I'm sure I've posted on this subject before, but some recent discussions I've had recently brought it to mind. Minimalism is not about the ruthless pursuit of a possessions-less state of life, but a number of people I've encountered view it that way. Even the old adage "less is more" to me is a little misleading. Simply by reducing the 'stuff' in your life you will not necessarily make your life better, or more peaceful, or even more simplistic. The fact is that not having the tools to achieve a task generally leads to frustration and far more exertion than had you possessed the right item in the first place. Minimalism is about reducing excess; refuting the notion that more things is necessarily more happiness. The degree to which one can exercise this ideology should be entirely individual. Some people will enjoy the challenge and aesthetic of an ascetic lifestyle, most people will simply seek a balance between the responsibilities and clutter of their lives.
Part of the process lies with habit forming, not only spending habits, but adjustments to the processes we go through every day. We have innate desires to be both efficient and to procrastinate or indulge ourselves that come into conflict. I have always found (as have people that I've discussed this with) that the best way to deal with this can be to willingly adapt our patterns of behaviour; in the process you can become more aware of the difference between what you feel you need and what you feel you want. If you want something, but do not need it, then you have a basis from which to evaluate it's worth.
Another part of forming good habits within a minimalist philosophy is the principle of getting the most out of the things you have. You can apply this to almost anything: your computer, the food in your cupboards, your wardrobe, the space available in your home, your friendships (that doesn't mean go out and exploit your friends, but participating fully), I could go on. The things we collect in our lives hold different types of value, and all value from personal and sentimental to practicality and monetary are wholly legitimate and they can all be enjoyed and embraced. You should make the most of all the things you invest in.
Minimalism can be expensive, at least in the immediate term. Sometimes when you need something to achieve something the array of options is staggering and often the driving factor in making a choice is that which has the least impact on our available resources. This will often, but will not always be an economic consideration. Minimalism suggests that you consider which thing is actually best suited, has the right quality, the right features, just enough to do whats needed but also to minimise your need to make this same choice again. Sometimes the best option is the expensive option, but do it right and you can save yourself further expense over time.
Minimalism is also a stylistic influence, but it is not one of stark white walls and empty rooms as it is often portrayed. It only asks that you be selective, that you evaluate your choices and set yourself a high standard by which things make the cut. You need not eschew sentiment for ruthless efficiency, but perhaps limit your indulgence and force yourself to choose only those things that hold the most personal value. You could fill your home with art, or you could choose your favourites and display them with out the distraction of the pieces that are 'also nice'. There's no rule book here, you get to choose.
The layout of this blog is a practice in minimalism. I chose those features (and there was a considerable menu of options available) that I felt best served the purpose of the blog. I could have sidebars with menus and tags and categories, a calendar of posts and comments entries. I could have a twitter feed to keep you up to date with the very latest inane comment that I have inflicted upon the world. I decided though, that as you hopefully came here to read these rambling posts, that every aspect of the page should be suited for exactly that task, with only the minimal concessions to two important functions: navigation and further contact. No distractions, no fluff, just the words.
So yes, minimalists will have less. But how much less will vary. The point is to be comfortable, happy and fulfilled. To have enough and not to much. These things tend to vary quite a lot between each of us.