“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 held me back from getting started with minimalism was my false belief that it was an “all or nothing” lifestyle. I’d read a ton of blog posts and articles about people who only owned 100 things or who lived in tiny houses and I was fascinated by their lifestyles, but I knew it wasn’t for me.
I knew I was always going to keep some sentimental items (old letters, etc.) and I liked having a few knickknacks. I didn’t want to live in an all white house and I was never going to get by with just one pair of shoes! I liked the idea of living with less but I knew I was never going to be like the people I read about online.
I didn’t think minimalism was right for me until I realised …there’s only one rule with minimalism.
Minimalism is about living with intention and being mindful of what you allow in your life (things, ideas, people, etc.).
That’s it; there are no other “rules”. Minimalism is personal and how it looks in your life is up to you. As you long as you’re being honest with yourself about what adds 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. After all, minimalism is a tool to help you live a life you love—not an end goal.
RELATED POST: What It Really Means to Be a Minimalist
2. THE ONE LAST SHOP SYNDROME…
If you’ve read the story about how I became a minimalist, then you’ll know 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 but one culprit stands out above the rest:
The One Last Shop syndrome.
The One Last Shop syndrome is a bit like binge eating before starting a new diet; you’re almost ready to start 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
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 too, then keep this 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 the desire to upgrade or replace a few things but don’t start there; you need to become comfortable with owning and needing less first.
RELATED POST: A Simple Guide to a Simple Wardrobe
3. NOT TAKING THE TIME TO DISPOSE OF YOUR STUFF PROPERLY
I can remember what it felt like when I finally overcame the above hurdles and dove headfirst 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 always a bad thing; just be aware that many charity shops are overwhelmed and your stuff is not always 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?
A good place to start is by 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 need it most.
Here are a few helpful resources:
Where to Donate Your Stuff: 101 Places Your Clutter Can Do Good (Ideas for the USA)
Givit (An Australian charity that matches donations with people who need them most.)
(As you can see this is a 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
When you first discover minimalism, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of decluttering and it’s tempting to judge your progress by the number of trash bags you’ve hauled off to Goodwill. But here’s the thing: just like a healthy lifestyle is not about dieting, minimalism is not about decluttering.
Of course, decluttering is one piece of the puzzle but if you stop there, you’re missing the point.
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 more stuff all over again (the decluttering equivalent of a yo-yo diet!).
Next, it’s important to realise that owning less is not a goal in and of itself. Instead, minimalism is a tool to help you create a life you love; it’s about getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t matter so you have more space for the things that do.
If you want to create meaningful change in your life, then you have to do the inner work: What are your values? What do you really want out of life? What are you creating space for? If you can’t answer these questions, then you’ll never know the full benefit of minimalism.
If you’d like some help with this, then I invite you to get your free copy of Mindful Decluttering by subscribing below.
This free guide and workbook will help you develop the mindset necessary to live an intentional, clutter-free life. (It also includes practical advice, personal stories, and a troubleshooting guide to help you overcome your decluttering challenges!)
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 on board!)
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.
RELATED POST: 3 Hard Truths About Simple Living
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