9 Minimalist Experts Answer the Question, “What’s the Hardest Part About Minimalism?”

Inside: Here you’ll find an authentic look into the lives of 9 minimalist bloggers as they answer the question, “What’s the hardest part about minimalism?”

“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I love a good before and after photo. Whether it’s home renovations, dramatic hair cuts, weight loss or decluttering, a before and after photo always sparks joy. I can’t help but walk away with a renewed sense of hope and a belief that anything can be had if we set our minds to it.

The problem, however, is the middle. Where are all the middle photos? Photos of the rubber meeting the road. Where it’s messy, painful, awkward and just flat out hard. Photos of the moments when we don’t feel as though we can go on or we find ourselves completely off course.

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Over the last few months I’ve been answering reader questions in a monthly series called, Ask a Minimalist. A few weeks ago I received a question that really got me thinking. It went like this,


“I’m curious, what is the hardest thing you’ve had to do on your minimalism journey? Or what part of minimalism have you found to be the hardest?” – Priscilla

I love questions like this one because they offer us the opportunity to put it all out there. They give us a chance to take a good, hard look at the middle photos. The good, the bad and the ugly.

It can often feel like this simplicity thing comes easy to everybody but you. Trust me, that’s not the case! This month I’ve reached out to 8 other minimalist bloggers for their response to this very important question. Below you’ll find what these experts have to say about the hardest parts of minimalism.

Courtney Carver, Be More With Less

“It’s challenging to reflect on my minimalism journey and see any of it as hard because it’s yielded such great results in terms of my health and happiness but if I had to choose one, it would be the beginning stages of paying down debt. And it wasn’t even the paying off part of it, but facing the actual dollar amount that we had to pay and thinking about how long it would take. Even though it felt impossible because we were so used to living in debt, once we got started, it got easier and easier and sometimes it was even fun.
It took us a few years, but instead of waiting for the day we became all the way debt free, we celebrated each milestone along the way. Now that I think about it, taking all that time to become debt free helped in more ways than I anticipated. We learned so much about our behavior around money and the slow approach gave us a perspective that a faster or easier path may not have.”
You can find more inspiration from Courtney Carver in her books Soulful Simplicity and Project 333 (releasing March, 2020).

Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

The hardest part of minimalism, it seems to me, is navigating owning less in a family environment. Knowing what kids need and what they don’t as they grow and change and navigate new passions and hobbies. Add in a spouse with different passions and different opinions on what is needed for us as a couple, our kids as they mature, and our family as a whole, and you’ve got a situation that requires lots of patience and grace. Probably more importantly, I’ve learned that trust is the most necessary emotion and response.

You can find more inspiration from Joshua Becker in his newest book The Minimalist Home, as well as books The More of Less and Clutter Free with Kids

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Denaye Barahona, Simple Families

It’s hard to identify the hardest part of my minimalism journey, because it all feels hard. In many ways minimalism goes against the grain of the way that my brain operates. I think fast, talk fast, walk fast, and I can be like a tornado tearing through the house grabbing things I need and rarely putting them away. As a result, my brain and my house tend to be pretty messy.
Minimalism forces me to be intentional and slow down. I have started to think before I talk. I think before I buy. I think before I act. For me, minimalism has been about getting off auto-pilot and finding a better rhythm that suits both myself and my family
However, if I had to pick THE hardest part of my minimalism journey is giving myself grace to find my own way and make mistakes. You’ll find that minimalism is like a beautiful, yet poorly marked hike. You’ll be meandering through the forest and start off heading in the right direction. But it won’t be long before you step off the path and get lost.
Time and time again I’ve found myself taking two steps forward and one step back. I meander off the path but I find my way back to it. But it’s a beautiful journey and I’m not tornado-ing through it anymore, I’m stopping to enjoy the view.
You can find more inspiration from Denaye Barahona on her Simple Families Podcast or in her book, Simple Happy Parenting.

Erica Layne, The Life On Purpose Movement

The hardest but—by far and away—most important work I’ve done on my minimalism journey is clearing out my emotional clutter. We all have recurring negative thoughts about ourselves, our lives, and others. Our brains have become so efficient at thinking these thoughts that we almost believe they’re truth.
But once I cleared out my physical clutter and even began to tidy up my mental clutter (all of the information bouncing around in my head!), I began to push back on these negative thoughts—my emotional clutter—and I began to find relief. It’s freeing(!) to become the watcher of your own mind and to consciously choose thoughts that build you up.
You can find more inspiration from Erica Layne in her book, The Minimalist Way
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Jay Harrington, Life and Whim

