Why minimalism appears to be a man’s world when women need it more


Why women need minimalism white peonies - Jessica Rose Williams

I’ve had a theory for some time now that the minimalism movement favours men. If it’s a topic you’re interested in, you’ll have no doubt noticed that the vast majority of leaders in the field are men. Being the type of person who loves to know the why of everything, it’s a theory I’ve given serious thought to. My question is why are all the thought leaders and loudest voices men when women have the most to gain from living with less?

When I first stumbled across the idea of minimalism it was a female voice I encountered – that of Marie Kondo. Her book, ‘The life changing magic of tidying’ literally changed my life. I’m the one who followed her book word for word, and ended up decluttering 80% of my possessions. Two years later I continue to own just enough underwear to last me a week. The book only focused on one aspect of minimalism; decluttering and organisation. It focused purely on stuff and negated any mention of relationships, impulse buying and assessing what adds value to life as a whole.

These ideas came from some of the aforementioned male leaders in the field – The Minimalists. Both male, both earned 6 figure salaries before realising it didn’t make them happy. I wonder how far behind the female versions of them would be now? Perhaps earning a good wage whilst trying to balance family, work and friends, yet to reach the point where they realise more isn’t really more at all. These two guys seemed to have it all figured out and are still two of my favourite voices in the field. What I find most interesting is that their audience is mainly made up of women.

Why women need minimalism more

Social pressures constantly encourage us to have more but until we’ve experienced having it all, the notion that we’re actually happier with less is a hard idea to swallow as truth. According to Forbes magazine, if the consumerism market has a sex it would be female. Women are the most powerful consumers driving 70-80% of all sales and as a previous shopaholic that’s easy to believe. Women are sold to over men and these pressures are gendered. As women we’re typically targeted with clothes, gym memberships, beauty standards, children’s things and even plastic surgery.

As a result of this gendered targeting, women have more stuff. I know this because I am one. When it came to decluttering my own life, my stuff far outweighed that of my husband who shortly followed suit after seeing for himself how happy I was with less.

As women, we undeniably have more social pressures, greater expectations and commitments to manage. We’re united worldwide as caregivers, communicators and relationship builders putting us in the driving seat of what our household income is spent on. We have standards set for us that don’t exist for men that are deep rooted in centuries of inequality and gender stereotyping.

A minimalist mindset of only allowing things that add value into our lives, protects us from all these pressures and the grip consumerism can have on us. We have more to gain from living with less because we’re more likely to acquire more stuff, and therefore suffer the effects of this – stress, anxiety, overwhelm and burnout included.


Slow living and Minimalism

We’re more likely to come across the term slow living or simple living amongst influential female voices. Both these terms refer to slowing down and taking pleasure in the simple things in life – something minimalism enables. To me, they are all the same as their collective aim is to encourage a more meaningful life. It’s interesting that the choice of wording is different, perhaps because the word minimalism feels too masculine and intimidating?

Women who adore the slow living movement can shy away from minimalism, still resistant to how much they would benefit from having less and how that would enable the slower paced lifestyle they desire. It’s much easier to slow down when life is only made up of the things that add value to it. The party commitments disappear, the work we don’t really want to do disintegrates and the house is all of a sudden much easier to clean – assuming the cleaning duties lie with you.

why minimalism appears to be a man’s world

A single man earning six figures has far less to gain from a minimalistic lifestyle than a thirty something woman who has far more to juggle. The sad truth is men reach the top first, with greater ease and therefore realise that having more doesn’t equal more. Meanwhile, women continue to be put under more pressure to not only reach the top in their career but also be the perfect mother, wife and throw the best parties. Without the realisation of what having it all really feels like, we’re left ignorant to the fact we’d be much better off with less and with what truly adds value.

Of course, there are plenty of female voices out there speaking up about minimalism but they’re yet to reach the top of their field. Can it be that the male voice is seen as more authoritative and trustworthy? Hopefully not. Although our equals, men are not women and they cannot offer us the same insight because they’re not subject to the same pressures and expectations we are. Perhaps that’s why minimalism is seen as too extreme and masculine by many women who prefer the slow living movement. My hope is that feminine minimalism will gain more traction asap and we’ll all stop trying to have it all – in exchange for only what adds value.

I’d love to know your thoughts on all this. Let me know in the comments below.

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Why women need minimalism more than men | minimalist living | simple living | slow living | feminism |


24 comments on “Why minimalism appears to be a man’s world when women need it more”

  1. Very interesting perspective, Jessica. I came across Minimalism first and then the slow living movement much more recently. In my mind, both are completely distinct and unique ideas. They do obviously build off each other and enable each other, but like you said, you can be a minimalist and have no interest in the slow living movement and vice versa.

    Being childless and not technically married, I don’t experience the same kinds of pressures that a lot of other woman do. I can’t imagine having to deal with that on a day to day basis if I wasn’t committed to a minimalist lifestyle. It would be far too much for me!

