Many people confuse minimalism and essentialism, often crossing the two over or using them interchangeably. Some say that the word ‘minimalism’ sounds cold to them, and that ‘essentialism’ is hard to define, but I’m here to set the record straight and figure it out for you and give directions on where to start with it all.
Defining minimalism and essentialism
Differences: Minimalism is having fewer items and keeping things minimal. not buying things, and decluttering till you have more storage than anything else is one way to look at it. At its core, minimalism condemns consumerism as it focuses on having less and more space.
Essentialism is being intentional with everything you do, only keeping the essentials. This also focuses on being intentional with what we do in our day – are we going to scroll on TikTok or cook a proper dinner? It’s about doing what is essential in life, in essence, it condemns busyness and focuses on the pursuit of less rather than aiming to own less, as is the case in minimalism.
Similarities: Having a simpler way of living by keeping track of what you own and being intentional with all items in your life. They both aim to set us free in some form or another, minimalism aims to set us free from the material and essentialism sets us free emotionally.
Many minimalists and essentialists hold a similar view that a messy space equals a messy mind, that our physical space is connected to our mental, emotional and spiritual space. I have personally found this to be true in my own life and the lives of those around me. It’s a given that most teenagers’ rooms are going to be messy, but it’s because it’s a stressful and difficult time in their young lives and so their room reflects that; they have no organisation or structure, they don’t know where things go or how to properly sort their laundry. This was the case for me until I discovered minimalism, I realised I owned a lot of things I didn’t actually want, leaving no room for the things that mattered to me. I decluttered all the things that didn’t spark joy or weren’t helpful to me, and soon without realising, my mental health became better – I wasn’t as tense in my room anymore and felt like I could breathe.
Having a clean and clear space freed my mind, but then I began to over declutter, getting rid of things I loved but weren’t ‘useful’. This is around the time I learnt about essentialism, like minimalism, we only keep what is essential, but what’s considered essential is very different for everyone. Someone could say my tigger teddy isn’t essential, but to me it helps me sleep at night, and is a source of comfort. This is where minimalism transitions into essentialism, once we have sorted out what doesn’t add to our lives we begin to focus more on the things that bring us joy. It’s no longer about how many items you own but what you own, what each item means to you. I still live a very minimalist life, but I don’t hesitate to bring new items in that bring me joy, just like my most recent purchase, my platform crocs – not essential but the joy they bring me is very much worth it.
What do I recommend
If you want to start prioritizing your life and sorting things out, start with minimalism: pair down what’s important to you and donate what isn’t, clean your space to clear your mind. Once you have reached a level you are happy with, embrace essentialism, focus on what’s important in your life and bring more of it in, even if it means more items on your clean shelves; a shelf filled with love is better than a shelf clean from clutter. Minimalism focuses on the external and essentialism focuses on the internal, here is a quote from ItsKeaton via YouTube “we need to start with mastering the physical to eventually gain control of the non-physical”.
To end with, I recommend you check out a few of my personal favourite YouTubers that actively practice minimalism and essentialism in their own lives, who also share more advice on how to keep going and what else there is to these lifestyles. The people recommend are: ItsKeaton, Matt D’avella, Gabe bult, A to Zen life and lastly Ronald L. Banks. All of these people have unique approaches to minimalism and essentialism and have guided me on my own personal journey.
Hello, I'm Megan Dowthwaite, a graphic designer and content creator. I'm fascinated by the world and its various cultures main ones being Korea, the Philippines and other Asian countries, I specifically focus on fashion, art, history and the ecosystem. I love to learn and share my new found knowledge with others.