So you want to be a minimalist? Here are the rules: you have to own fewer than 100 items, only eat dry toast, never buy anything new and live in a tent in the woods.
Obviously none of these things is true, but they are just a few of the many misconceptions about minimalism which I'm sure have put plenty of people off becoming minimalists because they think it's an unachievable ideal.
I've identified as a minimalist for about three and a half years now, but I think I've always been one at heart. I find it to be such a freeing way to live my life. Here are my top tips for those new to minimalism and how to avoid some of the most common mistakes new minimalists make.
1. Being scared to call yourself a minimalist
Not calling yourself a minimalist because you still have stuff - even a lot of stuff - is pretty silly. Minimalism isn't necessarily about owning as few things as possible - it's about only owning things which add value to your life and letting go of the rest. As long as you have a minimalist mindset, you're allowed to call yourself a minimalist (how many times am I going to write the word 'minimalist' in this post? Place your bets now*). Minimalism is an ambiguous term and there are about as many interpretations of the term 'minimalist' as there are minimalists.
So, what is the minimalist mindset? In my opinion, it's only buying things you actually need, considering each purchase carefully, trying to live in the most intentional and sustainable way possible, and prioritising experiences and people over material possessions.
2. Going overboard
When we first discover a new, exciting way of life, we're often temped to jump head first into it, sometimes without thinking of the consequences. We can become a bit over-zealous and want to throw away ALL THE THINGS. Getting rid of stuff feels so freeing and triggers a rush of dopamine, which can be addictive. You could end up chucking things you may later need, and then deciding minimalism isn't for you because it's 'too restrictive'.
3. Expecting everyone else to be on board
Not everyone is going to support or even agree with your minimalism journey. When you start getting rid of your belongings, don't be surprised if your friends and family are a little alarmed. They'll probably say you're being too extreme and might worry that you're depressed or suicidal. You'll have to reassure them that you're just eliminating the clutter to help you live a happier, more meaningful life. As with any new lifestyle, it may take time for those who care about you to adjust - but they will.
4. Comparing yourself to other minimalists
It's not productive to compare yourself to other people in any area of life and minimalism is no exception. If you start comparing your journey to others', especially youtubers and instagrammers with their immaculate houses and seemingly perfect lives, you're probably going to feel bad about yourself and think you're not doing enough.
It is generally a good idea to follow these people because you can learn so much as well as get inspiration and motivation from them, but don't compare where you are on your journey with where they are. Most of them have been minimalists for years, have very few possessions (that they show us, anyway) and you have to remember that things like YouTube videos and Instagram photos can be heavily edited and perfectly curated, not giving us the full picture.
5. Thinking it's all about aesthetics
Many people think that minimalism is all bare rooms with white walls and utilitarian furniture (if any) and possibly one sad little succulent plant sitting in the corner by itself. While there is a design concept called Minimalism (which I personally love), you don't have to decorate in this way if you don't want to. Your house doesn't need to be clean and tidy at all times and you're allowed to sleep in a bed. Concentrate more on eliminating the excess from your life and focusing on the things that are important to you - that's the whole point of minimalism, after all.
*The answer is 16. I wrote the word 'minimalist' or 'minimalists' sixteen times in this post. Eighteen if you include the previous sentence. I also wrote 'minimalism' ten times. Eleven now.
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