The most fallacious misconception we encounter about minimalism has to do with the act of counting your possessions.
“I could never be a minimalist, because I don’t want to live with less than 100 things.” We hear that a lot. Hell, even well-regarded Internet authorities inadvertently propagate this misconception, saying odd things like, “I’m not a minimalist … I have no desire to move to a 300-square-foot apartment and religiously track the number of socks I own.”
Yeah, neither do we.
Seeing people spout these misconceptions is unfortunate because it gives an important movement a black eye and scares people away from something greater. Often, the people promoting such ideas do so without malice, but they do so because they are afraid of labels. But, of course, labels are necessary.
Minimalism is a tool that can help you focus on living a worthwhile life. It does so by eliminating superfluous items in our lives in favor of what’s necessary, beautiful, meaningful. Minimalism has allowed the two of us to focus on strengthening relationships, growing as individuals, and contributing to other people. And minimalism has helped thousands of people discover meaning in their lives.
It has never been about counting stuff. Even our friend Dave Bruno, the author of the 100 Thing Challenge, would be the first person to attest to this. Dave lived for a long time with only 100 things (as a personal challenge), but the reason he did so was to prove our constant consumption is void of meaning, but the number of possessions is arbitrary.
As a parodic take on why counting isn’t necessary, Joshua counted his stuff last year. That essay, Everything I Own: My 288 Things, is, somewhat ironically, one of the most popular essays on this site. But the point of that essay was simple: the ostensible subject of counting your possessions was not the true subject—counting was never the point. The point was that taking a physical inventory of your life is eye opening, and it helps you get rid of unnecessary items so you can appreciate what you do have.
More important, the point was that you don’t have to count your stuff, though you can if you want to. Either way, minimalism can help you live a better life: it can help you live more and need less, irrespective of how many pairs of socks you own.