Embracing Minimalism: Beware the Common Traps!

I got sick the last day of our Independence Day Holiday to McHenry, Maryland, requiring us to stop every 40 miles on our journey home. Monday, July 6th I was home trying to complete our laundry and think of a DIY or From the Internet post for today. Nothing came to mind, so I began perusing Pinterest; here, I found my inspiration for today’s post.

Minimalism has become a widespread topic in the United States, gaining extreme popularity in the minds of urbanites and small-town folks alike. Of course, minimalism has also gained real-estate in the blogging world. This is great, because the more conversations are had about living minimally, the more people will understand the subject as a way of life.

Unfortunately the focus has been, as I’ve noticed, merely on downsizing material possessions and not on a lifestyle change. Yes, a big part of minimalism is having fewer items. However, if downsizing is the only focus you have, I assure you any changes you make cannot be sustained and more and more material possessions will creep their way back into your home.

So let me address this topic: things I’ve found about minimalism online that aren’t helpful or useful on your journey towards minimalism. I feel that by avoiding these things, or understanding that they are not actually useful, your transition will be much smoother!

What Isn’t Helpful, or Useful?

Beware of Click-bait Lists

You’ve seen them before…”5 ways to de-clutter now!” or “10 things you won’t miss!” These lists just aren’t useful, being focused on de-cluttering, no matter how detailed they may be. Lists like these are designed to catch your attention in order to help the author earn an income off of ad revenue on their site, allowing the author to have maximum traffic with minimal effort. Let me give some proper examples, along with why they aren’t helpful:

Essentials In a Minimalist Closet“: This list varies depending on climate, lifestyle and personal style. I don’t own some of the “essential” items on this list myself. Being a minimalist isn’t just about the items of clothing you own.

Let Go of These 10 Items to Jumpstart Decluttering“: every person’s situation is unique, and I don’t feel this list really addresses that. Some of the “items” on the list are abstract, or overly vague, causing the list to not deliver on the advice it has promised you. Following this list might get you into some trouble when actually going through your belongings.

101 Physical Things That Can Be Reduced In Your Home“: This is a massive list that isn’t in any particular order, which makes it SUPER difficult to make sense out of. It is a generic list of the generic junk our homes tend to accumulate, and is overwhelming. If you start with this list, I guarantee you won’t finish purging–it’s just too overwhelming and generic.

15 Minimalist Hacks to Simplify Your Life“: This list is nothing more than a list of quotes. They’re meant to be helpful and to guide you. Number 10, “Dream in color” has nothing to do with becoming a minimalist, nor does “can’t stop, won’t stop.” Many of the “hacks” are unusable and abstract, or blatantly known. It’s a very unoriginal and impersonal list that probably wouldn’t assist you in any way.

50 Days to Simplify Your Home, Including a Handy Printable Checklist“: If only simplifying your home could actually take 50 days! Before the list of items to purge, there are ahttps://nautilusmode.com/wp-admin/post-new.php list of 5 thoughts that are (surprisingly) very helpful. This section of the blog post addresses you as an individual that wants to become a minimalist. However, once the thought section is over we break into another generic list that outlines rooms in your home and things you should go through. I repeat, EVERY HOUSEHOLD IS DIFFERENT! I use ALL the pots and pans I own and cannot eliminate any, but this list makes me feel like I need to second guess that!

20+ Things You Can Get Rid Of Without Missing“: another generic list that says everything these other click-bait lists say. There’s one exception here: this list suggests you get rid of your ironing board. My advice? You will miss it. Keep it. When operating with a minimalist wardrobe, that ironing board you never use will quickly become your BFF. You need an ironing board to help care for your clothes, period!

So, Why Aren’t These Posts Helpful? These click-bait posts may seem like a great idea, but they typically aren’t. As a blogger, I try to avoid them as I feel this tactic is cheap and underhanded; but all over the internet you’ll find blogging guides that implore you to write posts like this to drive traffic as they take the least amount of effort and catch the reader’s attention quickly.

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, each minimalist journey is a unique one that is based on of who you are and the things you own. Your lifestyle and family also play a large role in dictating your process. There isn’t an easy place to start, there isn’t a set list of items you definitely won’t need; it’s all based on you. That’s the beauty of minimalism: no one person’s minimalism is the same as another person’s version of it. Unfortunately, this means the only way to go about becoming a minimalist is to take it slow and be your own guide.

Rules and Guides

I didn’t follow any rules or guides for going through my belongings and neither did Trevor. We went through everything at our own swift pace. We did read some of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” which I do recommend to everyone, but we didn’t read the entirety of it, or follow it strictly. To view Kondo’s book on Amazon.com in a new tab, or window, click here.

I know there are a lot of different methods of purging and downsizing your items, but I fear they are too generic. This typically means they leave out things you have, or just don’t apply to you.

Another issue is that the guides available are too complex. Take Project 333 for example. There are a TON of rules, and as you get better with your wardrobe, there are more rules you have to adhere to! Of course it is all by choice, but if you start a program with too many rules you are more than likely to quit than stick with it.

