My journey to minimalism started with a bang. It’s just my personality to go all-in when I decide to make a change in my life. Go big or go home! There were many adrenaline-fueled purges of my closets, cupboards and drawers. I filled dozens of bags and boxes and filled up my car with donations every weekend.
Eventually, however, the adrenaline began to wear off a bit and the challenges of everyday life began to take a toll on my progress. There have been days when I felt like a failure, but the challenges I have encountered so far have been an important part of my process.
1. Social Media. I’m sure that many of us can agree that social media plays an important role in providing inspiration. It can be helpful to watch and learn from other people who are great at what they do. At the same time, those perfect little social media posts can really interfere with your personal set of expectations. They can lead you to set the bar unrealistically high and leave you feeling inadequate, even if you’re doing great! It is so important that you don’t compare yourself to others online, especially in the context of self-improvement. Their life has nothing to do with your journey. Everyone’s path looks different and that is the best part!
2. Holidays and Birthdays. It is not easy to resolve the issue of presents. Buying and receiving presents can feel overwhelming and hypocritical. I personally have not reached the point where I am comfortable with completely stopping the exchange of gifts with friends or family. My philosophy is that minimizing your own space or your own belongings is one thing, but forcing your lifestyle onto friends and family doesn’t work. Let your friends and family do what they want. Make your preference known, but don’t get bent out of shape when they buy you a gift anyway. When it comes to gift giving, allow yourself to get them something that makes them happy, even if you wouldn’t want it in your house. If you can make it an experience or a consumable item, even better. Don’t be too hard on yourself here.
3. Lack of Community. Making a positive change in your life can be exciting. It’s normal to want to talk about what you’re doing and bounce ideas off of other people. Unfortunately, the people in your life might not have an interest in minimalism and they might not understand or care about what you’re doing. They might even try to talk you out of it or belittle your efforts. This can make it difficult to stay in a positive headspace, especially if you’re just starting out. Of course, I would suggest finding an online community, of which there are many! Try joining a few Facebook Groups or subscribe to a subreddit. You’ll find there are plenty of other people out there who are on the same journey. Another thing that I tried, and really enjoyed, was attending a local Minimalist Meetup group. (Find one in your area here: http://www.minimalist.org/) These free Meetup groups exist all over the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K., organized by the Minimalists, who you may know from their Netflix documentary, books and podcast. The Meetup groups are just groups of people who get together every so often to discuss all aspects of minimalism in a public space. I finally mustered up the courage to attend and found it to be a very motivating experience. Give it a try, go find your people!
4. Progress. In most cases, seeing your progress and reaching milestones will drive you forward and help you to keep going. What you might not expect is that sometimes it can have the opposite effect. After you have done a lot of decluttering, you might look around one day and realize that the heavy lifting is over. You’re starting to feel happy with your space, you’re no longer suffocated by clutter and you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished so far. This is right about when I started to get complacent. There was still plenty left to do, but I reached a plateau and started putting off the smaller decluttering projects. I felt disappointed in myself at the time, but in retrospect, it was a phase and it was temporary. My advice here is actually to let it happen. There will be natural highs and lows in your motivation level, that’s real life. Give yourself periods of rest and use this time to enjoy and appreciate the progress you’ve made.
5. Dissatisfaction. I hate to admit this, but minimizing my belongings has led me to realize that I don’t own many items that truly bring me joy. My closet is the best example, full of cheap clothing that doesn’t fit me well. Even after I reduced my wardrobe all the way down to 33 items, I just wasn’t in love with any of it. I had to fight the urge to trash it all and start over. I still fight that urge and I spend a lot of time thinking about where it comes from and what it means. This is an important exercise and it doesn’t just apply to clothes. I’ve had the same internal struggle with make-up, cookware, dishes, furniture, you name it. In the end, it all comes down to being content with what you have. Contentment is the backbone of a minimalist lifestyle. Remind yourself at least once a day that your life is abundant and that you have everything you need. The best way to battle dissatisfaction is to embrace gratitude.
What bumps in the road have you encountered? Please comment and let me know!