minimalism is bad toxic

Minimalism Is Bad and Toxic: Is It? 

You’ve seen them, right? 

That pristine Instagram photo of a minimalist space with no stray sock in sight, the perfectly curated desk spaces, and homes that look like they’ve never known the joyful chaos of a toddler or a frisky cat. 

Welcome to the world of minimalism… Or that’s what these content creators want you to believe.

So before you toss out half your wardrobe and repaint everything in soft pastel hues, let’s chat about whether minimalism is bad and toxic.

And one thing upfront: You can’t generally say it’s bad and toxic. 

As so often is the case, the dose makes the venom. 

So yes, it can turn bad and toxic the same way as you can get killed by drinking too much water.

In my article today, I will discuss, therefore…

  • The controversy with minimalism
  • How minimalism can become toxic and unhealthy (the dark side of the “less is more” mantra)
  • Why do people quit minimalism 
  • The pros and cons of minimalism

Is minimalism the one-way ticket to happiness or another lifestyle trapping us in a web of unrealistic standards? 

Dive in as I unpack (and maybe declutter?) the debate on whether minimalism could be, dare we say it, a tad toxic. 

 

The Controversy With Minimalism

For some, minimalism can be a joy; it is a nightmare for others.

Marie Kondo says, “If it doesn’t spark joy, toss it!” But let’s be real. 

Some of us find joy in our concert ticket collection. 

Does that mean we’re doing it wrong?

For that reason, it’s no wonder some ask whether Marie Kondo did go a bit too far…

So, let’s take a more controversial perspective on minimalism.

 

Is Minimalism a Privilege of the Few?

So, you may have seen those perfectly curated fake Instagram posts of folks living out of backpacks or sitting in rooms with just a chair and a potted plant, captioned with quotes about the joys of minimalism. 

Makes you wonder, is this “less is more” lifestyle accessible to everyone? 

Or is it, ironically, a luxury? Let’s dive in.

Economic factors: Can everyone truly choose minimalism?

There’s a vast difference between choosing to live with less and being forced to because, well, you are broke or poor. 

For many, living with very little isn’t a lifestyle choice; it’s a harsh reality. 

For them, “minimalism” might even sound like a mockery.

However, this is only if you don’t consider all the minimalism principles I wrote about here

Minimalism is much more than just having less.

While minimalism might be about saving money in the long run, the beginning can be costly. 

Want a high-quality item that’ll last for years, so you don’t have to keep replacing cheaper versions? 

Well, that often comes with a heftier price tag.

In financially precarious situations, people might keep items “just in case” because they can’t afford to replace them if needed. 

However, it wouldn’t violate the minimalist principle of intentionality for their individual situation. 

To them, this just-in-case item has a much higher value than for someone affluent.

Cultural implications: Are some societies predisposed to reject minimalism?

In cultures where family units are closely knit, and items are passed down generations, decluttering might be seen as disrespectful or wasteful. 

That vase you want to toss might have been Great Grandma’s favorite…

In many cultures, possessions are directly tied to status. 

A big house, a fancy car, or even a large collection of items might symbolize success. 

Decluttering could then be perceived as giving up one’s status.

Some cultures emphasize the importance of saving everything, from containers to old clothes. 

This approach might conflict with minimalist principles.

Think about a society that has faced hardships, like wars or economic depressions. 

Here, saving and holding onto items becomes a survival mechanism, and deliberately having less could be hard to fathom.

However, as I already mentioned… 

In a precarious situation, you wouldn’t violate a minimalist principle by holding on to just-in-case items since they fulfill a much more critical function than for “rich” people.

In many cultures, art, and decoration hold deep significance. 

While a minimalist might see a clear table as peaceful, others might see it as barren or unwelcoming.

In conclusion, while the core philosophy of minimalism is universal—finding happiness and purpose in the essential—its execution varies. 

For some, it might be a choice; for others, a distant luxury. 

And yet, for others, it might not resonate at all due to deep-rooted cultural values they can’t or don’t want to free themselves from. 

Minimalism, like any other philosophy, isn’t one-size-fits-all. 

Adapting its principles to align with individual circumstances and cultural contexts is essential. 

 

The “Less Is More” Paradox

When you get into minimalism, at some point, you may feel yourself bombarded with the message that living with less is more freeing. 

At face value, “Less Is More” seems straightforward. 

Get rid of stuff, and you’ll find happiness. 

But peel back a layer, and you’re in a whirlwind of decisions. 

What to keep? What defines ‘value’? 

Suddenly, the simplicity of having less becomes a complex process of evaluation and reflection. 

