I’ve been calling myself a minimalist for almost five years. In that time, I’ve purged 75% of my ‘stuff’, decluttered my digital and social lives and made good headway in breaking my compulsive shopping tendencies.
But, now that I’m five years in, I’ve had the chance to reflect. If I became a minimalist today, there are a few things I would do differently.
1) GO SLOWER
After months of reading about minimalism, I finally kickstarted my journey by playing The Minimalists’ MinsGame. Over the course of a month, I decluttered over 400 things from all areas of my life (clothes, kitchen stuff, books, electronics). And it was great! But, like I’ve said before, I’m both impatient AND a methodical turtle.
If I got to go back and do my first MinsGame over again, I’d spread it out over 2 to 3 months. That way, I would have the time to really interrogate what I wanted to keep in my life and what I wanted to pass on to someone else. Minimalism for me is all about making mindful decisions. And, I’m sad to say, I wasn’t very mindful when I first started out. I just wanted everything gone. Which brings me to #2.
2) REUSE, REPURPOSE, RECLAIM
This is a big one for me. I donated and tossed so much stuff at the beginning of my minimalist journey that I’m certain I missed opportunities to reuse, repurpose and reclaim items. Riffing off of Our Next Life’s Use It Up Challenge, I truly believe we have a responsibility to utilize as much of the stuff we own, to the best of our abilities, before we minimize it from our lives.
Jars from old beauty products can be used for other purposes (I use an old deodorant jar to hold hand cream at work). Unwanted clothing can be given a new life (think t-shirt quilt). Old books can be turned into a million different useful things (Pinterest is very helpful here).
Still, some things just can’t be reworked to fit into your life. Which is where #3 comes in.
3) DONATE THE RIGHT WAY
At the beginning of my decluttering journey, I dropped everything off at my local Value Village (a second-hand charity store for non-North Americans). Knowing what I know now about where our stuff actually ends up, I would be much more particular about where I donate now.
These days, I donate beauty products I can’t use to Project Beauty Share. And, when I do another closet clean out soon, I’m going to take the items to a local women’s shelter. I live in Northern Ontario, so winter clothes are at a premium for our homeless population. I’m going to hold onto those items, plus hats, mitts, and blankets until they are needed again next year.
It will take more time and effort to donate this way. But, being mindful in this crucial part of my minimalism journey will ensure my unused stuff is better utilized by those who can actually use it.
4) TELL MY FAMILY SOONER
Even though I have been a minimalist for almost five years now, I’ve never actually had the “I’m a minimalist” conversation outright with any of them. I’ve told them I don’t want/need gifts or any other material objects. But, and this is crucial to their respect of that decision, I’ve never actually told them why.
I think if I had, it would have made the “Thanks, but no thanks” conversations a little easier because it wouldn’t have been coming out of left field.
5) CUT MYSELF SOME SLACK
Over the years, I’ve found myself getting sucked into the ‘minimalist ideal’. And, it often left me with a feeling of inadequacy because my life didn’t look like the pictures of other minimalist lifestyle bloggers (aka white rooms, empty, modern). I’ve spoken about the issues I have with ‘minimalist design’ in a past episode of Tiny Bites. And, I stand by that.
My minimalist life looks exactly the way it should — like my life and no one else’s. If we’re all aspiring to look like the same version of minimalism that we’ve seen perfected on Instagram — how different and unique actually is that?
6) ENJOY THE JOURNEY (AKA PAY ATTENTION)
Once I got myself out from under the mountain of ‘stuff’ that was suffocating my life, I realized I wasn’t the person I thought I was. I learned a lot about myself during the decluttering process and I wish I had savoured those experiences and that learning process when it was happening in real time.
It’s a weird and wonderful feeling to realize who you actually are. And, there’s one thing I know for sure — I am not my stuff.
7) START SOONER
Looking back now and realizing how much I’ve simplified my life compared to what it looked like, if I got to do it again, I’d start sooner. I wouldn’t waste another second shopping online to buying something to impress other people. I would stop saying ‘yes’ just to be polite when ‘no’ is what I needed to say. Most of all, I would start trusting that I know the right path for me. Even if it looks different than what everyone else thinks my life should be.
I would also start blogging about it on Day 1. I can’t imagine where Tiny Ambitions would be today if I’d taken that next step and put my journey online as soon as I started.
Before I sign off, I just want to say that I have absolutely no regrets about how my minimalist journey has unfolded. Regrets imply that I did something ‘wrong’ or that I’m ashamed. And nothing could be further from the truth.
My journey has been slow, fast, weird and wonderful. And, I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to share it with you.