"Minimalism is not the lack of something. It's simply the perfect amount of something." - Nicholas Burroughs
Okay, so the title of this blog may be a bit misleading. I still practice minimalism frequently in many areas of my life. Yet, as of late, there are some methods about the practice that I haven't been particularly fond of.
If anyone knows me, they know that I am a maximalist at heart who admires the ways of minimalism. Freeing both your mind and space of clutter to focus on what matters most has always intrigued me. But the act of doing can personally be a struggle. Even so, I've always craved a clean, put-together living space, like those I so often see on YouTube.
On the flip side, I've always loved stuff. Trinkets, knick-knacks, worn books, vintage clothing, hand-me-downs that still smell faintly of my great-grandparents, colors and florals a scattered array in my space. I'm accustomed to fully-packed dressers, piles of books on the floor, mounds of clothes in the closet, and nook-and-crannies filled with little odds-and-ends.
I think seeing a space full of things makes me feel safe, and cozy, even if the objects themselves have no deep meaning to me.
So, when I found minimalism some years ago, it was like a breath of fresh air. Suddenly, my bookshelves were only lined with stories I cherished, and I started visiting the library more often. I donated over half of my clothing, cultivating a wardrobe that really felt like "me". At the time, at least.
In pair with minimalism, I grew to love mindfulness, and found comfort in simplicity. I found love and happiness in what I already had, finding safety in moments rather than clutter.
I stopped buying trinkets, and old books. I got rid of color in my home and in my closet. I adopted the renowned palette that is white, beige, and bits of green from plants. I kept my space free of mess. I wanted it to feel like no one lived there. This made me feel productive, successful, and clean.
And then, it took a turn when I got my first real job and actually started making some money. It all changed when I became, well, an adult.
3 Reasons Why I Don't Like Minimalism Right Now
1. Minimalism Made Me See Things As Disposible
When I started getting my first paychecks at my salary job, my eyes widened and my tongue lolled like a puppy. I became infatuated with buying, buying, buying, because I was earning more money than ever before.
Simultaneously, however, I wanted to keep my space free of clutter.
Whenever I brought home an impulse buy, I would toss out something else that I already owned to keep a balance. Whether that item was a sweater my grandmother gave me, a T-shirt my mom bought me on a Target run, or a book I bought a few months earlier, but still hadn't read and ultimately lost interest in, I'd add it to the donation bin to make room for the new and more-interesting.
The minimalism books I studied never went deep into the complications of impulse spending. It's all around us, in tempting red and yellow banners. Sales are constant, and with fast fashion still on the rise, it only takes a click of a button to generate an entirely new and inexpensive wardrobe.
Of course, minimalism does teach us to spend time, and less money. But, what's the issue if the items are inexpensive and you can just donate them when you're done? Your space stays clean regardless, right? Even better, you're always staying on top of the latest trends and styles this way!
I never gave myself a chance to slow down. My job demanded so much of me that my life moved so fast. If I ever needed an outfit for a meeting or an event with friends, I'd buy one quickly and within a month the clothes were lying in the back of my car as I drove to the thrift store. I didn't have time to pause and choose an outfit that truly felt like and aligned with me, beyond the span of a single experience.
Now, this probably doesn't sound like minimalism at all, but an impulse problem.
Well, you're probably right. But, in an odd way, practicing minimalism nudged me into this lifestyle.
Currently, I am in a season of my life that has truly humbled me. And it has taken me until now to realize that, for so long, I looked at the things in my life as purely disposable.
Everything has slowed down, and I now find myself missing so many items that I had tossed to the side without a thought. Because in my mind, they were easily replaceable. There are so many books I sold that I now have an itch to read. Jackets and sneakers and blouses and earrings that I search for, and can't find, forgetting I got rid of them months earlier.
Minimalism is supposed to teach you the value of cherishing what you own. But, in the process, it only taught me that I'm allowed to get rid of something when it no longer "brings me joy".
Which, in the world of fast fashion, happens quickly. Something that you once loved just months before is now "tacky" or "unstylish".
2. I Adopted a Color Palette That Wasn't Mine.
As mentioned before, I love colorful patterns, designs, and have frequently worn mis-matched items on purpose to create unique styles and looks. However, in the world of minimalism, almost everyone around me wears only white, black, brown, or gray.
Despite this style not being "me", I adopted it anyway. Therefore, I got rid of almost every colorful item I had.
Even my decorations had to be pearly white or beige, with little to no design.
Throughout the years, I've begun gravitating back to color because honestly, I missed it. I've also remained true to the "rules" of minimalism.
There were seasons when I decided I no longer liked the color yellow and would replace everything I had with white. When white no longer interested me, I was onto green. I would toss nice coats to the side because I didn't have any clothes that matched.