    1. Minimalism for me first too. Slow living vs minimalism wise, how do you think they are distinct? So interesting hearing about your views on pressures. I know you’ve walked away from so many, which is exactly what I’ve done too and I feel so much better for it. That’s the minimalist mindset for you. We can’t deny the pressures that are put on women all over the world on a daily basis through the media and consumerism. Men simply aren’t subjected to them in the same way we are, therefore we have more to gain by walking away from them.

      1. James Wallman (another man!) includes a discussion of the distinction between minimalism and simple living in his books Stuffocation. I don’t completely agree with his conclusions, but definitely worth a read.
        Personally, I identify more with slow living. My own journey is a bit different in that it didn’t start with decluttering, but with my schedule and commitments. Perhaps, say in comparison with The Minimalists, I had never put so much stock in the traditional American Dream. Things being the answer to the good life didn’t feature as strongly in my upbringing or early adulthood.
        I was just drafting a post about simplifying clothes and dressing, and I realised my advice amounted to was essentially saying dress like a man. Because of the social pressures you mention, it’s much easier for men to adopt minimalism. If you open most wardrobes/bathrooms, men are minimalists compared to woman by default (regardless of mindset), that’s the social expectation. Women collect shoes, men don’t care about what they wear. I’m not saying that’s true, and certainly not that it’s right, but that’s the norm. In such a context, it’s not surprising that men are at the forefront of minimalism. Regardless of what women have to gain from it, we are starting on the back foot.

        1. I hadn’t heard of that Amy, thanks. I’ll take a look. I think all those additional social pressures we have make it harder to realise living with less is more beneficial. The more you think about the concept of men being at the forefront, the more you notice it.

          1. Definitely do, he argues for an alternative “Experientialism”. It’s a fascinating book as it charts the origins of materialism in Western culture, the effects it’s having and the push back (e.g minimalism). That sounds quite heavy, but it’s writing in a very relatable way, full of stories from many people you will be familiar with from the minimalism movement.
            Here’s my review, which includes a quick overview –

  2. I’m so glad I came across your blog! I have felt this same way for quite some time. I e tried to just slow down and simplify my life. It’s worked so far but now I’m ready to go to the next level. I love the feeling I have after I’ve unloaded a car full of stuff tonthe locsl thrift store. I need more of that so my stress can be less. Thank you again and I will be back to read more!

  3. Wow, I had never thought of this side of minimalism- and I’m a woman!

    I’ve found it’s actually more difficult to be a minimalist as a woman than a man for, obvious reasons, such as a guy can just throw on a T-shirt and ruffle his hair before heading out the door. Us women have a little more- involved- process. We can throw on just a comfy tee and jeans if we want, but what about all the padding we have to throw on underneath? It adds an extra layer of warmth we don’t want on a hot day and not to mention it moves in every direction but where we want it. Then there comes the factor of makeup, which as much as we’d like to embrace our inner beauty and stay away from it, it’s just so hard not to. I know even if I personally don’t put it on, the thought still crosses my mind. Then the mental chatter begins, sending me into a downward spiral and already my morning has started off on a sour note. Women do NOT need makeup to be beautiful but there is the constant social pressure that renders it cemented in the back of our minds. To top all this off, there’s the purse. A guy can throw on his book bag equipped with a comb, toothbrush, maybe a razor, laptop and a change of underwear and be good to go. As far as purses, well….you know how that goes. I am not saying that men don’t have hardships when it comes to minimalism but, just for one day, I would love to throw on a shirt and jeans, brush my teeth and hair, and be out the door. I know that I can do this, but as I’ve said- it’s not so easy! Maybe this is a part of my own journey with finding self-confidence but for someone starting out, it can feel overwhelming to know where to pair down and how. I am thankful for minimalism as I have found many ways to make products at home and the fact that I have cut out many of the processed products I’d become accustomed to, it turns out I don’t actually need half of that junk! My mornings are filled with more ease, but it’s still not as. simple. as I would hope.

    As I’ve stated, I had not thought of this inequality in minimalism but it is honestly inspiring. There are ladies out there only reading/hearing about the minimalism that comes from a man’s point of view. I’m not saying there aren’t women minimalists out there sharing their view- I know you know from personal experience! But these women may need a voice of inspiration and a familiarity of the view of “comfort” and “slow-living”. You have delivered just that voice and I, as well as many other women will benefit.

    Thank you and God bless.

    1. I enjoyed reading your comment so much, thank you for taking the time to write it. We have pressures men know nothing about, that’s for sure. If you’re struggling to know where to start – I’d look at the stuff that you don’t love first. What isn’t working for you or serving you right now? That should start you in the right direction. It doesn’t happen overnight and there’s no end to simplifying your life, it’s a constant process – but one worth doing.

      So glad you enjoyed the post.