Less might be more, but getting to that “less” isn’t always simple.

Then there is the stress of de-stressing.

Pursuing minimalism is often about seeking calmness and reducing stress. 

Yet, the process of decluttering can be emotionally taxing. 

There’s the challenge of letting go, the fear of regret, and the pressure to maintain a minimalist standard. 

One might inadvertently add to one’s stress plate to attain a stress-free environment. Pretty ironic, isn’t it?

It can also become consumerism in disguise.

Here’s a fun twist: Minimalism, meant to counter rampant consumerism, has become its own market. 

There are books, courses, and even special minimalist-designed products to buy. My website is included.

So, while you’re trying to consume less, you’re being sold the idea of consuming the right kind of more. 

Somehow, this starts to look like a fractal…

How about a potential identity crisis because you apply less is more?

As you shed possessions, you might feel disconnected from parts of your identity. 

That guitar you never play but reminds you of your teenage dreams or those vintage earrings from grandma. 

In seeking a streamlined identity, there’s a risk of feeling a tad… generic.

It can feel like when a cat is happy, and all things are at their place in a room. 

However, the cat becomes frazzled once you change, clean up, or toss something since it loses its reference points.

Next is the social paradox of less is more.

Going minimal can be counter-cultural in a world that often measures success by material accumulation. 

It’s an act of rebellion, yet it’s also become trendy. 

So, while trying to escape societal norms, you may be stepping into a new, minimalist-shaped box of expectations.

And then there is the time conundrum.

Decluttering is a time investment. 

By investing time now, you save time later (less cleaning, less organizing, less decision fatigue). 

But there’s a sweet spot. 

Spend too much time pursuing minimalism, and you miss the point entirely.

You might have a decluttered space but an over-cluttered schedule.

 

The Psychology of Empty Spaces: Calm or Void?

Research has shown (you can find the study in my last article that clutter can compete for attention, decreasing performance and increasing stress. 

So, an empty space can bring clarity and focus, serving as a visual breather. 

Think of it like a desktop with only one file; you know where to look.

Conversely, a too-empty space can evoke feelings of isolation or coldness. 

Have you ever been in a vast, empty hall and felt a bit… small?

And for some, an empty space is a blank canvas, a realm of possibility. 

It can be calming because it doesn’t push any agenda or emotion—it just is.

So, whether you perceive an empty space as calm or void depends so often on your individual perception.

 

Nostalgia: Can You Truly Cherish Memories Without Mementos?

Memories aren’t just tied to physical items. 

Sometimes, a scent, a sound, or even a particular shade of color can send us back to a past moment.

That said, tangible items often serve as anchors to our memories. 

Holding grandma’s locket might remind you of her and a specific moment you shared.

And today, many of our memories are digital—photos, videos, and voice notes. 

They’re mementos, just not in the traditional, physical sense.

For some, holding onto too many mementos can feel like a weight. 

It’s as if they’re not living in the present because they’re surrounded by the past. 

Letting go of items (but cherishing the memory) can be therapeutic in such cases.

But letting go can also bring regret.

Have you ever thrown something out and wished, weeks or years later, that you hadn’t? 

It’s a common experience. 

While memories live in the mind, sometimes a tangible trigger can be irreplaceable.

 

The Environment Weighs In: Here’s a Plot Twist

Tossing out items doesn’t mean they vanish. 

They end up somewhere, usually in landfills. 

The Environmental Protection Agency in 2018 found that the U.S. generated 292.4 million tons of waste.

So, Mother Earth might not be on the minimalist bandwagon unless you’re responsibly decluttering.

 

How Minimalism Can Become Toxic and Unhealthy (The Dark Side of the “Less is More” Mantra)

minimalism is bad toxic

Like anything taken to an extreme, there’s a point where minimalism can go from being Zen to, well…a tad excessive. 

Here’s the scoop on the toxic side of the “less is more” mantra:

Have you ever seen those pristine, monochrome minimalist homes on Instagram? 

Yeah, where do they hide their toothbrushes? 

Striving for that level of perfection can become obsessive. 

The anxiety of keeping things “just so” can ironically become more oppressive than the clutter we tried to escape.

The next stop is joy pressure.

“Does it spark joy?” is a popular question of the minimalist movement. 

But guess what? 

Not everything needs to. 

Your plunger probably doesn’t “spark joy,” but you’ll miss it when needed.

 The pressure to constantly evaluate our belongings’ joy-sparking abilities can be mentally exhausting. 

Here again, striving for less can add pressure.

