I’ve mentioned this before in my “5 Ways Decluttering Changed My Life” post, but clutter triggers my anxiety. Clutter makes me feel trapped and claustrophobic; Dirty and cluttered homes stress me out and it took me a long time to realize that this was my problem. This anxiety has guided me towards a more simple lifestyle.
Minimalism gets a bad rap for being too trendy, classist, and unachievable. Many forms of minimalism is this. Although, more generally minimalism is not a strict by-the-books lifestyle. Many people on both sides of the minimalism argument want you to believe it is but in reality, minimalism is what you make it and how it works for you, not what people tell you it should be. Minimalism isn’t for everybody, but it’s not a one size fits all lifestyle.
I can honestly say that I used to think minimalism was for people who never had to worry about having whatever they wanted or needed at any given moment and was a bad attempt at “living on the other side” for wealthy people. For people who live in poverty, having very few things may be a given whereas its a luxury for wealthy people. I repeat, I used to think this.
How I see minimalism now is a way for me to enjoy what I do have, to save money because I’m not mindlessly spending, and to keep clutter based anxiety at bay. Minimalism isn’t strictly having under 30 things in your wardrobe; only wearing black, white, and grey; living in a bright white home with nothing on your surfaces and one or two pieces of furniture in each room. Minimalism is removing the excess from your life that doesn’t bring you joy or meaning and celebrating the things that do. It’s about paring my tea cup collection down from 44 sets to only the sets that make me happy or have sentimental value. Minimalism is celebrating life unburdened by the items and clutter in our environments.
Unburdened by clutter means different things to everyone. To some people, that means everything they own can fit in fewer than three suitcases. To others it may mean cutting your collections in half or only removing things that are broken, useless to you, or ugly and keeping the rest.
Minimalism isn’t a race to who can have the fewest items and be happy. Some people are happy because of their items. This is not a bad thing, unless you only are happy when you are buying things. Minimalism isn’t for everyone, just like maximalism isn’t for everyone. You need to find a balance in your life and that may mean having a 500 piece wardrobe and 44+ sets of teacups. It may mean having a 15-piece wardrobe, bedding, a small set of kitchenware, and a laptop in your possessions and nothing more. You know yourself best, whether you realize it or not. Get to know you and what you need, then reevaluate what you have and your lifestyle.
If the idea of not having many things in your possessions stresses you out, then minimalism in its strictest form isn’t for you. This doesn’t mean the movement is bad, it means it doesn’t suit your lifestyle. The same can be said for minimalists who get squeamish at the site of a room that is full of things. Lifestyle should be a choice, not a trend. Lifestyle should also be a reflection of what you know to be good for you, you should only adopt a lifestyle you know to benefit you. If you try something out and it’s not benefiting you in the ways that matter, it’s not the lifestyle for you.
Minimalism also isn’t an all encompassing mantra for everything you own or will own. You can be a minimalist in one or a few areas of your life and a maximalist in others. I have an entire cart (formerly an entire cabinet) full of tea. Will I drink it all before its flavor fades? Probably not. My closet on the other hand only has the things I love and wear in it. I don’t mess with capsule or seasonal wardrobes, so everything you see in my closet is everything I own. Having a small wardrobe helps defeat decision fatigue and takes the guess work out of whether that item I never wear still fits, because I wear all of my items. I still have more teacups than I use, but I love them and thats fine for me.
Minimalism separates me from my anxiety and it’s a healthy lifestyle for me. This doesn’t mean it will do the same for you. I think we get a lot of people criticizing the minimalist lifestyle and a lot of minimalist lifestyle influencers telling people it’s the best way to live.
Like most advice, it’s best to take it with a grain of salt and compare it to what you know about yourself. Not all advice is good or useful for everyone. This is the same for lifestyle advice (barring obvious exceptions like medical advice, and healthy diet and exercise). Take the time to know yourself and what you need out of your space and items. It’s good to evaluate what you know about yourself in the context of the things you own and think about how the things you own add to your life.