by Niall Doherty

As of this writing, I own 128 things. That number is shrinking constantly. I don’t have a final number I’m aiming for; my goal is simply to fit all my possessions into carry-on luggage when I leave New Orleans on December 1.

A lot of folks online have taken turns explaining what minimalism is all about (and perhaps no one has done a better job of this than Colin Wright). Allow me to take the opposite tack and share what I believe minimalism is not about. In no particular order…

1. It’s not about a number

It really doesn’t matter how many things you own. It can be helpful to count them, but don’t be a slave to a number. That just replaces your slavery to clutter. For me, it would be nice to own less than 100 things, but my primary goal is to be able to carry everything I own with me and not have to check a bag at the airport.

2. It’s not about being cheap

You don’t have to shop in thrift stores or wear shoes until they fall apart. Invest in quality, not quantity. Buy one good belt and let that last you several years. Go out for one fantastic meal each week instead of hitting up cheap and crappy restaurants every night.

3. It’s not about competition

Someone else might own less stuff than you. Good for them. But you don’t have to match or better those people. Find your own sweet spot.

4. It’s not about following the crowd

Minimalism is gaining momentum. It’s getting to the point where it’s trendy to be minimalist. That shouldn’t be the appeal. Don’t do it because everyone else is doing it. Do it because it helps you live the life you really want.

5. It’s not about suffering

Minimalists aren’t pain freaks. Minimalism isn’t about punishing yourself by giving up your favorite things. But minimalism is about sacrifice. You sacrifice a few things/activities you like to make more room for the things/activities you love.

6. It’s not about location independence

Minimalism can help with this, sure, but you don’t have to be a vagabond to benefit greatly from a minimalist lifestyle. A simple, decluttered environment works to your advantage even if you hate to travel. Less distractions, more focus.

7. It’s not about preaching

Focus on your own minimalist journey. Share it with the world. But don’t force it on anyone. Nobody makes a permanent, sustainable change just because someone else tells them to. Be the happiest minimalist you can be and you’ll have a much greater impact than someone who roams the streets with a soapbox admonishing shoe collections.