It’s hard to say when my journey with minimalism began. Heck, it probably started the day I was born. Every event that occurred in my life eventually lead me to the realization that I don’t really like “stuff” all that much.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my grandma spoiled the crap outta me and yet when she died, I felt like I was left with nothing.
Watching my friends lose parents before we even graduated high school gave me a pretty harsh realization that everything I valued important really wasn’t. Yet, 4 years ago, there I found myself, in a big, beautiful home and this overwhelming realization of how much “stuff” it required to fill it up. I didn’t want to fill my life with things. I really didn’t like that intense feeling of obligation. So, together with my husband, we bailed on that obligation, and started thinking smaller. You can read our whole story here: How Downsizing Changed Our Family. While I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started realizing the minimalist life was for me, I do know all the faults I made becoming minimalist. So here it is: minimalism for beginners. There are major mistakes to avoid and I want to share some of the big minimalist mistakes I made right off the bat.
When we made the official choice to downsize our house, I felt like I had to get it all done right away. I wanted all the wonderful benefits of a clutter-free minimalist life and I wanted them NOW. My closet wasn’t downsized good enough, we still had too many kitchen utensils, did our kids really need that many toys? Truthfully, I didn’t require all the clothes that I brought with me when we downsized, some kitchen utensils did go unused. As for the toys, my kids spent most of their time throwing all the toys out of the toy box just to get to those special few they actually played with. So no, I didn’t do it all right right away. But, who does? I certainly didn’t learn how to walk right off the bat…in fact, I’m still kinda working on that one. Living in a one level home has helped immensely; I find myself with less opportunity to fall up the stairs. Yes, fall up.
We have been in our smaller house for over a year now and I am still filter through the un-neccessary things I used to think were necessities. That’s how it works. Gradually, over time we realize more and more what we actually require, what is actually of value and we let go of those things we no longer deem important. It will all happen; don’t rush it or you may find yourself going into full on panic mode. Panic mode could very well lead to panic shopping because you got rid of too much too soon.
Shopping minimalist takes practice too. I’ve got tips for that! Recovering Shopaholic.
Listen to ‘ol Teddy. When we compare ourselves to anyone else, their life, or their situations we find ourselves feeling empty and unworthy. Even if we compare ourselves to people who appear to have it worse off than ourselves. Doing this has a way of making us feel superior which then makes us feel obligated to live up to that superiority. Dontcha know?
When I was at the height of my excitement of becoming a minimalist I found myself watching a lot of documentaries. Tiny House documentaries were a favorite. Then I found myself wondering, “Why don’t I have a tiny house? Should I be building a tiny house? I’m not minimalist enough if I don’t have to share my kitchen and bathroom!” Well, that’s just plain not true. There is no right way to live your own life. There are however a lot of wrong ways. If you feel like someone else’s path should be yours, then you’re doing it wrong. All wrong. So do yourself a favor and enjoy other people’s journeys, learn from them, but never expect yours to be the same.
There is this idea behind minimalism that we should all be living like Mother Teresa. That woman lived like a saint. (Get it?) You’re not a saint and you don’t spend your days with the dying people of Calcutta. Maybe you do actually, in which case, you are amazing.
I’m also not saying living like Mother Teresa would be wrong. For those people who live as selfless as a life as she did are truly world changing and are people that should be admired. Unlike the Kim Kardashians of the world. Pew. I’m sorry, I am just so over the fact that anyone cares about that woman’s badonkey.
Where was I? Oh, yeah…speaking of junk in the trunk. It’s ok to have a little. Minimalism to me has become more about only surrounding myself with things that bring me joy. Sometimes that even means things that don’t really serve a purpose. Like household decor. I don’t need vases, vintage cameras and Mason jars decorating my home. I choose to have them because they bring me joy. I like having flowers (even fake ones) brighten up a room, the vintage cameras were my grandpa’s and Mason jars…I mean, who doesn’t get joy from Mason jars?
Just be intentional with your stuff and be honest with yourself. If it doesn’t enhance your life, or if having something around gives you that feeling of “clutter” then let it go. No one expects you to live with a bed in an empty room because that’s all you require.
In the same sense, although my home is filled with things that bring me peace and make me feel happy, I’m no longer attached to objects like I used to be. That’s really what this is all about after all. Letting go of the “hold” things tend to have on us. People always ask the question: “If you could grab one thing from your burning house, what would it be?” Now, honestly, the only thing that comes to mind (after my family) are the journals I have kept for my kids since before they were born. I want them to have those stories. All the decor, the money spent on TVs or furniture doesn’t mean much. It really is just stuff.
Again, let’s just chalk this up as another all around life lesson. It’s your journey. You can’t expect others to get it. When I started eating healthy, I found it so easy to stroll through the grocery store judging everyone else for their highly processed food choice. I’d roll my eyes and think, “Ugh amateurs.” “They obviously don’t care about their bodies or their children’s bodies.” — Uh huh, yeah, or maybe they are doing the best they can with the knowledge they’ve got. Doing the best with the finances they’ve got. Maybe they just don’t give a rats ass about the potential damage of GMOs. They have different worries, other concerns, and they are too busy living better than me in other areas of life. Plus, I turned out to be wrong anyway: Vegan Diet and Why I Had to Quit.
So yes, people will judge you, people will keep pushing presents on you at Christmas and birthdays. It’s just the way it is. It’s how they have learned to show their love. If you are given a gift (that you don’t want or need) with the intention of spreading love, then just shut up and appreciate the gesture. No one is asking you to do the same. Maybe they are…that doesn’t mean you have to oblige. Do your best to explain yourself and let them do their judging.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.” -Wayne Dyer
Take each day a step at a time. It’s really all you can do. If you tried to take every step you were ever meant to take in life, you’ll spend most of your time just tripping over your own feet. For now just do you with peace at a pace that works.
For you minimalists out there: do you have any other helpful tips for minimalists just starting out?