Minimalism vs. Simple Living vs. Slow Living: Which Lifestyle is Best for You?
Hey, I'm Emilie!
I’m a meditation instructor and content creator from Canada. Sharing ideas, tips, and tools to enhance our well-being and enrich our lives is my jam. Thanks for being here!
Minimalism, simple living, and slow living are popular topics right now.
That’s likely because more and more people are realizing that the rat race – working long hours to pay for more gadgets – doesn’t make them happy after all.
They suddenly wish their lives were simpler. They wish they’d have more time for themselves – to relax, have hobbies, and be with the people they love.
Minimalism, simple living, and slow living are three lifestyles that can provide an exit door to the rat race.
Although different, these three lifestyles are all centered around the idea of intentional living. They are not mutually inclusive nor exclusive – you could adopt just one of these lifestyles or all three. The right choice for you depends on your current life circumstances, values and interests, and aspirations for the future.
In this article, I explain what each lifestyle is and clarify the differences between the three. My aim is to help you get an idea of which one is right for you at this current time in your life.
However, this will be based on my personal interpretation of these lifestyles, and I encourage you to seek information from other sources as well.
Although there is a certain mindset behind minimalism, when we speak of minimalism, we usually refer to owning and buying less stuff. It’s very much about the number of things you own.
When you adopt a minimalist lifestyle, you are choosing to cut down your material possessions to the bare minimum. The number of items is subjective, though. There’s no definite rule to determine if a person is a minimalist.
The overall idea is to simply downsize to the minimum amount of things you need.
“Being a minimalist doesn’t mean owning nothing, it means owning exactly the right things for one’s needs and priorities. It’s not about being anti-consumption, it’s about being anti-compulsory consumption.” – Colin Wright
Your needs may differ from someone else’s needs; therefore, the quantity of things one can own to be considered a minimalist is subjective.
Simple living is more holistic than minimalism. It encompasses all areas of life— not just material possessions.
Living simply usually involves decluttering and living with less, but not necessarily to the point of reaching the bare minimum.
It’s more about choosing to live an unpretentious, less complicated life that allows for more time for yourself. It’s about reducing stress and feelings of overwhelm, as well as creating balance in your life.
However, contrary to minimalism, it doesn’t necessarily imply giving most of your things away.
To me, the goal of simple living is to live a less stressful and more fulfilling life. Often, people who adopt this lifestyle also choose to live more sustainably and in harmony with their environment.
Here’s an exercise to help you define what it means to you to live a simpler life because, again, it’s subjective:
1) On a sheet of paper, draw a vertical line.
2) On the left side, list the stressors in your life. What makes you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or unhappy? What feels heavy and like a burden?
3) On the right side, list what brings you joy and a sense of inner peace. What makes you feel good?
4) Then, brainstorm ways to reduce the stressors and make more space for the things that make you feel good.
After doing the exercise, you may decide that decluttering and downsizing are the way to go. You may even decide to downsize to the bare minimum and become a minimalist. Maybe you’ll decide to simplify your life in other ways, like working fewer hours, possibly changing jobs, moving to a new house that has a garden, reducing your spending, or cutting out cable TV.
The main idea of simple living is to unburden yourself and live more lightly. Often, it involves owning less stuff, but it’s not just about your material possessions.
Now, my personal favorite: slow living. “Slow” is an acronym for sustainable, local, organic, and whole.
The acronym gives a pretty good idea of what this lifestyle is about. It’s a lifestyle centered around our well-being as well as the well-being of other people and the planet.
Although slow living doesn’t mean “moving as slowly as possible,” it also implies savoring the minutes rather than counting them.
However, it doesn’t say that you must live with as few things as possible as a minimalist would. You could be an antique collector and embrace slow living. In the same way, you could also be a minimalist who doesn’t eat organic food.
Really, It’s About Happiness
Again, minimalism, simple living, and slow living aren’t mutually inclusive nor exclusive. You could adopt just one of these lifestyles or all three. They all aim at improving the quality of our lives.
Don’t obsess over the terms and their definitions. We, as humans, love to label things. I guess it helps us make better sense of them.
But there’s no point in creating labels and rules and arguing over them. In the end, people who show an interest in minimalism, simple living, and slow living all share a common goal: living more intentional and happier lives.
I still think that the little exercise I mentioned earlier – making a list of the things that stress you and a list of the things that bring you joy – is a good starting point. It’ll help you define your priorities and make sure that you build your life around them as you move forward. Then, whether you choose the minimalist, simple living, or slow living path (or another path), the choice is yours.
All that matters is that you feel happy, at peace, and fulfilled. This is my wish for you.
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