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Minimalism Is Hard Sometimes. Here’s How To Stay On Track.

October 9, 2017
Minimalism Is Hard Sometimes. Here's How To Stay On Track | Tiny Ambitions

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.

[bctt tweet=”Minimalism is a personal decision. But it has ripple effects on those closest to you.” username=”tinyambitionsbb”]

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?

[bctt tweet=”It’s a lot easier to say ‘no’ to something if you’re saying ‘yes’ to something else.” username=”tinyambitionsbb”]

Minimalism Is Hard Sometimes. Here's How To Stay On Track | Tiny Ambitions

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.

Truth Time.

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

  • […] Britt of Tiny Ambitions offered some excellent words of advice regarding going against the grain in this post on when minimalism feels […]

  • Heather November 11, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    The hardest part for me was the sense of shame that slowly descended as I began traveling through all our rubbish. Initially decluttering was liberating. But after 6 months of selling stuff off, 15 trips to the dump with a loaded truck, not to mention the stuff given to charity – I started feeling deeply ashamed of myself for all the senseless consumption. Also disgusted at how much money we (mainly me) had wasted. But the feeling passes with a new determination to be more responsible. Also we immediately appreciated the clearer, calmer surroundings and our simpler life. So it’s worth going through the soul searching!

    • Britt November 11, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Heather. I think your right- there is definitely a shameful period that can happen when you realize the scale of your consumption. But the good news is, noticing it is a huge step! Congrats on simplifying your life.

  • Solitary Diner October 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    For years, I have asked people to not buy me gifts, not only because I’m kind of a minimalist, but also because I don’t want people wasting money on things that I don’t necessarily like/want. And for years they’ve kept buying me things. So for myself, I decided that I would simply accept the gift graciously and then do with it what I pleased – whether that be returning it, regifting it, or donating it. Thankfully, my family has started to come around, and I no longer exchange gifts with my brother. My Mom has started giving me gift cards to my favourite book store, which works for me, as there are some local writers/artists whom I like to support, and I can use the gift cards for their things.

    • Britt October 15, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      I’m glad you’re family has started to come around! It can be frustrating when your family doesn’t support you. Thanks for reading!

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment October 12, 2017 at 6:56 am

    I can definitely relate to a number of these challenges! For me I think the main one of those you have discussed would be minimising too much. I love that you describe it as a reverse high because I think that’s exactly what it is! It can become addictive and it’s important to know when to stop or else you end up actually causing yourself a fair amount of inconvenience from getting rid of things that are useful and completely necessary. Communicating our minimalism with family and friends has also been a big hurdle. It seems that sometimes people think us not wanting gifts, for example, is antisocial in some way and it can take some time for them to get used to the idea. Strange, I would have thought everyone would be delighted to save time and money by not buying a gift…

    • Britt October 12, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      Right?! I hate buying and receiving gifts. The whole process is so incredibly stressful, time-consuming and wallet-draining. My family is on the larger side, so we’ve never really had an issue of having to buy EVERYONE gifts, because no one could afford to do that. But communication is so key. I never want to tread on anyone’s toes, but it is so much more stressful for me to have to deal with receiving a gift than they probably realize. I’m glad I’m not alone in that!

      And I still get a rush when something breaks and has to be tossed or donated – it’s one less thing I have to deal with. I wish I didn’t have that reaction, because it gets me in trouble when I’m stressed because I know just picking something and getting rid of it will make me feel better!

      • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment October 12, 2017 at 4:04 pm

        Haha, oh how I can relate to that! Maybe that’s the minimalist equivalent of smashing a plate? Donating one instead 🙂 Then eating off a chopping board or something!

        Buying and receiving gifts really is the worst. Not only does is completely cramp my minimalist style, I find it just plain awkward! I’m finding it increasingly difficult to pretend I like things when I really don’t! The truth about where their gifts will end up is definitely the best route and in the long-term will probably lead to less feelings being hurt 🙂

  • Chris @ Keep Thrifty October 9, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    That phrase “impose your minimalism on others” is a really interesting one. I’ve never thought of it that way, because I’m not asking anyone else to be minimalist. I’m just asking them to respect that I am one 🙂

    Whenever we have birthdays for us, we politely ask for no gifts. We’ve offered up the opportunity to donate to causes we believe in for people that *really* want to do something. Even despite this, we occasionally get items and we have had to get comfortable telling people that their gift was donated when they ask (if it’s something we weren’t interested in).

    For our kids, we request that family members focus on art supplies (our kids LOVE to draw and we always seem to be running out of supplies) and experiences. Toys, etc are ok but we all follow a one-in-one out rule, so the toy may not make it in the door if it isn’t more appealing to our kids than what they already have.

    It definitely takes work!

    • Britt October 9, 2017 at 10:04 pm

      That’s a really good way of looking at it Chris. I guess in my mind, asking someone to respect that I’m a minimalist might make them have to change their behaviour (and therefore feel imposing).

      Good for you for getting comfortable telling people you donated their gift. I’m not at that point yet. What they don’t know won’t hurt them (and I’ve never had anyone ask).

      I fully support the ‘one in, one out’ rule, especially for kids, since people tend to buy things for them no matter the occasion.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for this insightful comment!

    • Heather November 11, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      The art supplies gifts for kids is a great idea!

  • AdventureRich October 9, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Forgetting my “why” is my struggle in so many areas of life! I think I need to write all my goals + the whys and staple to my forehead at times (kidding…kind of 😉 )

    • Britt October 9, 2017 at 10:00 am

      I need to do the same thing! It’s crazy how easy I forget what I’m working towards. Thanks for reading!

  • Penny (@picksuppennies) October 9, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Love this! I am not a minimalist by any stretch but I’m doing the MinsGame again since I failed so badly last month. I previously have gone in spurts, but I’m trying to maintain momentum now.

    • Britt October 9, 2017 at 9:30 am

      The Mins Game is a good gateway to minimalism! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you this month. Thanks for reading, Penny!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.