Petite White Flowers

Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication. ~Leonardo Da Vinci

Fair warning—this is a long post, stay to the end and let me know your thoughts.

I was recently asked about Millennials and the prevalence of minimalism. The points are in the order they came to mind, not a ranking of any kind.) The reasons listed below are generalized and may not all apply to each person, but each person living minimally probably holds at least one of them as truth.

Now onto the question at hand: Is Millennial Minimalism a Thing? I feel that I can firmly say “Yes!”. The driving force of minimalism is the Millennial generation. There are quite a few reasons I see for this:

  1. Environmentally Friendly– It is more environmentally friendly to have small personal spaces and larger public spaces. For example, less energy (both fossil and personal) and money is spent to heat, cool, fill, clean, and maintain a small house, versus a large house.

  2. Rebellion of the McMansions- Many of us are choosing not to have children or at a minimum waiting much longer than previous generations to have them, so we can live in a smaller house with less STUFF for a longer period of time before needing more space and stuff for the new additions. Once we do begin to have families, we have better defined what priorities we want for our lives and formal living and dining rooms are not included. I personally love the Tiny House  as a thought experiment. I’m not sure how living in one would be, but I love that each inch is well-used. I try to make sure that the pieces of furniture that come into my home are multifunctional, as well as beautiful.

  3. Perceptions of Americans– Through current media we can see what the world thinks of us in real time. We can have conversations with people from just about anywhere. Millennials are also traveling in greater numbers than previous generations, so we have been exposed to different ways of living. We realize how much we, as Americans, have, and how little many people in the rest of the world have. We want to change this. We want to no longer be viewed as greedy, wasteful, and ignorant.

  4. Experiences > Stuff– Contrary to the depictions of Millennials in the media, we do prioritize relationships and experiences: good food, movies, travel, hanging out with friends. Example: my little brother and I have discussed and decided that for Christmas, birthdays, etc. we would rather have Presence instead of Presents. So, we go out to eat together, walk around St. Louis, and once even got tattoos together. We would rather spend our money enjoying life together than have the money that we do have tied up in stuff. It can be a very freeing experience to shed old belongings.

  5. Unemployed or underemployed-The people who didn’t work full-time or, a lot of part-time hours during high school and college, don’t have experience in work environments. The search for jobs that accept people with little to no work experience is laughable. Even the search for jobs by someone who does have experience is hard because you are up against people with the same degrees but tons of work experience, so frequently young people still don’t get hired. We get passed over for the middle-aged man with references. Therein lies the Catch-22; how do we gain work experience if we aren’t hired for reputable jobs in the first place? This is giving rise to entrepreneurship or working in small companies with people like us, who will give us a chance.

  6. We are in debt- We were told that if we went to college and got a good education and worked hard, we could begin to achieve what our parents had. Unfortunately, that has not panned out for us, thanks to the Great Recession, and we, as a generation, are hugely in debt. We can’t afford anything larger than a tiny house, a studio apartment, or living with our parents. We don’t buy cars or houses because we can’t afford them. In addition, the student loans have ruined our credit, and the lending rules have gotten stricter, so we are hard pressed to finance anything. We have had to find alternatives. Corollary: having less credit card debt, car debt, and house debt means that when we have money, we use it for as many options as possible that are open to us, such as travel.

  7. Work/Life Balance-As we are becoming adults, we are more understanding of the sacrifices that our parents made for us, but still don’t want to make the same decisions. So, we are either not having children or planning on children much later. Millennials will work hard while work is available, but don’t expect us to work tons of overtime. We realize that there are only so many hours in a given life and we don’t want to waste them stuck at a desk.

  8. Sharing Economy– We have adapted or developed new models to the challenges we face. The rise of AirBNB, Couchsurfing, Uber, Tool Libraries, HackerSpace, Netflix, etc. One of the mantras of the Millennial generation is Access Over Ownership.

  9. Digital Space-We have so much digital space available, why do we need a large living or work space to have, for example, books that just get dusty, or anything else that needs maintenance? Example= Paper requires storage and up-keep. When you have paper you have to worry about fire and water damage to it, mice getting into it, it getting lost, or accidentally thrown away. If the information is in the cloud, then we don’t have to worry about carrying it around with us either. I personally use a digital location for all of my papers, photos, and Excel spreadsheets for Trekking Green. It allows me to access it from any of my devices. (Don’t worry- I also keep back-ups on a personal hard drive, so if it ever fails, goes under, or starts to charge exorbitant fees then I can delete my account and find somewhere else to take my business.)

  10. We care about quality- With the power of the internet at our fingertips, we can figure out which companies are worth buying from and which aren’t. Through places like Etsy or Amazon.com" target="_blank">Amazon, or going direct to a supplier, we do not have to rely on a few stores nearby to supply us with our needs, so if we can find a better alternative: We will.

Hopefully this post has been is enlightening and informative for you. 🙂  If you have any points that I missed, or questions, feel free to engage below.

Join the conversation; your thoughts are welcome!