Stripping away the excess, throwing out lots of stuff, and minimizing my lifestyle was relatively easy on my journey to minimalism. I had a so-called high-powered job, big house, and good income—none of which made me happy—so it was no problem casting them aside.
Paradoxically, getting rid of those things was also the hardest part, because my identity was wrapped up in them, and many of my relationships were intertwined with them. I had to give up much more than stuff to find my way—and it was painful. I came to learn that minimalism is not an end in itself. The process of decluttering, detaching, and deemphasizing materialism is simply a step on the road toward a destination. Without an end in mind, such as newfound purpose, practicing minimalism can feel like a rote exercise devoid of any larger meaning.
But if you’re using the principles of minimalism to move toward something you love, then all of the stripping away, like a sculptor chipping away at a hunk of marble, becomes a joyful exercise that reveals something beautiful inside.
You can find more inspiration from Jay Harrington at Life and Whim

Melissa Coleman, The Faux Martha

The hardest part about choosing minimalism for myself is that others in close proximity don’t necessarily choose it the same way I do. My husband, for example, prefers more variety in his life than I do, which shows up at the backdoor where the shoes pile and the jackets hang, and in the pantry where a collection of nut butters collect. He lets me be me and I let him be him, but sometimes it drives me batty. I drive him batty, too, when I mention the nut butters, then he reminds me that we both live here. To that I say, “I’m sorry.” (By the way, he’s definitely on the minimalism spectrum, just not as minimal as me.)

And then there’s my 6-year-old, who marks everything as special. She has a drawer for her special items, a deep drawer, that is incredibly full. She has trouble finding toys despite helping to give her systems for organizing them (she’s 6 after all), despite helping her pare down from time to time when I sense she’s overwhelmed (she’s 6 after all). As much as I want to give her this system that works so well for me, like religion, she’s going to have to own this, and it may be years from now, if at all.

And then there’s Christmas. I come from two lines of gift-givers. It’s their love language. It’s my anxiety language. Christmas is always a really hard time of year for me. While I prefer quality time and experiences together, they prefer gifting. Is one right or wrong?

Long story short, the hardest part about minimalism is figuring out how to do my thing while letting others do their thing, especially when their thing crosses into my thing, you know? I think it’s a dance I may always be dancing. Because one of the biggest things practicing minimalism has taught me is what matters most. People matter, even when we go about life differently, even when we rub each other the wrong way.

You can find more inspiration from Melissa Coleman in her book, The Minimalist Kitchen

Zoë Kim, Raising Simple

This is such a difficult question to give just one answer. I’ve been simplifying for about nine years, and within that time, I had child 3 and 4 and have moved six times. So my first thought, moving.

Moving has been the most challenging during my minimalist journey. You might think moving helps you declutter, and it can, but moving into multiple homes in different parts of the country can also make you feel sure about what you might need. Moving every couple of years keeps the variables changing. Some homes have ample built-in storage, and others have next-to-none. The bedrooms in one house might allow all three boys to share a room but not in the other.

However, I think there is one thing that’s been even more difficult simplifying during constant change, and that’s making decisions when I don’t feel like I have “the perfect answer.” In my lifeclutter, whether it be physical or emotional, is a manifestation of unmade decisions.
When I choose to leave a decision unmade, I’m allowing the clutter, physical or emotional to remain. I’ve learned to tune into the narrative and the questions I tell myself that will hold me back. Maybe you can relate?
What if I miss it?
What if I regret my decision?
What if I could have sold that?
What if my grandmother comes bak from the dead and sees that I gave her dining hutch away?
As I’ve become more aware of my postponed decisions, It’s been easier to let go of my “what-if” narrative and move forward in simplicity, especially when those decisions that need to be made don’t seem to have the perfect answer.

You can find more inspiration from Zoë at Raising Simple on Instagram and in her book, Minimalism For Families

Emma Schieb, Simple Slow Lovely

The hardest thing I’ve had to do is to let go. Let go of my expectations for my family members to want minimalism as much as I do.
This is my thing, not theirs and I constantly have to remind myself to respect their choices and decisions. Our home doesn’t look minimalist, but it looks lived and loved in and I like it that way.
You can find more inspiration from Emma Scheib at Simple Slow Lovely

Rachelle Crawford, Abundant Life With Less

The most difficult part of becoming a minimalist for me, was learning not to railroad my family in the process. I went all in immediately, and began ruthlessly letting go of any and everything that didn’t serve a purpose in my home. When I eventually came up for air, I looked back and saw my kids way back at the starting line looking at me in horror.

While I hoped my enthusiasm was enough for all of us, it just wasn’t. It never would be. Minimalism with a family often requires a slower pace. If we were really going to do this together, I would have to, well, not be such a crazy person.

