You’re ready to declutter and make room for the most important things in life. Maybe you’ve already begun your minimalism journey, but for whatever reason, you’ve hit a plateau. You can’t seem to get past a certain point, and you’re frustrated. How do you move from where you are to where you want to be?
Minimalism is a journey, not a destination. Regardless of where you are in your minimalism journey, at some point, you will find yourself battling mental roadblocks. There will be times when you will feel like anything but a minimalist. You will find yourself doubting or telling yourself little lies that sabotage your journey.
How do you deal with those mental hurdles? The first step is to recognize these messages.
Minimalism Roadblock #1
I might need this thing later.
It would be interesting to know how much decluttering has been sabotaged by that one sentence. It would be scary to know how many hoarders use that idea as a justification. By using the possibility of need, you can easily justify never throwing anything away, ever. The truth is, we don’t really know what we will need in the future. Who could have predicted we would need a cell phone twenty years ago? Yet, here we are, carrying our cell phones wherever we go. This brings up a need for all new minimalist intentions like digital decluttering.
Instead of saying we might need an item, try giving a specific parameter. Am I going to need this in the next month? Is this something I can easily get if I do need it later? The Minimalists use a 20/20 rule, which I find very helpful. If it’s something they can get for under $20 and under 20 minutes, they toss it. Whatever parameters you choose, having concrete criteria for discarding or keeping an item moves us past the siren’s call of possible need.
Minimalism Roadblock #2
I’ve already spent so much money on this thing.
As we say in the South, “there’s no use crying over spilled milk.” The money is spent, and that is something we cannot change. Guilt does nothing to help us or propel us forward; guilt holds us back. No doubt, it stings when we realize how much money we may have wasted on something, but that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind in the long run.
We know this concept is true. It’s like that person who is in a bad dating relationship who refuses to move on because they’ve spent so much time with that person.
An alternative way to look at an expensive item (or items) is to appreciate the lesson that purchase taught you. Now, you know to examine purchases more closely before making them. If that $10,000 Rolex saved you from buying that $50,000 car as a status symbol, then you just saved yourself $40,000 in future bad purchases. That’s something to celebrate!
Minimalism Roadblock #3
Minimalism is too constraining.
This is one of the biggest myths of minimalism floating out there. Sure, you will have fewer material possessions after minimizing, but that is when true creativity and ingenuity can thrive.
Case in point: As a child, I remember an ice storm that came through our region. We were without power for 2 weeks. My parents had to find a way to feed and bathe us without power and without hot running water. They got an old kerosene heater, and we ended up cooking frozen pizzas on it so we could have a hot meal. We played board games and played outside in the snow. We went to my grandmother’s house to bathe. In my and my sisters’ memories, those two weeks stand out as a special time. Our limitations brought us closer as a family and created memories that can never be replaced.
While that pizza was probably a little better than cardboard, in our minds, it was the best we’d eaten. Minimalism is not something meant to make your life easier; it’s meant to make your life better.
Minimalism Roadblock #4
As long as I have room for it, it’s okay.
I’ve found myself battling this roadblock from time to time. We hang on to things that no longer add value to our lives, simply because they’re out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind? Not exactly.
Unexpected moves or deaths in the family can easily turn those tucked away items into a big burden. One question to ask is, “Why does every space need to have something in it?” Where is it written that one must fill every area of their home? An empty room can be great for a brainstorming session or a calming presence. You might even find you can downsize after a time, saving yourself money in rent or mortgage payments.
Minimalism Roadblock #5
I will only have to declutter one time.
Minimalism is not something you do one time, but rather a lifestyle and a skill you constantly hone. Your circumstances will change, which means some objects will cease to provide value to your life. In that case, you reassess.
When my children were babies, I had a nursing pillow. Now that my children are school-age, I no longer have a nursing pillow. My minimalist mindset didn’t change, but my circumstances did.
Our lives are like trees; they must be pruned in order for growth to occur.
Minimalism Roadblock #6
I can’t be sentimental and be a minimalist.
This is a big one for me. I have a lot of sentimental people in my family. I don’t say that as criticism, because I consider myself to be sentimental, too. The problem lies when our sentimentality becomes a burden that holds us back from living in the present.
Sentimental items are tough to tackle, which is why most recommend starting with other types of possessions to minimize. When I am given a sentimental item, there are four things I consider: space, utility, importance, and memory. I prefer to keep sentimental items that don’t take up much physical space. I have one box in my home for those types of things, and if I can’t fit them into that box, I have to downsize.
If I can use the sentimental object, that’s a bonus. My great-great-aunt would have more joy knowing that I actually use the quilt she made, rather than knowing we kept it out of misguided obligation. Additionally, I only want to keep things that are truly important. If I have to be reminded of the backstory to an object, then it’s not something important enough to keep.
Lastly, I think about the memories associated with the object. Usually, the memories are really the most cherished part. In that case, I would rather share the memories with others frequently, instead of keeping a physical object in storage to be pulled out only occasionally.
Minimalism Roadblock #7
I will be happy once I declutter my spaces.
Chasing happiness is a dangerous and futile game. Minimalism will not give you instant happiness any more than a shopping spree will. The difference is that minimalism gives you the room to breathe and focus on what is important.
By living a life consistent with your values, happiness will usually follow. A clear calendar and clean room do not give me purpose, but I can see my purpose more clearly without all the clutter in the way. If you are searching for happiness in minimalism, I suggest laying that pursuit aside and focusing on your purpose in life. What are your values? What does it mean to live a good life? When you can answer those questions, pursue those ideals, and let happiness take care of itself.
How You Can Overcome These Hurdles
Identifying these mental roadblocks takes away some of their power. Try sending alternative messages to yourself to help you move forward, and always give yourself grace. Your minimalist journey will be there, waiting for you to carry on.
If you are looking for practical ways to clear clutter and focus on your values, we have two great resources for you. Both of these can be found in our Decluttering Bundle which will take you through decluttering your home and digital decluttering.
Kelly Epperson is a freelance writer and former educator who is passionate about minimalism and healthy living. When she’s not busy writing, you can usually find her hanging out with her husband and two daughters or daydreaming about her next travel adventure. She likes speaking Spanish and eating good food. She hates the cold. You can find out more about Kelly at kepperson.com or catch her @keppersonwriting on Instagram.