When my family and I first felt the call to downsize and simplify our lives, I set out to find every, single thing I could that was written about minimalism. I scoured minimalist blogs and looked for minimizing “how to” books, absorbing every word and devouring every spark of inspiration. To this day, no one could be more interested in hearing the stories of others who are walking this journey, but somewhere along the way, I started comparing myself to the people whose stories I read. Comparison breeds discontent, and I was allowing my reading, in an underlying counter-productive way, to erode the peaceful life we are carving out and pursuing.
For a span of time, I pulled away from all the reading until I could find my own minimalist identity. I began to understand that I am not anyone else, nor do I need to conform to someone else’s definition of minimalism. The worth of my family’s way of life is not measured by others, and I do not need to try to squeeze our story into the mold of the way other minimalists are doing things.
Each one of us is unique, and each of our journeys are our own. While it is an enormous blessing to draw strength and encouragement from the telling and hearing of one another’s stories within the minimalist community, we need not feel guilty about not being able to “keep up” with or conform to the path of anyone else.
Here are four things to remember when you feel discouraged about not being a “good enough” minimalist:
1. This is not a contest.
There are no “minimalist police” who will, unexpectedly show up at any of our front doors, clipboards in hand, to inventory the number of things we possess or the level of the starkness of our décor. There are no medals for the person who owns the least or who has donated the most, nor are there official benchmarks that determine when any of us becomes a bonafide minimalist. It is all about finding the peace that comes from simplification, not about who is finding it the quickest or in the most impressive or trendy way.
2. Not every suggestion will work for everyone, and that’s okay.
There is no “one size fits all” method for minimizing one’s life. In a college creative writing class, I learned something valuable about other people’s advice—take what you can use and throw the rest away. Trying to force someone else’s exact success strategy to work in our own very different set of circumstances can lead to frustration, failure, and a complete discontinuation of interest. We are all in this thing together, but we must each blaze our own trail. Learning to sift through and differentiate between what is doable and what isn’t applicable to your own situation is very liberating. What a relief it is to know that we can glean wisdom and learn from each other, but we do not have to adhere to opinions or principles that do not serve or work for us! Fixating on what others are doing can distract from focusing on what we need to do. It is all about finding a healthy balance and implementing only the advice that is beneficial to your unique minimizing circumstances.
3. When it comes to minimizing, windows of opportunity never close.
They are always open, and their potential never expires. Don’t feel that you have missed the boat because you may not measure up to someone else’s progress. There’s a good chance they may have been at this longer than you, but even if that is not the case, you are not running late, and you can pick up, right where you are today and begin to minimize or get back on track. It’s okay to go at your own pace without judgment.
4. Your journey is authentic.
Even if the steps you have taken and are taking do not seem to be as extreme as the measures others are taking to simplify their lives, that doesn’t negate the value of everything you are doing. Someone who is overly encumbered and indebted may feel the need to make more drastic life changes than someone who is debt-free and who owns fewer possessions. The efforts you are faithfully making to minimize and improve your life, however big or small, are significant and important and should never be deemed “less than”.
The truth is that every, single step you take toward a life that is free from the things that now tie you down and make your life less beautiful than it is intended to be is an admirable accomplishment and should be applauded, my friend. You are seeking simplicity, and that is a great thing.
So, press on and be encouraged by what inspires and motivates you. Release advice that doesn’t fit your circumstances and relax in the peace that comes from remaining true to what you know is best for you.