Over the last year, I think I’ve grown more as a person than I have in all of my 20s combined. I fully embraced Minimalism in January of 2019 and it’s been such an awesome learning experience. I’ve really gotten to know myself in so many new ways and my entire mindset has changed in the process.
But it’s also kicked my ass in ways I wasn’t expecting at all.
When I get into something, I’m one of those people that throws myself in it 100%. I read about it, watch videos, listen to podcasts…anything I can do to absorb information. Minimalism was no different.
Toward the end of 2018, I was getting worn down. I was working at a job I was miserable at surrounded by extremely materialistic people. Everything was about money, what people owned and how they could show off their wealth. When you’re around people like that, it’s easy to get sucked into that mindset that things are what matters.
But shopping just to shop or to show off to others doesn’t do anything but cost you a ton of money and dig that empty void a bit deeper so you keep trying to fill it with more stuff.
I also got married in 2018 and BOY was I getting wrapped up too much in THINGS. Weddings have this way of making you want to spend money on extremely frivolous stuff that you will literally use for 1 day, probably throw away and never think about again.
I remember 2 months before my wedding having spent hundreds of dollars on decor (possibly more) and still being worried it wouldn’t be enough for everything to look good. And our wedding was under 12K total, so I can’t imagine the pressure people who spend twice that (or more!) feel.
I stumbled across the idea of minimalism a month after my wedding. I kind of just shrugged at it as an interesting idea and moved on. But I kept seeing it, and something pushed me to look in a little deeper.
When I took a closer look, it wasn’t just blank walls and empty closets I found. It was stories of people who, like me, had been wrapped up in their consumeristic mindset and had found a way to break the cycle to be happy with what they had. To realize that things aren’t what make us happy. Happiness is a choice, and so is gratitude.
And in the beginning, it was awesome. I purged our house multiple times and got rid of more than half of what we owned. And I kept going! We moved in July of 2019, and even after the move, I still found more to get rid of. Seven months in, I think I’ve gotten rid of over 70% of what we had when I started.
But what happens when you struggle with this lifestyle, as is inevitable in the society we live in? I really appreciate transparency, so I wanted to share my struggles for others to know that yes, it’s hard, but it’s also possible to do and it’s so worth it.
Struggle 1: I still want to buy things
Early on in my journey, I decided to try a year long shopping ban. I thought I could go a whole year without buying anything I didn’t absolutely need (basically the essentials to live). I did go 4 months, which to me was a big deal, but then there were things I wanted to get that weren’t absolutely necessary, so I started to struggle with what to do.
For example, my husband has terrible allergies so we wanted to get an air purifier. That’s not something we NEEDED to live, but it would significantly help him, so I decided to end my shopping ban because sometimes just wanting something to make life easier is enough reason to buy it.
I still struggle with wanting to buy things I don’t need all the time. It never really goes away. I love Pinterest and Instagram, two places you’re constantly being sold to. I love clothes! I can’t help that. Sometimes I want to shop.
But I do work very hard to remind myself that I don’t NEED those things, I just want them. Sometimes I get them, sometimes I don’t. And I can tell you that while I still struggle with this, I am WAY better than I used to be. I don’t think this desire will ever fully go away, but we can re-wire our thought process around it.
The positive in this struggle is I’m constantly challenging myself to think about what will truly add value to my life vs impulse buys or things I would have bought before without thinking twice but never really love or use.
It’s human nature to want, so don’t be so hard on yourself.
Struggle 2: Unexpected Guilt
The guilt was something I wasn’t anticipating at all and was pretty blindsided by. When I did break my shopping ban, I felt guilt on some level any time I shopped. I believe this is because I know I don’t need the things I look at sometimes, and there’s this expectation that Minimalists never shop or get things they don’t need.
But that’s not necessarily true.
Maybe for the extremists, but the thing about this one is Minimalism is different to each person. This is not a one size fits all kinda thing. I don’t HAVE to only own a certain number of clothing to be a minimalist. I don’t have to have blank walls in our home.
This is what YOU want it to be and living with what makes YOU happy. You tailor it to fit your life, not the other way around.
Labeling ourselves can come with this sort of pressure that we have to fit into the box that label is on. But we don’t have to limit ourselves like that. Minimalism means something different to me than it will to you, and that’s 100% normal. I’ll touch on this point a bit more later.