Again, it all comes back to you and how you feel. I believe that your own mind will guide you through this process, like mine guided me. Trusting yourself is a necessity. If you don’t trust yourself very much, downsizing using a slow and self-guided method would be a perfect way to build trust.

Paying for Personal Advice, Attending Sessions

There are groups that offer paid sessions to help you find inspiration and motivation to downsize. Some groups offer paid instructional sessions to help guide you through the process. There are books and DVDs galore that are trying to capitalize off the minimalist fad.

Here I am reminded by one humorous quote from Red vs. Blue: “My dad always said, ‘Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?'”

Of course in the show, the quote is meant in a comical sense and creates a funny dialogue session with some of the characters. For our purposes, minimalism is the milk and paid advice/sessions is the cow.

You can find plenty of free resources online about minimalism, how to begin your journey and what to do after you finish purging your home. Please don’t purchase anything that is marketed as assisting you to do one of those things! Memoirs are different, and would probably be very helpful to you, as they outline a personal experience instead of force feeding a method or structure to you.

What Is Helpful?

Collecting Inspiration

Finding inspiration throughout your journey is a very important step that I’ve mentioned left and right in these “Embracing Minimalism” posts. Without inspiration and motivation, you’ll quickly lose steam when going through your belongings. You can find inspiration in quotes, photos, or videos…

Here are a few of my favorite quotes that inspire me to constantly strive to be a better minimalist:

  • “collect moments, not things”- unknown
  • “I make myself rich by making my wants few.” -Henry David Thoreau
  • “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”-C.S. Lewis
  • “The trouble is, you think you have time.”- the Buddha
  • “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.”- Leonardo de Vinci
  • “Buy less, choose well.”-Vivienne Westwood
  • “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But its worth it in the end, because once you get there you can move mountains.” -Steve Jobs
  • “Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.”-the Dalai Lama
  • “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”-Frederich Niezsche

I also clung to this video by LightByCoco, as well as this video by the DailyConnoisseur.

Photos are helpful as well. Be sure to use photos of spaces that have the feel you would like in your own home; do not use photographs based on items or decor styles. I liked to use this image. I also got a subscription to Dwell Magazine, as many of the homes inside are light and open, which is how I’d like my home to be.

Being Honest

Don’t downsize in a specific area just because it is on someone’s list, or because I mention it here on NautilusMODE. Don’t  go from 6 towels to 4, just because you’ve been influenced to by a blogger.

Following someone else’s guidelines is a surefire way to ensure you feel guilt, or regret, pr remorse, when getting rid of an item you shouldn’t have. The easiest way to avoid this is to be honest with yourself.

An example? Trevor and I have 6 towels. 6 towels for 2 people. We use them all! When we haven’t gone through our towels ourselves, we have enough that our guests have towels as well. I was going to downsize our collection to 4 towels, but found that we indeed needed 6 total.

If you aren’t sure as to whether or not you truly need an item, set it in a box in your closet and live without it for a week or two. Did you reach for it? Did you forget it was there? At the end of the time frame, if you didn’t use it, ditch it. If you did reach for it, you need to make a space for that item in your home.

Being a minimalist isn’t about being able to live out a bag, or fit in a tiny home. Being a minimalist is about having the exact number of items you and your family will use, and using them every day. It varies from person to person, and home to home.

Going Slow

There is no quick way to become a minimalist. Truthfully, me and T are still on our way. That’s the beauty of embarking on this journey: you’re never really done.

Going through your belongings slowly helps you to better understand what you need and don’t need, as well as better grow into the person you will become.

Downsizing changes you: it makes you focus on your priorities and to take note of all the mistakes you’ve made in the past. The good news is, if you continue on your journey, you will be in tune with who you are and what you need for the rest of your life.

Becoming a minimalist is about putting life and experiences first, your home and material goods second.

Taking Breaks

Part of going slow is being sure to take breaks. Trevor and I went through our belongings up until we moved into our new apartment in April. For the rest of that month, we’ve been on pause from our purging.

In June we began going through our things again, and have been slowly continuing while settled in our new apartment. Since moving here, our lifestyle has changed and we find that we need less. Right now, I have a pile of items to sell/donate in our living room:

As well as a pile of items to sell/donate in our kitchen:

T and I constantly analyze what we own, but it isn’t a chore. This is partly because our mindset has changed, and partly because we take breaks. Once a week I will go through one space in our apartment and utilize my new way of thinking, asking “What don’t I use that is wasting space in this area?”

Share Your Journey

I’ve gotten incredible amounts of satisfaction out of sharing my journey on NautilusMODE, and with my friends and family. Spreading the word about our new way of life has been rewarding, as many people didn’t realize there were homes across the world practicing minimalist philosophy.

On the flip side, I’ve discovered minimalists around me that I would have never guessed were. That sense of understanding has helped some of my relationships deepen, which is amazing!

You don’t have to be overly eloquent, a blogger, or writer, to document your journey: use photos, use videos, paint, or sketch. Put images on your social media, put a video on YouTube. Create something out of your journey and share it globally.

I know that may sound intimidating, but once you upload your story you’ll be happy to find that you aren’t alone.

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