I’ve been meaning to write this post for months, but life kept getting in the way. Back in the summer, I put out a call for questions on my Facebook page. My dear friend, Leigh-Anna, replied with a whopper:
What was your biggest challenge in becoming a minimalist? What were the hiccups along the way that you didn’t see coming?
Woof! No easy questions from the Tiny Ambitions community. But, it got me thinking and I’ve compiled a list of challenges in my minimalist journey so far and how I’ve tackled all of them with my minimalist ego mostly intact.
1) Going Against the Grain
It’s not ‘easy’ to be a minimalist in a society obsessed with conspicuous consumption and instant gratification. ‘The Grain’ in this case are your friends, family, and coworkers who are going to think you’re straight up bananas because you’re doing things a little differently now.
Of course, minimalism is a little more common now, thanks to people like Cait Flanders, Courtney Carver, Joshua Becker and The Minimalists. But, you probably still have more people in your life who are not minimalists, or who have not even heard of the minimalist movement.
There’s no easy answer on how to deal with is. Rest easy in the knowledge that you are making this change as a commitment to yourself and your family. Everything else will fall in line.
2) Getting Family on Board
This one’s tough, it really is. Since minimalism tends to mean ‘less’, like less shopping sprees and holiday decorations, it can be hard to get your family on board. I know it was for mine. So, how do you deal with it?
I have set very strong boundaries with my family members. Every year, without fail, my mom asks me what I want for Christmas (yep, I’m almost 30 and she still asks). Last year, I said, “if you buy me anything, I’m going to sell it or donate it”. That did the trick!
That’s obviously extreme. Some people might say it is selfish of me to impose my minimalism on other people. I would argue it is more selfish to let someone buy you something when you know you don’t need it or you know you won’t use it. Some people get genuine value from giving and receiving gifts. I am not one of those people.
Of course, you could also say, “how about we only do a small gift exchange this year”? Or, “instead of buying gifts this year, please donate to my favorite charity.”
As for getting your family on board with the minimalist lifestyle as a whole, it’s important to emphasize that you’re making these changes FOR THEM, because, to a certain degree, you are. To spend less on things you don’t need, so you can save for a family trip, or so you don’t have to work as long of hours so you can spend more time with your kids.Minimalism is a personal decision. But it has ripple effects on those closest to you. Click To Tweet
3) Forgetting Your Minimalist ‘Why’
Like any new lifestyle change, minimalism requires attention and effort. It’s easier than you think to slip back into old habits of mindless living and spending. This isn’t necessarily surprising given how bombarded we are on a daily basis with the message that we need more ‘things’ to be truly happy.
I mentioned in my guide to decluttering that the best way I’ve found to combat this issue, is to be incredibly clear on why minimalism is important to you. Remind yourself every day if you have to. Why are your pursuing a simplified life through minimalism? Is it to reduce stress? To make more time for your family or passion projects?It's a lot easier to say 'no' to something if you're saying 'yes' to something else. Click To Tweet
4) Being Too Hard On Yourself
If you’re new to minimalism, you’re probably putting a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect at it. But, here’s the thing: you can’t be perfect at something you’ve never done before. I should have a tattoo of this by now. What’s more, everyone’s version of ‘perfect’ minimalism is different. So, looking at other people’s curated minimalist perfection likely won’t make you feel any better. In fact, it will almost certainly make you feel worse.
My hard-won advice is to stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone’s at a different place in their simplifying journey and you’re only seeing a small glimpse of it. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Give yourself some grace. Minimalism is not a competition. And really, it’s not even about your ‘stuff’.
5) Minimizing Too Much (Aka Now Knowing When To Stop)
Once you start decluttering your life, it can become very satisfying, addicting even. It can produce a reverse high to what a trip to the mall does temporarily. The problem is, if you go off the deep end, you might find you get rid of too much stuff that actually brings you value and end up in regrets-ville. This has only happened to me once, maybe twice. But, if you’re the kind of person who naturally forms attachments to things (which is perfectly normal and natural), I recommend taking a slow and methodical approach to decluttering and simplifying if you can. That way, you can be sure that what you’re minimizing from your life is stuff you actually don’t need or value anymore.
What’s more, there is no point in minimizing for the sake of minimizing. It’s not a competition to see who can live with the least amount of stuff. It’s a privilege to own things that you can get rid of without a second thought or any serious hardship. And that’s a privilege I try to be highly aware of. For some people, minimalism is not a lifestyle choice, its a necessity.
6) Thinking That Minimalism Can Cure All Your Problems
Like I talked about in last week’s episode of Tiny Bites, you can live in a beautiful, ‘minimal’ space and still be unhappy with your life. That’s because getting rid of everything you own won’t magically solve all of your problems for you. Yes, it can help create clarity on what it is you want to work towards or change in your life. But, it can’t make those things happen. That’s where it’s your turn to do the work. The minimizing process helped me clarify my desire to build a tiny house. But, I still had to commit to doing the work to save up for it.
Let’s be honest. Minimalism isn’t hard. Fighting a chronic disease is hard. Being a single parent is hard. Paying off six figures of debt is hard.
Given the way the news has been lately, it feels downright gross to write about something as trivial as simplifying your life and throwing out your toaster. But, it’s that kind of perspective that reminds me of how crucial minimalism is. It helps us focus on what is truly important in our lives. And, like I’ve said before ad nauseam, that’s almost never our stuff.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your minimalism/simple life journey? How did you tackle it? Let me know in the comments!
If you missed last week’s episode of Tiny Bites, all about the problem with ‘minimalist’ design, you can listen to it here. You can also catch up on all past episodes here. Stay tuned for a new episode on Thursday (or Wednesday night if you’re on Anchor).
Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions