A lot of people ask me if I have any regrets about getting rid of my stuff. The easy answer is no, however, there are some things I know NOW, that I wish I knew when I first started my journey to be become a … dun dun dunnnn…. MINIMALIST.
Hopefully you read that previous sentence as a dramatic sound effect – because it leads me into the first thing I wish I knew going into this decluttering and minimizing process:
1. Minimalism is really just a label.
What is a minimalist anyway? I don’t even know and frankly I don’t care that much. For a topic that I’ve been obsessing about for over a year now, you’d think I’d have a concrete answer to what it even means. But the truth is, I always had these ideas of what my space would look like when I got rid of the clutter – but I wasn’t thinking about what it could feel like.
I believe now, that the term ‘minimalist’ is more of a label, and that becoming a minimalist is about the process, and how you FEEL about it. (of course, I would say this, as I’m an ENFP, according to the Myers Briggs psychology test. The F standing for Feeling vs Thinking…) But even still, I used to believe that there was an official aesthetic that would mean I’d achieved minimalism. Perhaps a certain number of items in my home would indicate I was part of the club… But as I pared down my possessions, I noticed my space didn’t magically look like a well-curated Pinterest board. (crazy right?!) It still looked like my home, but it started to feel better — like I was breathing new life into it.
So if you find that your space still looks relatively the same, even after purging box after box, don’t despair. Instead, consider how you FEEL, and know that you are making progress.
2. Organizing isn’t the same as minimizing.
I realize I just said that the term ‘minimalist’ should be used loosely, but I believe there’s a clear distinction between organizing a space, and minimizing (or decluttering) a space. As I’ve said in my videos, the reason I rarely buy new organizational gadgets is because I don’t want to any excuse to just neatly tuck away items, rather than reduce them.
That being said, this wasn’t the case when I first started. I wasted SO much time looking up unique ways to arrange and organize my space. This created a laundry list of organizational projects that never got done. And in the end, planning to organize was just a way for me to procrastinate.
So what did I learn? There will be a time and a place for organizing, and it will be different for everyone. Right now, I’m still purging… Perhaps you are too? And even though it’s difficult at times, the delayed gratification we’ll get from organizing will be worth the wait, because we’ll only have to organize exactly want we love, want, need, and use.
3. Permanent changes don’t happen over night.
Captain Obvious over here, but it’s something I had to learn. (and I learned it pretty quick)! I could declutter for 15 hours straight and my space would look more messy than it did to start with!
This is because I never realized the time and mental effort it would take to dig through old boxes or junk drawers. I call it the Decluttering Rule of Thirds. Unlike the photography Rule of Thirds, which is visual – the Decluttering Rule of Thirds has to do with time. It’s simple: If you think a task is going to take an hour, then triple it. Seldom has a project gotten done ahead of schedule – at least for me.
4. You’ll have setbacks.
This one is the hardest things for me to write about, because it comes with a little dose of shame. There are times I declutter a space, only to see it get filled up again… And it’s such a downer! Sound familiar? I know this is common, because so many of you have messaged me about it.
Eventually, I learned a few techniques to help overcome this obstacle, but I still have setbacks, and you will too. A big part of it stems from “being messy” for so long, you just get used to setting stuff down wherever it’s most convenient.
The truth is, you’ll always have decluttering setbacks –we’re just human. But knowing where something ‘lives’ within your space will make a huge difference in the frequency of your setbacks. You have to force yourself to decide where an item goes when not in use – actually take a minute to have that conversation with yourself – it’ll make a difference next time you use that item. Instead of ‘finding it’, you’ll ‘go get it’. And instead of ‘putting it down’, you’ll ‘put it away’.
5. People will look at you funny.
When I first started my journey toward minimalism, I knew what was bothering me, but I only had a vague idea of what I was trying to achieve. Because of this, it wasn’t something I talked to people about… I didn’t know what to say.
I felt like I was suffocating in my stuff and it was mentally exhausting to be in my own home. Waking up and looking at my bedroom caused me anxiety. Getting ready in my bathroom made me feel dirty. Picking out clothes made me frustrated. Every activity from the moment I woke up was a chore.
When I finally vocalized this to people around me, the reaction I most often received was that was sympathetic confusion. It was like people could see my feelings were real, but they had nothing to say. Perhaps they just didn’t know what to say. The silence that followed usually led to a change of subject, and that was that.
Others that I spoke with would try to find additional reasons for why I was decluttering/purging/etc. Surely I was ‘up to something’, they thought. When I assured them I just wanted to live more simply… there was that look again. The confused look: “Ohh…” They’d say.
It used to make me feel silly. Like this whole thing was ridiculous. … But now, I don’t blame people for looking at me funny, that’s okay! I’ve realized that for some people, there’s nothing wrong with having a bunch of stuff, and I’m certainly not here to judge. After all, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned thus far in my minimalism journey is in the first point I mentioned above: Minimalism is just a label. It doesn’t matter how anyone else chooses to live, only how you choose to.
So whether you’re just starting your journey or if you’ve been at it for years – I hope you’re all able to enjoy the process, learn from your experiences, and continue to discover new ways to live life simply.
Watch my video on this topic here!