I’m Not an Eliminationist


When people find out that I’m a minimalist, I often get asked something like, “Well if you’re a minimalist, how come you own/use/buy [insert item here]?” This question is interesting because the people who ask me these questions probably have some preconceived notion about minimalism or when they hear that word they think of certain things. I hope this article clears up the difference between a Minimalist and what I have decided to call an eliminationist.

Minimalism is a movement with many voices, ideas, experiments, challenges, blogs, books, and lots of love. Typically minimalism is defined as living with only what you truly need and love, shunning any excess. This can mean a lot of different things for different people. A single bachelor is going to have a much different way of living a minimalist lifestyle than parents with five kids. Just look at the differences between Anthony Ongaro, Leo Babauta and Courtney Carver. They’re all different people, living in different environments and circumstances and they all have a slightly different idea of minimalism and simple living.

I think that many people, when they hear “minimalist”, immediately think “a person who lives with next to nothing, never shops, walks everywhere and owns 100 items or less”. Unfortunately, many people get scared away from minimalism because of this associated meaning. For those of you who are interested in learning more about minimalism, please keep reading! The above perception is what I call “Eliminationism”. Eliminationism is a misleading concept that is more often than not invented in the minds of those who don’t fully understand minimalism.

Eliminationism: living with almost no possessions, getting rid of almost everything you own, being able to fit your possessions in one backpack, becoming a farmer or a hunter/gatherer and living off the land, owning nearly nothing and buying nothing.

Minimalism: living with the essential, owning only what you need and love, using things and loving people, eliminating the unnecessary, pursuing your passions, living within your means, investing in relationships and experiences rather than physical objects, and much more.

See the difference?

Full disclosure: I own two cars because my wife and I live in a state with rain, snow and 100 degree weather. We commute long distances in opposite directions. We own a TV and enjoy watching movies together about once a week. I own a laptop and smart phone, both of which I use for work, school and this blog. I own more than 100 items. I have a slight obsession with cool/unique notebooks.

Despite all of this, we live within our means every month, we use public transit or walk or bike when we can, we take trips together, we own our stuff instead of letting it own us, we avoid buying new things as much as possible, we get rid of things that we don’t love or need anymore, we simplify our lives, our schedules, our time, our food, our habits, and more.

Yes, I own and buy stuff. And yes, I am a minimalist.

Minimalism is about a lot more than just eliminating physical items and clutter from your life. That’s a great start and often this is where and why many people begin their minimalist journey. But there’s so much more to minimalism than letting go of physical clutter.

Since I started my journey into minimalism, I have learned many things. Here are some examples:

  • I let go of physical clutter (which is a continual process!)
  • I simplified my wardrobe
  • I simplified my online presence (deleting accounts, files, etc., removing apps)
  • I spend less time online
  • I spend more time outdoors (walking, running, biking)
  • I try to drive less
  • I am more grateful for what I have
  • I shop less
  • I learned to live with less and therefore I need less to live
  • I recycle, reclaim, reuse, reduce
  • I enjoy nature and being outdoors
  • I am healthier, happier, calmer, less stressed and more content

As you can see, minimalism isn’t just about clearing physical objects to the bare minimum. It’s about eliminating the inessential so we can add and amplify the beautiful, the essential, and the things we are passionate about.

Minimalism can be applied to anything, anytime, by anyone and for any purpose. Use it at work to focus on your best and most important work. Use it at home to clear the clutter and fall in love with your space again. Use it on your schedule to cut out what you don’t love and make more time for what you do. Use it online to delete accounts, apps and distractions so you can spend more time with family and friends.

Minimalism is a tool to create the life you want: one filled with love, beauty, peace, happiness. It’s not something that you have to suffer through and it’s definitely not meant to limit yourself. The only limitations in minimalism are on the things that you really don’t love, enjoy, need or that add no value to your life.

Use minimalism to create space to breathe, love and follow your passions.


  • Aunt Shell says:

    Love it! Every word rings true. I am a minimalist and I do have stuff. Focusing you time, energy and money on what you love and what brings value to your life is what minimalism is all about. Value people not possessions.

  • Break the Twitch says:

    Nathan, this is great. You’re right – there are so many different perspectives and takes on minimalism. The most important thing is that we actively focus our time and attention on more of our passions and less of the things that weigh us down. It’s a constant process and evolution. Thanks for the mention as well.