minimal interaction with other people, minimal physical exertion, minimal environmental damage, minimal stress, or minimal time away from your family.
These examples show the intersection of minimalism with other important lifestyle practices that also focus on downsizing, streamlining, and reducing consumption.
• Environmentalists hope to minimize the carbon footprints of humans on the earth.
• Advocates of frugality try to minimize the amount of cash they need/spend.
• Followers of Voluntary Simplicity attempt to minimize the quantity of their unfulfilling life demands in order to maximize life’s quality.
What is your goal?
It’s important to answer this question because you may discover that having the absolute minimum of stuff actually defeats the purpose you are ultimately trying to achieve. For instance, even if you’re a hoarder, you are also a minimalist – because your goal is to minimize the amount of empty space in your home!
Using the definition “the least amount possible” makes us responsible for expanding on the definition that only specifies minimal as a small amount. Our personal definition of “minimal” becomes “the least amount of something that will still make achieving our goal possible.”
• A minimal wardrobe is nice – unless what you really want to minimize is trips to the laundromat.
• A minimal set of freezer containers is great – unless what you really want to minimize is the daily responsibility of cooking dinner.
• A minimal set of tools is a good idea – unless what you really want to minimize is frustration when doing home repairs and remodeling.
The moral of the story? Define your goals. Then identify the minimum that will allow you to achieve them and eliminate everything else. This, in effect, will sharpen your focus, maximizing the way you spend your energy and your time – and in turn, simplify your life.
Because the bottom line is this: the whole point of minimizing one thing is really to maximize something else.