      J x

  4. Great post and, surprisely, something I have never thought about. My minimalism journey started over 3 years ago, and at the time, I never thought about minimalism being more of a man’s world. While I am inspired by Josh & Ryan, my earliest influencers were Jennifer L. Scott, Light by Coco, and Melissa Alexandria. Now I can definitely see that there is the distinction between the harsh man’s minimalism and the soft woman’s slow living. I absolutely agree that minimalism can be life preserver for women trying to “do it all”. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  5. I have had an issue with this for years (and admittedly, I sometimes go into rants on Twitter — it’s right up there next to “why is there no robot to clean my shower? why are you trying to write novels with AI when that’s actually fun?” rant). I commented on Apartment Therapy a few weeks ago (on “These are the 6 Types of Minimalists”) that there’s a seventh type, the Second-Shift Opt-Outs. I don’t see the needs of professional women reflected much in the way that minimalism is treated in the community or the media. As a financial planner put it, because I’m making 79 cents to the straight, white male dollar (and a lesbian, so I don’t have the benefit of having a partner at parity with men’s salaries), I need to design a lifestyle where I can run fast while having weights tied to my feet.

    When I say that I am a minimalist, people generally respond that it’s just a hipster lifestyle for wealthy people. I have to explain and defend that it’s a mindset that is excellent for the middle class on up — essentially, anyone who is targeted by “you can overspend with your credit card” levels of consumerist advertising. I suspect that the vast majority of minimalists are women in the middle class who know that we have more margin for what we enjoy in life when we pare down and use this mindset to design our lives for happiness.

  6. I’m a baby boomer woman who discovered Minimalism after cleaning out both my father’s and mother’s homes. Initially it was nice to have doubles and triples of stuff while sending our daughter off into the world. Now that she has her own apartment and doesn’t need anything else, I have been slowly getting rid of all the extra. Plus I am determined to end up with less so our daughter doesn’t have to deal with it one day.
    I see Minimalism as downsizing for the next generation. As I prepare for my retirement some day, I am practicing living with less because I will need to make due with less income in the future.
    I have read a lot of the blogs and posts on Minimalism and yes, many of them are written by younger men. Many are also written by women focusing on families and this lifestyle. I continue to search for inspiration for women in my age bracket and circumstances. Baby boomer women are also waking up to the error of their financial choices and the need to make changes as they move into the next phase of life.
    Do you have any resources to recommend? I have read most of the ones mentioned already.

  7. Sorry, I strongly disagree with you.
    There is such a huge pressure over men because we are still seen as providers and many times the grade of success a man achieves is measured by the amount of money he can provide to his family (Although, fortunately, this family model is disappearing). I definitely belive that minimalism will benefit men by encouraging us to define success beyond how much money we can earn.

  8. I started with Your money or your life book so it was a man and woman practicing minimalism or voluntary poverty or simple living. As you can tell I have been at this for some time. I was happily urban so the chickens and soap making we’re never a draw. I also lived in West Africa as a teenager so perhaps some of the sociatal pressures of makeup, or lots of clothes and shoes never really meant that much to me. Also as you get older; for me, they lessened even more. I read everybody but latest favorite is Goodbye Things. And yes that is hardcore guy.😉

  9. I do agree that we are pressured into consumerism way more so than men, but I think WOMEN PRESSURE OTHER WOMEN. If we could set aside our competitive nature, or our insecure nature, or whatever it is in us that compels us to “need” that thing to have an edge, we’d be on the same playing field as men. Men, generally speaking, just don’t seem suffer from that innate proclivity.

    (I mean, my husband isn’t running out to buy a $20 lip balm from Sephora, that virtually does the same thing as the last $20 lip balm that he just bought and hasn’t finished yet. Nope. Just one tube of Chapstick will last him a year.)

    For example, I didn’t think I needed to register for china for my wedding. Regular cups and plates would suffice. But a woman at Bed Bath and Beyond told me I should, simply because not everyone wants to buy you a toaster, but some people wanted to buy you finer things, so you should register for that too.

    Another example, at Christmas time (after my husband and I had already been married for three years) I told my mother-in-law “let’s not exchange gifts, but just enjoy each other’s company,” but she told me that there are still so many things that my husband and I need. ..This was news to me. I thought we had enough?

    Why is no man telling my husband he needs China, or this new kitchen gadget, or crap to fill his home? I’m the only one who hears it, and it comes from women.

    One more point. I also agree that we have so much more than men. I mean, if you look at my toiletries versus my husband, I probably have 3-4 time more than he does, but it’s not like I NEED it. I could get buy with a lotion, shampoo, & conditioner, & I would not die. So why do I need the leave in conditioner, the violet shampoo (in addition to regular), the vitamin c serum, the charcoal mask, the priming moisturizer, etc.? Who am I doing this for when no man ever notices the difference when I have make-up on, get my hair done, and get my last extensions? (Side not, my husband, because he is a sweet guy, will always tell me I look pretty when I do these things, but he doesn’t genuinely care.)

    I don’t think any man is putting that pressure on me. I think it’s women, more often, women in the generation before me.

  10. I know I’m long winded, but I just wanted to add that, with the exception of Sephora, I think consumerism has lost it’s hold on me. I’m not really into clothes, accessories, cars, prestige, or status anymore. Minimalism is one of the most FREEING things that has ever happened to me, and my home is a cozy, safe, clean, place that I enjoy far more than I work at perfecting. =) Don’t be in bondage to stuff, especially stuff you don’t even like or use.

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