The privilege to discard and choose can be, well, a privilege. 

Declaring minimalism as the “ultimate lifestyle” can inadvertently sideline those for whom scarcity isn’t a choice but a harsh reality. 

Telling someone they don’t need much when they don’t have much can be tactless and insensitive.

Then, there’s a fine line between decluttering and depriving. 

Purging too much can lead to an environment that feels sterile and isolating. 

Homes are meant to be lived in and usually not used as operating rooms where everything has to be sterile.

Living can be messy.

 

Why Do People Quit Minimalism?

Some folks really did toss theirs in the name of minimalism.

And while some glide smoothly on the minimalist highway, others have hit a few potholes. 

Here’s why some people ditch minimalism and how a few even managed to make a cluttered mess out of their lives with it.

So, some people dive headfirst into minimalism, purging almost everything. 

Later, they realize they’ve discarded essential or deeply sentimental items. 

That’s not just missing a coffee mug; that’s waking up to brewing regrets.

In addition, thanks to the picture-perfect minimalist homes you may see on Instagram, you may fall for the aesthetic, not the ethos.

But turning your home into a “liveable” magazine cover? 

Not as cozy. 

Many get caught up in the “look” of minimalism rather than its philosophy. 

They feel they live in a sterile showroom when the novelty wears off.

Ironically, some minimalists fall into a buying-decluttering cycle

Buy, declutter, feel guilty, and then…buy again to fill the void. 

Rinse and repeat. It’s like a diet where you gorge on cake after a week of celery sticks.

Minimalism has meant downsizing to the point of financial strain for some. 

Selling a spacious home to live in a tiny house sounds charming, but what if family dynamics change, and you need space? 

Reselling and upsizing can incur unnecessary costs.

Also, when the zeal of minimalism becomes preachy, relationships can strain. 

Constantly judging friends or family for their “cluttered” choices? 

It’s not a great way to get invited to brunch.

Emptying one’s life of belongings without a clear understanding of why can lead to feelings of emptiness and lack of purpose. 

Without meaningful replacements, such as experiences or relationships, the void left by discarded items can loom large.

And some assume that minimalism is an instant passport to happiness, clarity, and Zen-like peace. 

When these feelings don’t magically appear, disillusionment can set in. 

After all, life’s complexities don’t always fit neatly into a decluttered drawer.

While minimalism might be the secret sauce for some, it’s not the universal recipe for happiness. 

 

The Pros and Cons of Minimalism

Ending my article, I will leave you with a pros and cons table, which helps you get a more objective perspective. 

Pros of MinimalismCons of Minimalism
1. Physical Space: Less Clutter: Creates a calming atmosphere and reduces distractions.1. Physical Space: Too Sparse: Over-decluttering can make spaces feel sterile and impersonal.
2. Digital: Reduced Digital Noise: Fewer apps and notifications lead to less stress and distraction.2. Digital: Fear of Missing Out: Cleaning out too much might lead to missing out on essential updates or connections.
3. Relationships: Quality Over Quantity: Focusing on deeper, meaningful relationships rather than many shallow ones.3. Relationships: Potential Isolation: Risk of cutting ties with people who might later prove to be valuable or dear.
4. Business: Streamlined Operations: Efficient processes with less redundancy and waste.4. Business: Over-simplification: Essential steps or roles might be overlooked in the quest for simplicity.
5. Communication: Clear & Concise: Direct communication leads to better understanding.5. Communication: Perceived as Curt: Being too brief can be seen as rude or uncaring.
6. Financial: Save Money: Buying and maintaining fewer things often leads to savings.6. Financial: Initial Costs: There might be upfront costs in transitioning to a minimalist approach.
7. Mental Health: Clarity & Focus: Reduced stress and improved focus from a decluttered environment and mindset.7. Mental Health: Pressure & Anxiety: The pressure to maintain minimalism or fear of making decluttering mistakes can induce stress.
8. Work: Improved Productivity: Fewer distractions and streamlined tasks can boost efficiency.8. Work: Risk of Over-simplifying: Essential aspects of a job or project might get overlooked.
9. Enhances Appreciation: Valuing and caring for the fewer items you have.9. Potential Loss of Sentimentality: Risk of discarding items with deep sentimental value.
10. Eco-friendly: Owning less reduces waste and carbon footprint.10. Potential for Over-purging: Risk of getting rid of items that may later be needed or missed.

So, minimalism offers great benefits, but ensuring it aligns with your preferences and circumstances is crucial so it doesn’t turn bad and toxic.

 


This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication per our editorial policy.