“Change brings opportunity.” —Nido Qubein
Over the past several years, I have had the privilege to introduce the idea of minimalism to a number of people. These introductions have occurred through personal conversation, writing, and speaking opportunities. But no matter how the introduction happens, each time, I feel a little bit renewed.
The idea of “finding more life by owning less stuff” resonates with most people.
But, unfortunately, I also find that for many, this is where their journey ends—at the introduction.
The idea of minimalism may sound attractive, but the first step appears elusive. And is too often, never taken.
There are a wide number of reasons that keep people from taking this first step towards living with less. And while they vary from person-to-person based on personality, history, gender, and worldview, I have found that most of the reasons keeping people from getting started towards minimalism fit into only a handful of categories. In hopes of providing encouragement to some of you, I thought it might be helpful to take a minute to answer most of them:
• Reason: I’ve Never Considered Intentionally Living With Less.
Minimalism is growing. You can blame it on the economy, technology, environmental-awareness, or blogs such as Zen Habits, Rowdy Kittens, and Be More With Less. It has been exciting to see the movement grow. But the percentages are still small. In the land of suburbia where I live, the idea of intentionally living with less is still a foreign concept. Hearts desire it, but too many minds have yet to be introduced.
Solution: If you ended up reading this post at the urging of a friend, consider yourself introduced. Intentionally living with less results in a life of less debt, less stress, and less anxiety. In exchange, you will discover more time and energy for the things you value most. Your greatest passions will again take their rightful place in your life.
• Reason: But I Don’t Know Where to Start.
For many, the task of minimizing their possessions seems overwhelming. Their minds race to drawers that don’t close, closets that don’t shut, and rooms that are stuffed full of unused things. The idea of decluttering their homes and lives is attractive, even necessary… but the simple obstacle of knowing where to start keeps many from even starting at all.
Solution: Start small and start easy. Find the easiest drawer, closet, or room to declutter and begin there. You don’t need to start with your attic or your basement. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. The task will be too great. Instead, choose the easiest place in your home – even if it is just one drawer. You’ll feel good when you are done (I guarantee it). And that feeling of success and relief will carry you on to the next step… and the next…. and the next… and eventually, even the attic.
• Reason: But I Don’t Have the Time.
Minimizing possessions takes time. You didn’t collect everything in your home over the course of one weekend and it’s going to take longer than one weekend to sort it out and remove the non-essentials. But we live such busy lives these days. Where can we find the time to accomplish such a large task?
Solution: If you can find 15 minutes, you can take the most important step – the first one. Investing just 15-20 minutes to minimize one area of your home is all you need to get started (especially if you have chosen something easy). Again, the immediate sense of calm you will find in owning less will motivate you to find another 15 minutes. If you struggle to even find 15 minutes, try one of these ideas: get up one hour early, take one afternoon off work, turn off the television, or dedicate one Saturday to decluttering. Any one of those options above will help you find more than enough time to get started.
• Reason: But I Could Never Get My Family On-board.
By far, the most common question I receive after speaking about minimalism relates to other family members (especially about husbands and teenagers). The fact that their family members will never go for the idea of living with less seems to outweigh any benefits of implementing it in their own lives.
Encouragement: Your husband/wife/children does not need to fully embrace the idea of minimalism for you to benefit from it. Remember, it is far easier to notice the clutter of others than it is to notice our own. But if you just decide to start with your own personal belongings, you will notice a HUGE difference. You will almost immediately find more time in your life for the things that matter most – even if your kids’ bedroom is still messy. And the more you begin to experience freedom in your life… the more your family members will start to take notice. Just ask my wife.
• Reason: But I Don’t Know What I’d Do With ________.
Another common thought-process I have noticed is that people’s minds often rush to their toughest belongings to minimize. These vary from person to person, but typically resemble sentimental items, books, or hobbies. Over the years, they have collected a large number of items in these particular areas and the thought of having to part with them raises concern… and often stops them from ever taking the first step.
Solution: You don’t have to part with anything until you are ready. And you certainly don’t have to begin by removing the things that mean the most to you. If you are anything like we were, you have a whole house (or at least, a clothes closet) full of things that don’t mean anything to you. They are just taking up space in your home and life. They don’t fit, match, or work anymore. They can easily be removed. Start there. And remember that there is no time limit on this journey. If you are not ready to part with the memories of your past today, don’t worry about it. Maybe you’ll be ready tomorrow… or the day after that.
• Reason: But I’m Afraid of Change.
Got it. Change doesn’t come easy to you. And intentionally deciding to live with less is among the biggest of changes that you could make in your life. It is a counter-cultural way to live life. After being fed millions of advertisement from the world around us promising that more is better, deciding to reject that thinking and live with less is going to require changes – not just in the home where you live, but in almost every aspect of your life going forward.
Solution: Change is never easy. And even though it is inevitable through this journey of life, we seem to avoid it whenever possible. But change comes easier when we realize the rationale behind it. The reasoning provides us with necessary motivation to make the needed changes. When we started out on our minimalist journey, I listed every benefit of minimalism that we were experiencing. The rationale and the reminder of why we were changing our lifestyle pushed us further down the road over and over again. Perhaps, they will provide the necessary foundation for you to embrace change in your life as well.
• Reason: But Minimalism Doesn’t Sound Attractive to Me.
Still, for others, they will never take their first step towards minimalism because the lifestyle does not sound attractive to them. They find no appeal in the idea of intentionally living with less. And believe that they want nothing to do with it.
Solution: I embraced the idea of minimalism because it became apparent to me that the stuff in my life was keeping me from the most important things in my life: faith, family, and friends. And since removing most of the personal possessions from my life, I have found more freedom, energy, and finances to pursue the relationships that mean the most to me. And that applies to this relationship as well. May our differing views on possessions never come between us as friends.