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My Minimalism Story
In 2013, my husband and I moved to an almost empty house. We didn’t have much stuff except a queen size bed, an ice box where we stored our food (yes, we didn’t have TV, refrigerator or stove then) and two old dogs. Eventually, we filled our house with our essentials and bought more stuff. And after a few years, we accumulated more things through personal purchases and gifts from family and friends. Then, when our two dogs died, we replaced them with three more, and acquired more things… until we literally filled our garage and four bedrooms with stuff. Lots of them.
Honestly, I didn’t realize we had too much crap. And for the longest time, I thought I just needed to learn how to organize our things or maybe buy more storage and overwhelm is gone. I did not know any better. I thought that overwhelm was just a part of our lives and our growing family. And that there was nothing I could do with it but to embrace it or let it consume me. Until when my baby was born and I accidentally discovered Minimalism.
As I read more about other people’s journey into this kind of lifestyle, I was drawn more into it and enticed to start my own little journey for two reasons. One is to change my spending mindset to build a financial future for my son, and the second is to reduce overwhelm in our house. To my surprise, there’s a lot more to it than just these two benefits.
Unfortunately though, I realized that Minimalism may not be easy for everyone. And I myself have had a rocky start. I realized that Minimalism is not as simple as boxing your stuff and donating them as there are many factors involved in starting or maintaining this kind of lifestyle.
I have personally experienced a few struggles and I am writing about them hoping to shed some light on the issues and to share tips that have helped me somehow overcome the challenges in starting this journey.
Struggle #1: Your Spouse Does Not Share Your Vision
One of my struggles in starting this lifestyle is that my husband does not seem to share the same vision. While he is a simple person and does not wish for any luxury, he struggles with letting go of things, most especially sentimental items and things that he thinks he can use “just in case”.
If your spouse or family does not support your vision, finding a happy medium can indeed be a struggle. Oftentimes, communication is the missing key but if it doesn’t work and they still don’t get why you have to donate/throw away some stuff , RESPECT their point of view and where they are coming from. Keep in mind that clutter is not only physical, it can also be mental and stressing about your spouse not sharing your vision is another unnecessary mental clutter.
My advise is focus on yourself and your stuff first. Instead of trying to convince my spouse to join me, I just let him be but I declared a clutter-free zone in our house, which is our living space. Fortunately, this arrangement seems to work for both of us for now. We both understand now that we cannot litter this living space with our personal stuff or things that don’t belong there.
If you are living with someone that does not share your vision, don’t let it discourage you from starting or maintaining a Minimalist lifestyle. I am sure that even if you can’t convince them to join yours, you can still find peace in your own little space.
Struggle #2: Getting Rid of Gifts
We all have received gifts and admit it, we don’t use all the things we have received. And since we value the people who gave us those presents, we feel guilty at giving them away most especially that we know they spent time and money on those gifts.
If guilt is holding you back from letting go of gifts you no longer use, think of it this way: holding onto those items or letting them go does not change how you feel about the people who gave them to you. And getting rid of gifts certainly does not mean you don’t appreciate the memory of receiving them and the people who gave them to you.
Struggle #3: Resisting Consumerism
We are living in a highly consumerist world and resisting to buying can be a real struggle. Sometimes we buy things not because we need them but because they’re cute or because we think we might need them in the future. Or simply because they are on special deals.
If shopping is a hobby that you have less control over, how about replacing this hobby with a healthier one? Hobbies such as gardening, yoga, and writing are not only cheap but are far more beneficial and helps you avoid consuming more stuff.
Recently, I’ve been practicing intentional shopping which means I only go to the store or mall when I really have something to buy. This way, I’ll be able to avoid the enticing deals and pretty things, and ultimately avoid making unnecessary and questionable purchases. If you shop online often, you can simply unsubscribe to your online store updates to avoid making unnecessary purchases. Setting a shopping rule may also help you rethink of a purchase. For example, commit to giving yourself 24 hours, 2 days, a week or more before you purchase a particular product. This gives you time to think about the purchase and helps you avoid impulse shopping.
Struggle #4: The Fear of Change and Defying the Status Quo
Sometimes we don’t let go of things because that’s what we’ve always done, that’s the tradition, that’s our habit, that’s what we think is right. We sometimes fear change thinking anything different will be a loss to us.
Then, we continue to consume because we’ve been brought up that way. We lavish our loved ones with material gifts during every occasion because that’s how we’ve always celebrated those occasions. We think Christmas doesn’t feel Christmas without the stuff in wrapped boxes and we continue to pass this tradition on to our children. And the vicious cycle of consumerism lives on.
I am not saying there is inherently wrong with giving gifts. Believe me, if I can give every person a gift, I’ll do it. What I think is wrong is when we think of every special occasion as a time to give material gifts instead of a time to make wonderful memories.
So, I think that to overcome this struggle, you should start with your mindset. Re-think the status quo. Re-think your old habits. Only you can decide which stuff, habits, traditions and values you should keep. If you can no longer find a compelling reason to keep any of them, then it is time to let go.
Struggle #5: How Much Your Stuff Costs
It is not easy to let go of something, even if you no longer use it, when you know you spent money and time on it. I realized this is one of the hard truths of Minimalism: You’ll lose that money (or maybe some of it if you sell the item) and you’ll have to accept that hard truth and learn from it.
I think of it this way: any item that I don’t use is still a LOSS even if I decide to keep it. If I let it go, I may lose the item and money but l also lose the burden of keeping it and I gain more time (and more space to breathe) in return. If we want to cut our losses, then perhaps it is important to remember the next time we buy something, we should be more mindful and make sure that we’ll only buy what we will actually use for a long time and not buy something that will only end up sitting unused, consuming our space and time.
Struggle # 6: Getting Rid of Relationships
I’ve learned that clutter is not only physical. Clutter can also be toxic, pernicious relationships. I am sure you agree that getting rid of this clutter is the hardest struggle to overcome most especially if it involves people who have been around us for years. I am not in the position to tell you what to do with those relationships. What I can only say is that after rethinking my relationships, I have found relationships that are meaningful and relationships that only breed negativity. I have ditched the harmful ones and have found more time for myself , for growing other relationships and for beneficial hobbies that improve my wellbeing. I’ve realized that when it comes to relationships, quality is more important than quantity. Quality relationships are those that let you grow, that are meaningful and that don’t drain the vitality from your life.