Are Millennials Re-Inventing Minimalism?

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Millennial Minimalism: 2018’s biggest projected trend.

Millennials, that segment of the population that’s 18-35 years old and of constant media attention, are turning increasingly to a de-cluttered, minimalist lifestyle. Naturally, this has a fairly major impact on interior design for this generation. Gone are maximalist ornament-bearing shelves, fussy decoration, and accent pieces. In their place are tidy and clean expanses of wall and floor. Why are millennials turning to this trend? And, more importantly, how can you make the most out of a minimalist design aesthetic?

Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, brought minimalism to the mainstream. Although it is not a new concept, the minimalist lifestyle is trending across the United States. The movement has inspired people to move into tiny homes, cut their wardrobes and donate their possessions. Countless bloggers document their forays into minimalism and even the television channel, HGTV, has taken to highlighting the benefits and has three shows on tiny houses in its current lineup. Many entrepreneurs have picked up on this and are figuring out how they can capitalize on the minimalism and decluttering trends.

Millennials have a unique set of values around how they choose to spend their money. They grew up during the recession, entered a struggling job market and must now pay off record amounts of student debt. Retail expert, Robin Lewis, of The Robin Report, explained the consequences of millennial factors, “This is a generation that is bigger than the boomers in population, but their wallets are smaller, and they are more into the style of life than the stuff of life. This is a big threat to retail. They’re not into a lot of shopping.”

Millennials are highly adept at using technology and social media influences many of their purchases. They prefer to spend on experiences rather than on stuff.

Seventy-eight percent of millennials—compared to 59% of baby boomers—“would rather pay for an experience than material goods,” according to a survey from Harris Poll and Eventbrite cited on Bloomberg. They favor products marketed as ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly. By 2017, Retail Leader expects millennials to spend more than $200 billion each year and about $10 trillion in their lifetimes.


Why this trend come about in the first place? As with any trend, whether we’re talking fashion or interior design, it’s a matter of several factors combined. These are a few:

Hoarder Parents: Millennials are largely the offspring of the baby-boomer generation, who are notorious for their acquisitive nature, aka they never get rid of anything. As these parents grow older, millennials are increasingly finding themselves having to deal with the mountains of ‘stuff’ their parents and grandparents have acquired. Minimalist lifestyles are then seen as a way to counteract this.

Economic Uncertainty: Millennials have come into their working lives in an increasingly uncertain economic environment. Furthermore, housing prices are higher than ever before compared to cost of living. Naturally, one has less money to spend on the things that contribute to “clutter.” It’s also worth noting that many millennials can’t afford to live in large spaces, making minimalism a practical as well as aesthetic choice.

Frequent Moving: Millennials move home more frequently than any other generation. This is partly because of the rental market, and partly because millennials tend to switch jobs more often than previous generations. Millennials avoid acquiring anything they don’t actually need to avoid unnecessary headaches when moving.

Trendiness: Tied in to all of these reasons for going minimalist is the idea of ‘trendiness.’ An uncluttered, minimalist apartment is fashionable among millennials right now… just check out the Homepolish Instagram feed!


Millennials have a habit of taking pre-existing things, tweaking them a bit, and making them their own. Don’t believe me? Test the theory on any 90’s trend you can think of..

These days, a lot of people get the entire concept of a minimal wardrobe wrong (thanks to our younger generations). It is not to be used synonymously with a capsule wardrobe. Unlike the latter, a minimal wardrobe is not an extremely edited collection of clothes consisting of a fixed number of pieces that you update every season. People don’t realize it, but by following this formula, you are actually purchasing much more than if you maintain a minimal wardrobe, which means you are spending more and disposing more, which kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

That’s where the re-invention of a timeless lifestyle came into play. By pairing a love of trend following and Instagramming with a need to de-clutter, millennials have ventured away from the purchase-free foundation that the minimal mindset was founded on. The association of minimalism as a trend and the obsession with perfecting a 32-item capsule wardrobe have somewhat morphed our reasons for having so few items. It’s become less about convince and more about competition; who can have the fewest number of clothes, who can spend the least while out on a shopping trip, who can post a photo of the most minimal environment.. you get the point.

So, the question stands: did Millennials re-invent minimalism? Not exactly. They simply did as millennial do; find something increasing in popularity and make it even cooler with the help of social media. Let’s call it: Stylish, Selective Spending.


If you like the idea of clean, uncluttered spaces, but also like to flex your interior design muscles, don’t worry! Minimalism doesn’t have to be limiting. Here’s a basic primer on how minimalism works at its best, and some tips on achieving that cool, on-trend look.

Stripping Back: At its essence, minimalism is about stripping a room back to its bare essentials. Start by removing everything in your room that does not serve an essential purpose. When you’re left with those necessary elements, you can start accessorizing a bit to bring the room back to life.

Simple, Functional, Tasteful: Minimalist design is simple and clean. It’s fit for purpose, with few curlicues or furbelows. It’s the polar opposite of baroque! However, this doesn’t mean that it has to be utilitarian or institutional-looking. It also doesn’t mean cheap so it’s still worth investing in a robust contents policy in case the worst happens. The clean, simple concept of minimalism allows for a strong aesthetic, expressed through color schemes, furniture styles, and clever design. Simple, uncluttered, minimal rooms can, when done well, give an impression of light, airiness, and order which is unmatched in more complicated design styles.

Color Schemes: It’s worth noting that the lack of clutter in a minimalist room means that your color scheme plays a larger part in the overall aesthetic than may be the case in other aesthetics. With big, clean expanses of wall and floor, you can go bold and creative with your paintwork. Alternatively, enhance the feeling of simplicity with a monochromatic scheme. Either way, it’s worth noting that the lack of ornamentation will make whatever color scheme you choose really stand out!

Simple Furniture: Any furniture in a minimalist room should be simple, functional, and essential. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t also be attractive and comfortable. As mentioned above, any variations to a chosen color scheme will stick out like a sore thumb, so make sure to weigh your choices in relation to the rest of your room.