I firmly believe that simple living has a far more benefits and a better payoff than the alternative, but I’ll admit that it’s not an easy lifestyle to pursue given our cultural climate. We live in a consumer-driven society, and it can feel like a battle to go against the grain every day.
I’ve been on this journey to simple living and minimalism for about a year now, and I have definitely made some mistakes along the way. Most of those mistakes have stemmed from the moments when I’ve been overambitious about minimalism, taken things too fast, and taken myself too seriously.
The journey to simple living is meant to help us be less stressed, not more overloaded. Here are six of the biggest simple living mistakes you can make, and the antidotes to fix them.
1. Trying to do it all at once: The name of the game is simplify. Don’t make your life more complicated by taking on so much at once! There are no rules that say you must purge every room in your house to a specific number of items within a week or you’re not a real minimalist. This is a process. Start with small changes and work your way up. You’ll be surprised at how much momentum you gain as you go.
2. Getting stuck in a purchase-and-purge-it-cycle: This is something I’ve really tried to take control of in the last few months. For much of my life I’ve been stuck in this cycle of acquiring more and more, finally getting fed up, and purging a bunch of it. It’s far better to break the cycle by setting limits on what comes into your house in the first place. It will save you so much time, money, and frustration.
3. Taking an all-or-nothing approach to spending money: I find that when I avoid making purchases by not going to the store, or living in fear of overspending at Target, when I finally do go shopping I have all these pent-up consumeristic feelings, and it becomes too easy to blow money without thinking carefully. I justify it with excuses like “I haven’t spent money in so long! Surely I deserve this!” To break this habit, I try to ruminate over purchases for several weeks or months to make sure I really want something and it has a purpose in my house. Some things are worth spending money on!
4. Not having a purpose for your minimalism: Here’s the thing . . . I actually believe in minimalism for the sake of minimalism. It has a host of awesome benefits. But early on in this process, as I tried to break old spending habits and adjust to new budgets, I needed a goal to keep me motivated. I was most excited about the idea of freeing up money to travel more, so saving for that became my priority. Every dollar I didn’t spend on clothing was a dollar I could spend on airfare. What are you planning to do with your extra income, time, space? Maybe you want to put your saved money into a retirement account. Perhaps with the extra time in your calendar, you want to cook more and have sit-down family dinners. Having a goal will help you 1) stick to simplicity when the old habits try to creep in and 2) enjoy the simplicity as both a means and an end.
5. Thinking there’s one right way of being a minimalist: I’m what Joshua Becker would call a rational minimalist, and what The Nester would call a cozy minimalist. This basically means that you prioritize what matters to you and minimize what gets in the way of that. Having a warm, hospitable home matters to me. So, my walls are not bare—they are covered in pictures and prints that inspire me. I have cozy furniture that Dan and I love to sink into after a long day. I have a curated set of favorite kitchen gadgets, because I love to cook. I have a box of photographs that remind me of my childhood friends. I don’t have a food processor and a juicer and an immersion blender. I don’t have a ton of knickknacks (except the chosen few you can see on my mantle in the photo above). I don’t have many DVDs. I don’t have an overflowing closet. Choose what you love, what creates warmth, and what inspires you.
6. Not having a supportive community to keep you in check: The voices in our culture are constantly seducing us into buying this, because we deserve it or into making our homes look like that, because everything else is embarrassingly outdated. Walking into Target after several months of not visiting that store, I immediately felt drawn to the perfect displays. One new something wouldn’t be enough; I needed the whole tablescape immediately! But then I turned the corner, and suddenly my bedroom was hopelessly mismatched compared to this next display. By the time I left (purchasing just what I had come in for), I felt utterly exhausted from telling myself no, and I felt like my senses, my emotions, and my mind had been assaulted. Our cultural narrative is telling us to not live simply. We need strong voices and support from like-minded friends to help us drown out the deafening whispers of a consumeristic society. We need words of encouragement from like-minded family to provide us with wisdom and discernment.