Looking back, that slower pace gave me the time and space to reign in my perfectionist tendencies and unrealistic expectations. It also gave me permission to implement a more realistic, sustainable and grace based approach to minimalism that fit our very real, and often messy lives for the long haul.

If you’re finding your simplicity journey to be a little rockier than you expected, you’re in good company. It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies for these minimalist bloggers either. Nothing worth having comes easy. It isn’t supposed to.

Take heart, join the club and just keep moving.

What part of minimalism have you found to be the hardest?

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11 thoughts on “9 Minimalist Experts Answer the Question, “What’s the Hardest Part About Minimalism?”

  1. What a wonderful article. I follow lots of these minimalist bloggers and feel exactly like what you said: they’ve got it all figured out! But coming from a true hoarder family and now having my own family: i can’t just barge in and throw everything out 🙈
    I’ll get somewhere… someday…

  2. I don’t think I could manage it,I might have at least 2 or 3 different personalities requiring different kinds of satifactions.

  3. Love this…such a great reminder and grounding post for me to read! Accepting, flowing with and being patient with other people’s versions of minimalism and preferences for living a “good” life. There are definitely some things my family does that drives me “batty”, but that is what makes them them. I still love them all so much, and that’s the most important thing. They have the best intentions in mind and they’re doing things that make them happy which doesn’t mean they’re always doing things that I’d prefer they do.

  4. I think being in love with Marie Kondo’s approach where everything that sparks joy was a something my husband then joked everything sparked joy for him.
    It was accepting that it’s ok love with others whose stuff they are never going to part with and the house doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. When I accepted that I was done because my is stuff is decluttered, I was free to just live my life.

  5. I’ve been a Navy wife for 14.5 years, and the movers are packing my family’s stuff two days after Christmas. By the time my husband retires, he will have served for more than 22 years. We are moving from a modest, single-family home in Southern California to a smaller townhouse with very little storage in Washington state. This is my sixth move since being married to my sailor, and now I have a five-year-old kindergartner and an almost-two-year old son who have their stuff too. I’ve been on my minimalist journey since 2010, and it is hard at times. Like when we moved out of the home we own it 2012 knowing I won’t see it again until my husband retires a decade later. We have always hoped to have two kids to bring back into it, and I’m so excited we will one day!

    I do take pictures sometimes of the messy-in-between moments where it looks like your stuff barfed up everywhere from the closets, cupboards, drawers, shelves, boxes and bins. It has to get worse sometimes before it gets better. It is important to remember that painful part of minimizing your stuff because it helps you appreciate where you have come from, and where you are journeying to.

    I finally gave away nice, unneeded (yet sentimental) furniture to older family members this week while we are still stationed near them, and they love it! With two kids, some beautiful furniture pieces no longer serves a functional purpose in my home. And space is a premium. I gave away a plethora of baby items, furniture and clothes to my best friend and her younger sister, who are both expecting baby girls soon. And some things they didn’t want went to a local pregnancy care center. These two expectant moms said, “Do you know how much money you just saved us!” And I said, “Awesome, do you know how much space you just saved me?” I gave away all of my old work clothes since I have the joy of being a stay-at-home mom. I finally have away many books I finally had to admit I still hadn’t read. I honestly read more online now, but I saved my treasured favorites.

    It was hard doing these things, but on the flip side it frees up mental and physical space in my home to live with greater purpose and intentionality. And to be able to give away a lot of stuff to friends and family who are grateful for it feels good inside. I was able to “pay it forward,” and I know those people will do the same too when they are ready.

    I don’t expect my family to be as gung-ho as me in their approach because mentally we’re all in different stages of the process. But watching me has helped them slowly learn to let go of things too. I enjoy modeling generosity and kindness to my family.

    It has taken a full decade to break free from my hoarder mentality I grew up learning from my mom, to the the let-it-go and choose-wisely-carefully-and with purpose mentality I have today.

    I write this currently surrounded by boxes and bins I am still filling up with things to keep or give away. While the military forces me to do this every three years on a grand scale, I think it is helpful for everyone to go through things they own often. The seasons in our lives change, and with the changes the things we need to live our best lives change too.

    Thank you for your inspiration, and the inspiration of other minimalist bloggers that make up this community that helps us all keep pushing forward with our goals and dreams!

  6. Love this…such a great reminder and grounding post for me to read! Accepting, flowing with and being patient with other people’s versions of minimalism and preferences for living a “good” life. There are definitely some things my family does that drives me “batty”, but that is what makes them them. I still love them all so much, and that’s the most important thing. They have the best intentions in mind and they’re doing things that make them happy which doesn’t mean they’re always doing things that I’d prefer they do.

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