Now, it’s true that minimalists come in all shapes and sizes, and I definitely don’t subscribe to the idea that there is a criteria for being a minimalist–but I would like to talk about three things that I have caught myself doing at the beginning of my minimalism journey that are not necessarily helpful. You might recognise these behaviours, too!
1. Believing that buying a certain kind of object makes you a minimalist.
Yes, I have done this. I have searched on eBay and Amazon for ‘minimalist jewellery’ or ‘simple tea light holders’. I even bought myself a Daniel Wellington watch, because I was craving that kind of sleek, classic, minimalist design. Not that there is anything wrong with Daniel Wellington watches, nor with wanting your possessions to be simple, streamlined and sleek. But be careful of the trap of buying things (often expensive things) because their style makes you feel more like a minimalist. It’s almost a paradox, particularly when you are starting out and figuring out how minimalism will work for you. I do believe that it is better to own a few items that really do spark joy, that are beautiful to you, rather than lots of accumulated clutter, and there is nothing wrong with spending a chunk of money on something you will love and use regularly, once you are out of debt and have budgeted for it. But buying more stuff, however ‘minimalistic’ it is in design, does not make you a minimalist. It just satisfies that craving for something new and shiny and tries to deny it with the shield of minimalism.
2. Decluttering… and then keeping all of your boxed up stuff.
I have totally done this too. It feels so good to declutter, but I still struggle sometimes with where to put things. It’s important to have a system, otherwise you just end up moving things around or, like me, shoving the stuff back in the drawer because “that’s enough tidying for one day.” You don’t have to declutter your whole house, or even one room, in a day. But do have a system. And try to at least deal with one category of belongings, like clothes or paperwork. Marie Kondo definitely helped me with this. I recommend her book, if you aren’t familiar with it yet. It’s helpful to get everything out in the open and then to get rid of it as you go–whether you are selling it, donating it or trashing it. Just know what you are going to do with it, otherwise that cupboard in the hallway will just become cluttered with all of your bedroom crap. And then the boxes will be on your mind, just transferring the problem.
3. Getting rid of all of your stuff, and expecting it will immediately make you happy.
Does clutter affect our mental state? Yes. Is it nicer to come home to a clean, tidy house rather than a hoarder’s paradise? Yes. Is minimalism a vehicle for more contentment and clarity? Absolutely. But here’s the thing. You could empty your house of all of your worldly possessions, sit in a bare living room and be thoroughly miserable. It’s not a quick fix. And possessions aren’t inherently bad–they only have a negative effect when we lose track of what’s important. When we give too much importance to them, over-spend on wants rather than needs, and groan inwardly when we see the cups, trinkets, papers and items that we don’t even really like cluttering up our living space. Get rid of what doesn’t spark joy, absolutely. Be a little more ruthless than you ever have before. But have a personal reason for doing it. And, once you have got rid of the physical clutter, be sure to use it as an opportunity to deal with the mental clutter that you’ve been ignoring so far. Make time and space for what’s important. And enjoy your new, simpler, more focused life.