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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 life, clutter, 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.
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.
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?
Need Some Serious Decluttering Motivation?
Here we will tackle 3 common decluttering obstacles so you can let go and get uncluttered for good. If you’ve ever gotten started and then gotten stuck, this FREE resource is for you!