I haven’t been a minimalist for very long, but I have heard a lot of reasons why people can’t be minimalists themselves. The funny thing is I’m not asking anyone to change how they live. Yet it seems the knee jerk reaction to a going-against-the-grain life style is a defensive position. I don’t think non-minimalists are evil hoarders intent on undoing the world. I do think that at the very least, we could all benefit from examining why we live the style of life we live. This goes for everyone. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Minimalism is my way of examining my life, continually. You don’t have to be a minimalist to do so, but I do want to help dispel some of the lies telling us, “you can’t.” We’re going to tackle this in three parts so it isn’t overwhelming.
1) I don’t have time to be a minimalist.
This is one that I actually agree with at the outset. Time is our most valuable commodity and it’s being used by the minute and the hour, day after day. All of us struggle to find time for the many things demanded of us. I’ve been actively pursuing this lifestyle for two years now, and I am still making loaded trips to the thrift store with our stuff. If you want to start minimizing, all you need is 5 minutes and a place to start: a drawer, a room, a closet, a junk box. No one is timing you; it isn’t a contest. Set aside five minutes a day and work on that space for all of the five minutes. Today…tomorrow…the next day, until it’s done. Then pick the next space and do it again. If you can do more than five minutes, awesome! If you miss a day or three, who cares? Start where you were and keep moving forward. The key is to not let things re-gather in the space after you have finished. So what if it takes you a month to do two kitchen drawers? You still managed two kitchen drawers! The further you go, the more time you have because you won’t be constantly spinning trying to find where you left something or figuring out where this thing goes, or tripping over things in the corners. Pick a spot. Set a timer. Go for five. We all have five minutes.
2) I don’t know where to start
This excuse pairs well with number one so I won’t reiterate everything. There is no template here, no right place to start. Find an area that is manageable and preferably one that yields fast results. The faster you finish the first task, the more likely you are to start a second. Get started. I have a few cautions. Do only one area at a time. When we start more than one project, we generally create more chaos and are less inclined to finish. One area, any area, as much as you can each day for as long as it takes. You’re practically an expert already! Be sure you have a place for trash and a box for things you plan to give away or sell. This way you aren’t making more piles as you go.
3) My husband/ wife/ significant other/ parents/ dog/ goldfish is a pack rat
This is not an excuse because being a minimalist is only about you. Yours is the life you are examining, not anyone else. No one around you has to change, only you. You go through your things, your clothes, your desk, your toiletries. We all have areas that are exclusively our own, more even than we realize. Begin with your things. It’s very likely that after some time, whoever you share your space with is going to start changing as well. My own husband recently did a major overhaul on his wardrobe before we moved last summer. I didn’t have to nag or make barbed comments. Change is a gradual process, and people have to want it for themselves before they will join you. If you want change, then begin changing you. Don’t let what others won’t do be the roadblock in your journey.
4) I have kids
This may be the most common and most disturbing argument. When we moved from one state to another four years ago, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff my children had accumulated in eleven years of existence. There were enough clothes for a village, enough toys for a nursery school and enough trash to cause me concern for the future of our environment. Most kids today are absolutely glutted with stuff. We throw them birthday parties with forty friends and every single child brings a gift. We want each Christmas to be bigger and more wonderful than the last. They are bombarded constantly through the media with the message that they must have the latest, greatest, biggest, best, newest of everything. It’s no wonder they can’t even keep their room clean, they don’t know where to start either! Your children don’t know it, and they will fight against it, but what they need more than anything in this world is for us to help unburden them from this load piled upon them, help teach them appreciation for what they have, and how to focus on what really matters. Later in the month I will devote an entire post sharing how we’ve managed minimalism with our own three teen-age girls. I truly believe that we continue to do our children an enormous disservice if we allow them to be the reason we won’t minimize.