“I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking of making a few more.”
I’ve been a minimalist for about 5 years now – long enough to be able to reflect back on my journey and realise there were a few things that I could have done differently.
I thought I’d share a few of these things with you today, not to pass judgment, but to hopefully help make your own journey a bit smoother. Here are 5 things not to do when you’re getting started with minimalism.
1. PUT OFF STARTING BECAUSE YOU DON’T LIKE THE ‘RULES’
One thing that really held me back from getting started with minimalism was I viewed it as an ‘all or nothing’ lifestyle.
I read so many blog posts about people who only owned 100 things or lived in tiny houses and I thought, “That’s not me … and I’m not sure it ever will be. Maybe this ‘minimalism’ thing isn’t going to work for me.”
I liked the idea of living with less, but I didn’t like all the rules; I wasn’t ready to let go of all my sentimental items (old letters, etc), I have some knickknacks I’m never going to part with, and I still wanted to keep a lot of my shoes!
But then I realised … there is only one rule with minimalism.
Minimalism is about living with intention; it’s about being mindful of what you allow in your life (things, ideas, people, etc.)
What this means is that minimalism is personal and how it practically plays out in your life is up to you. As you long as you’re being true and honest to yourself about what add value or brings joy to your life, then you’re a minimalist. Your version of minimalism might not look like my version of minimalism – and that’s ok.
Remember, minimalism is a tool to help you live a life you love, it’s not an end goal.
2. THE ONE LAST SHOP SYNDROME…
If you’ve read the story about how I became a minimalist, you might remember that there was a gap of several years between when I first discovered minimalism and when I actually started applying minimalist principles to my life. There were a few reasons for this – for example, I definitely had some underlying issues to deal with (see #4 below) – but one huge culprit stands out.
The ‘one last shop’ syndrome.
It’s a bit like bingeing before starting a new diet; you say you’re ready to get started with minimalism … but you just need to pick up a few things first.
For me, this really played out with my wardrobe. I kept telling myself I’d be ready to downsize one I found the perfect _______.
- the perfect pair of black trousers
- the perfect tan sandals
- the perfect chambray shirt
- etc, etc, etc …
My list went on and on … but I think you get the picture. There were always a few more things I needed and I was never ready to get started.
If you’re struggling with this, here’s something to keep in mind:
The first step to living with less should never be buying a bit more.
Part of minimalism is quality over quantity, so I understand if you want to upgrade or replace a few things, but don’t start there; you need to become comfortable with owning and needing less first.
If this is a challenge for you, this post may help: 6 Tips to Stop Mindless Shopping
3. NOT TAKING THE TIME TO DISPOSE OF YOUR STUFF PROPERLY
I can remember what is was like when I finally overcame the above hurdles and jumped head first into minimalism and decluttering; I was excited, motivated, and I just wanted my stuff gone (as quickly as possible!)
As a result, I choose the quick and easy route to downsizing. I sold a few things, but most stuff ended up at a local charity shop* or even worse – in the dumpster.
*donating your clothing to a local charity is not necessarily a bad thing, just be aware that most of it is not being resold locally. A lot of it ends up in landfills or is sold in bulk overseas, which can be destructive to the textile industry in developing economies. You can read more about this here, here, here or here.
So what’s a better solution?
One place to start is to put effort into researching the best places to donate your goods.
Different charities are better equipped to handle different donations (and they also have varying needs.) By putting in a little extra time to research your donations (instead of just dropping 8 bags at your local Goodwill) you can make sure your stuff is reaching the people who most need it.
A few resources:
Where to Donate Your Stuff: 101 Places Your Clutter Can Do Good [US}
(As you can see this is small list, so let me know in the comments if you have anything to add!)
Also, please read this post from the Litterless for more tips on sustainable decluttering.
4. MAKING IT ALL ABOUT THE STUFF
I’ve used this analogy before: Minimalism is not about decluttering, just like a healthy lifestyle is not about dieting.
Of course decluttering is a good place to start, but you can’t stop there.
First of all, owning too much stuff is often a symptom of a bigger problem that needs addressing. If you declutter without addressing the underlying issues, it’s very easy to end up accumulating things again (the decluttering equivalent of a yoyo diet!)
Also, minimalism is a tool to help you create a life you love. If you want to get the most out of it, you have to know a bit more about yourself and what you want out of life. If you want to make lasting, meaningful change then you need to dig deeper.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Why did you own so much stuff in the first place?
- Why do you want to be a minimalist?
- What do you want your life to look like?
- What’s holding you back from your ideal life?
And here are a few resources that might help as well:
15 Things to Declutter That Aren’t Things
An Intro to Intentional Living (7 Things You Need to Know)
Confidence + Minimalism (Finding the Courage to Chase Your Dreams)
A Simple Life is Not the End Goal [via Be More With Less]
5. JUDGING OTHER PEOPLE
When you finally get to the point where you ‘get’ minimalism – you’ve downsized your stuff and you’ve started to think mindfully about your life – it’s easy to start judging people who aren’t minimalists. (Sometimes this isn’t intentional; you’re just excited about how your life has changed and you can’t understand why everyone is onboard!)
Still, intentional or not, being judgemental is unkind – and unproductive.
Passing judgement or making critical comments does not inspire change.
(PSA: This applies to all alternative lifestyles, not just minimalism!)
I understand your enthusiasm about minimalism, but the best way to spread the word is to be a positive role model with your own life. Talk about how minimalism has changed your life and answer questions if they’re asked, but don’t comment negatively on other people’s lives (either to their face or behind closed doors.) Life is a journey; we have different paths and we’re all at different stages.
Encourage, but don’t preach. Inspire, but don’t judge.
A FINAL THOUGHT …
I wrote this post in retrospect, as someone who has made all of these mistakes – and in many ways I still make them! We all make mistakes so use this post to inspire mindfulness, not to beat yourself up if you’ve done a few of these ‘don’ts’.
Do you agree or disagree with this list? Do you have anything to add – or any resources to share? If so let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you! xxx
PS: I wrote a free, 18-page guide and workbook called Mindful Decluttering to help you finally clear the clutter for good. If you’d like a copy, don’t forget to subscribe below or click here! Here’s what people have to say about it:
“I loved the connection you made with mindful decluttering – others talk about becoming more mindful as part of a minimalist journey, but the fact you’ve made it part of the framework of the process itself sets it apart. It’s brilliant – excited to see this coming into the minimalist landscape. You have a fresh, supportive and enquiring voice.” —Christina J, 38, St Albans UK