5 Bumps in the Road on the Way to Minimalism

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!  

9 thoughts on “5 Bumps in the Road on the Way to Minimalism

  1. I have an adult child in the military who left lots of wood furniture, clothing and hobby related items behind when enlisting. Although I’ve downsized, my house is still full of stuff. I don’t want either of us to spend a fortune on a rental unit and I’m not so toxic as to toss the stuff. I also went vegan a year ago and live in a rural area without any real options for eating out. I want to get some new food prep gadgets and appliances but I argue inside between minimalism and wellness on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rhea, That is a tough spot to be in. It wouldn’t be fair to downsize items that belong to your son or daughter. Do you have an attic or basement that could be utilized for some storage?
      As for the kitchen gadgets and appliances, I struggle with this as well. There are so many fun kitchen gadgets out there for vegans! If it’s something versatile that you’re going to use regularly, I wouldn’t feel too much guilt about purchasing it. However, if it’s an extremely specific product for one kind of food, it will end up feeling like clutter for a majority of the time when you aren’t using it. Good luck and thank you for the comment!

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  2. Very good points! I dread point 2. because many people I know are not minimalists or they wouldn’t understand what I’m doing. Some friends are very supportive though. So I don’t feel the lack of community. But you make a very good point about being surrounded by people who won’t understand why you are embracing minimalism and why this is not affecting how much you care for them.
    Point 4. I think I definitely went through that. I am doing the 30-day minimalism challenge and I’m just a few days short of the deadline. There have been days I felt I had done so much, I put aside smaller decluttering projects. Yep. It happens. So far I’m not experiencing point 5. but who knows… maybe someday I’ll feel that too.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Anytime 🙂
        I’m almost done with the challenge and there have been times I thought I didn’t have enough items to get rid of. Then the more one gets stuck, the more one thinks more deeply about what we have, why we keep it an so on… and eventually one finds waaaaay more stuff to get rid of 😉 Now when I come back home I feel lighter and freer. The place gives more calmness, if that makes any sense…
        I’m not sure everyone in my circle of friends and acquaintances will understand why I’m doing this. I mean, I love giving presents and receiving them too, of course. But I’m being more selective and very much anti ‘that type of gift that you can’t throw away so it just stays somewhere collecting dust’ 😉
        The challenge has definitely helped me free myself from the weight of meaningless stuff and the shift is starting to apply to everything else in my life. The 30-day challenge might be a bit too much too fast for some people. I think each can find their own equilibrium. perhaps set weekly goals… Whatever works and makes you feel you are starting to feels some positive change 🙂

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  3. I’m just starting my own journey and like you have come to realise I don’t truly love any of my clothes or accessories.

    Two years ago I started religiously reading the blog into-mind.com and found it enlightening. The idea that you could buy clothes with a sense of intent and purpose and that you truly loved was completely new to me. Since then I have tried to achieve this but I still find it vanishingly impossible. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a comfortable relationship with my body. Or maybe it’s because what I wish I looked like is so far from the reality of what I can realistically achieve. Either way, it feels as if there’s still a lot of psychological leg work to achieve before I get anywhere with my closet.

    I’m new to your blog btw and loving it. Been looking forward to each new post. 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much Irina, I can relate to this 100%!! I also struggle with being comfortable in my own skin and have to remind myself to practice gratitude in this area. I will definitely check out into-mind, thank you!

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  4. I too ran into the same issue with my clothing. Two years ago when quite a bit of my clothing no longer fit I went through all of it and got rid of what didn’t fit properly. What was left was wearable but quite a bit of it didn’t suit my taste and lifestyle and was not being worn regularly. I couldn’t afford to replace the whole thing so I made a plan of what I had and what I felt I truly needed and would use. Then I took my time shopping and carefully choose each new piece. I applied the one-in-one-out rule so I wouldn’t increase the size of my wardrobe. It’s now at a point where I do wear all of it regularly.

    This also happened with my makeup. I was always wasting money on the trendy new products and looks when I finally realized I looked my best with a classic makeup style and stuck to that. The only thing that changes is that I wear slightly deeper colors in fall and winter which I can do with what I already have and maybe adding one new red lipstick when the old one runs out.

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