We’re taught practically our whole lives to want more. Breaking that habit takes time. Appreciate the guilt because it means you’re more AWARE of how you’re spending your money and knowing what is a need vs a want which is never a bad thing.
Struggle 3: Getting rid of stuff
In the beginning, I was ruthless. I got rid of SO much in a relatively short period of time. I think it took 3 months for me to get rid of more than 50% of what we owned when I started. And it’s really fun when you start because you can SEE the difference. It helps to create momentum that carries you forward.
But what happens when you’ve gotten rid of all the easy things to let go of and then what you’re left with are the hard things? The sentimental things? The practical things?
Because everything was so simple initially, I assumed it would stay that way. But as I tapered off into the things that I was iffy about, I was surprised at how difficult it was. Sentimental things are always hard to let go of. I didn’t really struggle TOO much with those items, though. For me, it was the practical things I struggled with. Extra lighters, kitchen utensils we never used but I worried we may need, tools, notebooks. The list goes on.
The “just in case” items.
I felt bad thinking of throwing them away because they were perfectly good items. But I also knew I didn’t NEED 16 lighters when we never used even 1 unless we wanted to light a candle on occasion. I didn’t want to be wasteful. I tried to donate as much as I could, but I was still surprised at the fact that I had to reason with myself over those things.
In the end, I tried to fall back on the 20/20 rule from The Minimalists. Anything I got rid of, I could replace within 20 minutes for less than 20 dollars. So far, I haven’t needed to replace any of the things I’ve gotten rid of.
Struggle 4: Getting sick of the same things
When we moved, I wanted a change of pace. I wanted it to all be cohesive. I was so sick of the hodge-podge of stuff I had collected over the years and even after I got rid of almost all of it, I wasn’t in love with what I had at the end.
In order to make these changes, I knew it would mean spending some money on new stuff, which to me, felt like I was reversing all the progress I had made and I was killing my momentum.
The difference was, this time I spent a lot of time deciding on what I wanted to get. I didn’t impulse buy things just because they were cute, I spent time looking at a bunch of styles to decide what I liked.
And you know what?! I’m allowed to re-decorate my house. It’s where I spend all my free time, and I wanted it to be my own little oasis. I didn’t get a whole bunch of stuff, just what I felt gave me that homey feeling. It felt like a lot at the time but actually was only like 13 things. And I love the outcome, so it was all worth it.
I think it’s inevitable that we’ll eventually get sick our stuff. We are constantly growing and changing as humans. What I love now I may not love 5 years from now. I do try to buy for the long term, but shoot, I’ve changed so much in the last 12 months I have no idea what the next 12 are going to bring and how they’ll adjust my style.
To help with this struggle, I’m trying to live by the one in, one out rule. If I get something new, I let go of something else in its place. I used to keep everything “just in case” and that’s how I ended up with so much excess.
Now, if something comes in, something else has to go. It also helps me decide if I really want this new thing enough to get rid of something I already have and love.
Struggle 5: Too much pressure/Overwhelm
Another downside of putting a label on yourself is the amount of pressure that goes along with it. Labeling yourself as one thing can be kind of limiting. We’re all made up of a lot of various aspects that fit many different categories. I’m an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I never want to go out and spend time with friends. I’m a climber, but that doesn’t mean I never participate in other sports or activities.
Being a Minimalist doesn’t have to only mean one thing. I’ve listened to a lot of episodes of The Minimalist’s Podcast, and they’re always talking about how their lives are steeped in irony because people are always telling them they’re not Minimalist enough. But other people don’t get to decide what works for your life. You do.
Don’t put yourself in a box and feel all that pressure to only be one way. If you want to own 200+ pieces of clothing, you can still be a Minimalist. You have 6 different coats for different occasions? That’s ok. YOU make it what YOU want, and don’t let the outside pressure deter you.
This held me back a lot from sharing with others, and that’s the whole reason I wrote this post. Because life is never all sunshine and rainbows. There will always be struggles, and it’s better to talk about them because there will always be others who can relate.
When you’re struggling with something, it means you’re growing. And these last few months have helped me grow into a whole new person with all new attitudes and perspectives on life and I love it.
Embrace the struggles because they’re making you into the person you’re meant to be. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it. And the end result will be you creating the life you want without so much clutter around you!