One time, I told a friend that I wanted to get rid of a nice running shirt because it was "too blue". She looked at my quizzically and said, "Is that really a reason to get rid of something?"
I now see that I am an incredibly colorful person. Decorating myself and my space with bright, vibrant patterns makes the energy feel bright, and cheery. I feel reunited to myself, now that I am embracing all colors again, regardless of whether they "match", or don't.
Also, it is a genuine privilege to get rid of items merely because the color no longer makes us happy.
3. Things Can, and Do, Bring Happiness
I've always been a firm believer that moments and experiences bring more joy than physical objects. Shopping for new clothes and things may bring a smile to your face, but that feeling is fleeting. Genuine time spent with loved ones, however, will cultivate gratitude for a lifetime.
This being said, I believe that there are some objects that will bring me loads of happiness for years to come.
One example of this is a necklace I bought myself in high school at a holiday craft fair.
I had gone with friends, and had just $30 in my pocket. I stumbled upon this necklace and nearly froze in place, admiring its beauty. Turns out that the pendant was from the 60s, and had been refurbished into a stunning piece of vintage jewelry.
The only issue was that it was $20. While this may not be a lot now, it was a large chunk of money for 17-year-old Brittney. Especially for jewelry.
I continued pacing the craft fair, deciding I didn't need it. But, the thought of the necklace just wouldn't escape my mind. Something within urged me to take that necklace home before it was swept up by someone else. After an hour of persisting, I ran back to the booth, took out my wad of cash, and smiled ear-to-ear as she handed it over.
To this day, I still care for and wear this necklace often. It is easily one of my favorite pieces, and wearing it still brings me endless joy.
It seems like many people in the minimalism space encourage people to donate items that have a lot of sentimental value so that they can let go, and move forward, releasing the value we place on physical things.
However, there are many objects that I would never get rid of. Instead, I'd love to pass these items down through generations with the hope that my children and grandchildren will cherish them as much as I do.
And, holding onto them does, ultimately, bring me joy.
Okay, Minimalism Isn't All Bad
Minimalism helped me majorly declutter my space and my mind. It helped me release my hold on so many objects that I frequently forgot I even owned. For a long time, I held onto these things for safety, out of fear of letting go. But minimalism taught me how to set myself free from the past and move on, journeying toward bigger and better things.
However, if you're not careful, minimalism can pull you away from your true self. Like it did to me.
We are complex. There may be a time when something doesn't bring us joy, and another time when it does.
For example, my dad gifted me a bunch of art supplies a few Christmas' ago. At the time, I painted, but stopped when I got busy with college, then with work. I almost donated this gift because I never used it, but decided to keep it in a box in my closet, just in case.
In the recent weeks, I have been sketching and painting again! I excitedly pulled the box out of the attic, and am so grateful I didn't get rid of the supplies. Also, because it was a gift, I think of my dad every time I draw.
Minimalism is a wonderful practice, but I think that for a long time, I missed the overall message.
Minimalism isn't about having a clean, clear space, but about cultivating a home that you truly enjoy being in. Creating a space that feels like yours. Surrounding yourself with items that bring you joy and remind you of fond memories. Truly caring for and cherishing what you do have, practicing gratitude, and donating clothes that have served you well and truly need to be passed along.
When you practice minimalism, I encourage you to:
Slow down, and allow yourself time to pause and truly reflect on why you're donating these items.
Try locking away items that "no longer bring you joy" in a box, and keep it hidden. In three months, return to them. Do they still lack joy, or do they spark something new?
Don't throw away things just because they're not "aesthetic" and can be replaced.
Be wary when tossing out gifts and hand-me-downs. Of course, don't generate clutter. But, will you miss these items in a couple of years from now? Will you miss what they once meant to you?
Rather than immediately sell or donate items, research local charities that truly need them. Or, maybe even ask around among friends and family to see if they'd like an item that you're passing along.
As I said, I still practice minimalism. But, I've shifted my perspective. I treat my items with love and respect, and plan to hold onto them for as long as I can. The true culprit to all of this, I realize, is impulse spending, and the instant gratification that comes with it.
But these items don't provide long-lasting comfort. The items that do are the ones that we've had for years, and may have been passed down to us through generations.
I actually plan on participating in a low-buy year for 2024. But, more on that later!
I am excited to return to my personal style, and embrace what may seem like "mess" and "clutter" to others.
Ultimately, there is no right way to practice minimalism. So, find what works for you, and don't listen to what anyone else says. Seriously, life is too short for that.
Do you have any thoughts on the practice of minimalism? Do you agree, or disagree, with my thoughts? Let me know int he comments below!