Decluttering is an essential component to minimalism. But some minimalists believe that they must constantly remove items from their lives in order to actively practice minimalism. Unfortunately, this mindset leads to over-decluttering and creates new problems for minimalists. We can avoid these issues and experience greater benefits, when we align our practice with the true principles of minimalism. Let me explain.
Minimalism is not about constant decluttering
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.
It often takes several passes for us to evaluate our items before we come to decisions we are satisfied with. And even then, evaluating our items is an ongoing process, since new things are always coming in and out of our lives.
But to clarify, items don’t have to consistently leave our lives in order for us to actively practice minimalism. When we re-evaluate our things, sometimes we identify items to part with, and sometimes we don’t. Just because we didn’t remove an item that week, it doesn’t mean we aren’t practicing minimalism. Instead, we actively practice minimalism by regularly evaluating the contents of our lives. I think this distinction is where we can avoid pitfalls and gain more benefits of minimalism.
Purposeless decluttering leads to problems
When minimalists think they need to keep removing items from their lives, they put themselves on a constant decluttering schedule. There is an unnecessary pressure to find something to remove for the sake of it. This can lead to multiple problems like decision fatigue, decluttering regret, and wastefulness.
When minimalists think they need to constantly remove items, they have to make difficult decluttering decisions on items that they aren’t convinced they should part with. These decisions may or may not be what is best for them or their lives, but they feel pressured to remove them anyway. Their decisions don’t feel authentic, and so, they may feel unable to make decisions about certain items. This can lead to decision fatigue, which makes people feel stuck in their practice.
When a person declutters these items anyway, they may experience decluttering regret. This can be true for hobby items they enjoyed, sentimental items they weren’t ready to part with, or items they actually needed. The fear of decluttering regret is why many people hold onto burdensome items in the first place. And experiencing it can deter some people from fully embracing minimalism.
When people realize they actually did need some items that were decluttered, now they have to replace them. This leads to wastefulness and unnecessary expenses. Some people feel so much guilt about being wasteful, that they deny themselves the ability to replace necessary items. They may live their lives without those items, and feel like they don’t have enough to take care of themselves. And this can discourage a person from continuing their minimalist practice.
Intentionally evaluate the contents of your life
We can break out of this mindset and avoid the pitfalls via the following ways:
Change the way you view minimalism
Know you can still actively practice minimalism, even if items are not leaving the premises. Regularly evaluate the things in your life, and accept that you won’t always find something to remove. As long as your are practicing authentic minimalism, and making authentic decisions, you can rest assured you are minimizing to the extent that is right for you at that time.
Focus on decluttering the influx
During the re-evaluation process, remember that the decluttering process will eventually slow down. As we move through our practice, we find fewer items that we benefit from parting with, and that’s normal. We can focus most of our attention on evaluating new items that come into our lives, like gifts and purchases. And re-evaluate our existing items on a less regular basis to free up some mental space.
Focus on decluttering other categories
We find greater benefits of minimalism when we extend our practice to other areas of our lives, not just the items we own. Consider the relationships you engage with and how you spend your time each day. Consider minimizing your digital space. Tune in to yourself about how these things impact your life and your inner being.
Ultimately, I hope this post helps you find peace and inner alignment in your minimalist practice.