No one is 100% minimal all of the time. The cool thing about minimalism is that it is adaptable. And that it means different things to different people.
There is room in a minimal lifestyle to still embrace one or two hobbies that….aren’t minimal in nature. These things are part of what makes you you and leaving them out of your life would be a horrible mistake!
I know I say it all the time, but balance is key. Balance is what takes minimalism from a trend and turns it into an actual, long-lived lifestyle.
Without balance, your efforts will have no longevity. You could drastically simplify every area of your life, but without balance, it will not stick around. Life would be too stark, too empty, and too downright boring!
I’m willing to bet that all minimalists have something in their lives that is the opposite of minimal. Something lurking that seems like a big, fat contradiction to the lifestyle they say they uphold. I’ll call it the One Big Thing.
I have Two Big Things actually. I’ve written about the first one already. It’s Hospitality. We have two guest rooms, lots of beds, bedding, and extra dishes in our home because hospitality is one of the callings of our family. It doesn’t exactly fall in line with extreme minimalism, but minimizing our own possessions has helped make room in our home for guests…and all the things guests require, like extra towels!
So you see that minimalism isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some minimalists live in tiny houses with one cup and one spoon per person. But this type of minimalism doesn’t lend itself as well toward being hospitable. So we’ve adapted it to fit our needs and our dreams.
My Second Big Thing is smaller than the first one, but it’s still worth mentioning here today. This thing is obvious the moment someone walks into my home: plants.
Yes, I may be a minimalist, but I’m a collector of plants. I currently have over 40 houseplants, of about 30 different varieties. Houseplants aren’t exactly as important to me as hospitality, but I’ve decided they are important enough to make the cut in my otherwise minimal home. Here’s a few of the reasons why.
Plants are a Gift that Keeps Giving
Most of the time when you buy something, the happiness is short-lived. Maybe it lasts a week, but it quickly fades away.
Plants are different. If you do a little research and learn about the plant you get, they can be kept alive for years and years.
And the enjoyment doesn’t go away. It only gets stronger as the plant grows, thrives, and puts out new leaves.
I noticed this several years ago when I requested that Josh stop buying me flowers for anniversaries and Valentines Day. I knew I would rather have something I could keep alive than a bouquet of cut flowers that would start to fade in less than a week.
We’ve since decided that we don’t need to get each other gifts at all, but for a while, I enjoyed going to the store and picking out plants rather than flowers. I still have many of those plants from our early years of marriage.
So if you’re going to give a gift to someone (or yourself) why not get one where the joy doesn’t fade, but multiplies?
Plants are Proven to Make Us Happier and Healthier
Yes, plants have been scientifically proven to improve our moods and the air in our homes. Feel-good hormones are released when we’re in nature or playing in the dirt. My indoor plants give me a chance to play in the dirt year-round!
So far this year, I’ve felt the difference in my mood over the winter from interacting with my plants, repotting them, and moving them around. My tropical plants are especially mood-boosting in the winter because they remind me of warmer climates and give my home a “beachy” feel.
And NASA has done extensive research into how houseplants are good at removing indoor air pollution. That certainly can’t hurt my mood in the winter, especially when it’s too cold to open the windows and air out the house. I really appreciate all the work my plants do for me! If you ask me, there’s really no downside to owning a lot of plants!
Plants Give Us Something to Nurture
Deep down, I think we all have a longing to nurture and care for things. Maybe it goes back to more primitive times when gardening and harvesting were a vital part of life. I have no idea.
What I do know is that it’s fun and rewarding to figure out what my plants want in order to grow and be their best. And plants are a lot cheaper and easier to maintain than getting a pet.
Plants Warm Up a Minimal Home
You don’t really need any other form of decor when you have a few good houseplants. I personally love the look of white walls, mostly-empty rooms, and plants!
In fact, plants work well with minimally-designed homes because they keep them from looking too cold, too empty, and too clinical. Plants have the potential to effortlessly add warmth and beauty to a home or workspace.
Plants Don’t Have to Be Expensive
As a general rule of thumb, it is cheaper to buy plants somewhere like Home Depot than at a greenhouse or home decor store. It is also cheaper to buy smaller plants and grow them large yourself.
The most frugal way to grow plants is to grow them from seeds, or get cuttings from your friends’ plants. (Yes, it really pays to have some friends that are also into houseplants!)
It’s also pretty easy to grow your own houseplants from avocado pits and pineapple tops! Don’t throw those things away and you’ll be blooming in no time!
Some plants are super easy to propagate because they have little baby plants that just need separated and planted. (Like spider plants!)
Propagating may take some research and trial and error, but it is so rewarding when it works and results in a free, thriving plant!
Plants Don’t Have to Be Difficult
Here are the easiest houseplants in my experience:
- Snakeplant – These are the number-one easiest, I think! They can tolerate very little sun, under-watering, over-watering, etc. They are tough, and they are so good for the air! Highly recommend for first-timers who want something they can’t kill.
- Dracena – These come in multiple, beautiful varieties. I love the tropical look of them. They can grow quite large after just a few years if you put them outside in the summer. I keep a couple in my bedroom over the cold months and they make me feel like I’m in the tropics. They like a lot of sun, though so don’t get these if you have zero sunlight.
- Spider Plant – These little guys are so fun! They are easy, and don’t require a lot of repotting. They actually need a snug pot in order to produce little spider plant babies! Very easy to propagate the babies and give to friends.
- Rubber Tree – I love my rubber tree! It’s easy to take care of, especially over the winter when it goes dormant. In the summer, there is a lot of growth, so you will need to re-pot this one annually.
- ZZ Plant – This is another one of the toughest plants I own. It can be in sun or shade, and you can water it when you feel like it. Put it in a new pot every now and then with fresh soil and you will see growth. But I’ve had one for years and it’s never once browned or complained.
- Philodendron – These are cool, viney plants that are amazingly impossible to kill. If you give them less light, they will get long and thin and reach toward the light, but they won’t die. You do have to remember to water them occasionally, but overall very fun, easy, and you can take cuttings and root them in water and give them to friends.
- Aloe – If you’re always forgetting to water your plants, aloe is a good one for you. I’ve had the same aloe plant for about five years, and it’s had numerous babies that can be rooted in water and transplanted. Drainage is important for the pot, and maybe get a special soil for succulents for best results. Still, I’ve killed a lot of succulents over the years, but not this one!
- Ponytail Palm – This is an easy to care for tropical plant. They are similar to succulents in that they don’t like to be over-watered, but they will survive almost anything. They don’t need a lot of light, so you can decorate with them all over your home or office.
- Lucky Bamboo – Another good home or office decor plant. These can be found at the grocery store for about $3! They like to be kept moist, but they will grow big if you keep them watered. It’s one of those great plants to give to people because they don’t just die like flowers. I’ve had the same one for about six years!
I think it’s great that minimalism is adaptable and still leaves room for hobbies and passions…and even the occasional guilty pleasure! After all, if you aren’t making room in your life for something, what’s the point? I think minimalism boils down to cutting out the things that aren’t important to us in life so we can have room for the things that are. What is your One Big contradiction to a minimal lifestyle?
Photography by Allison McPhee, Milanda Vergorvia, and Eddie Garcia