Many of us first heard about minimalism through observing others’ experiences. We see how others apply it to their lives, and we start to get an image in our head about what minimalism looks like. Unfortunately, many people get caught up mimicking what others do. And they miss out on the fact that minimalism is an entirely personal practice. Consequently, they run into common pitfalls and miss out on the benefits of minimalism. Below are my tips to focus your minimalist practice inwards, avoid the pitfalls, and get the most benefits of minimalism.
Minimalism is an introspective practice
What is minimalism? Minimalism is the practice of evaluating the contents of our lives, keeping what serves us, and parting with what doesn’t. We can apply this practice to the items we own, but we can also extend minimalism to other areas of our lives. Such as, evaluating the people we keep in our lives, and how we spend our time. Ultimately, it is a tool that helps us free up our lives from what burdens us, so we can focus on what matters most.
The practice of minimalism looks different for every person, based on their unique needs and desires. Minimalism is not based on a strict set of rules, item limitations, or downsizing requirements. It is a mindset, and that’s how it serves us best. Therefore, we can look inwards for the answers in our minimalist practice. As individuals, we apply the principles of minimalism to our lives. And we ultimately decide what serves us and what doesn’t. Above all, this distinction is where we experience authenticity, more simple living, and gain the most benefits of minimalism.
The pitfalls of not aligning minimalism internally
With the multitude of others’ experiences online, it is easy to fall into letting others define what minimalism looks like. Here are some common pitfalls and minimalist misconceptions.
- Minimalists get distracted trying to meet arbitrary item limitations set by other people.
- They think they have to downsize their belongings to meet extreme space limitations, because others have.
- Minimalists think they have to consistently find something to declutter in order to actively practice minimalism.
- They mistake the peace that comes from “living with less,” for the hamster wheel of “constantly seeking less.”
And when minimalists don’t align their practice internally, their practice doesn’t feel authentic or sustainable. And new issues can arise.
When people don’t follow their internal compass about what to remove from their lives, they begin decluttering without a clear purpose. They let others define the number of items a minimalist is allowed to have in any given category. Or how much they need to downsize in order to be considered a minimalist.
This can lead people to make difficult decluttering decisions on items that they aren’t convinced they should part with. Decluttering decisions don’t feel authentic. And so, they may feel stuck, unable to make decisions about certain items. This can lead to decision fatigue, and it can discourage a person from fully embracing minimalism.
When a person declutters these items anyway, they may experience decluttering regret. They may realize they actually did need some of those items, so now they have to replace them. This leads to wastefulness, unnecessary expenses, and an unsustainable practice. Some people feel so much guilt about being wasteful, that they deny themselves the ability to replace necessary items. So they may live their lives without those items. And feel like they don’t have enough to take care of themselves. This can discourage a person from continuing their minimalist practice.
Practice Authentic Minimalism
We can avoid the pitfalls and experience more benefits of minimalism by focusing our practice inward, and practice Authentic Minimalism. Remember that minimalism is about freeing ourselves of what burdens us, the individual. Only we can know what things serve us, and what we can live without. The items we own, the relationships we have, and how we spend our time in a way that truly benefits us, is a question only we can answer. And so, we can use our internal compass to navigate authentic decisions within our minimalist practice.
In addition, through hearing other minimalists’ experiences, we can see what minimalism looks like to other people. We can learn how others apply their reasoning and decision making to achieve their personal success criteria. And this can inform us about how we can apply reasoning and decision making to achieve our personal success criteria. Let’s let other minimalists’ experiences serve as an example, not a rule. And let’s follow our own internal compass in our authentic minimalist practice.