Simple living is not always so simple. Yes, there are countless benefits to this lifestyle like reducing stress, freeing up time, and added happiness. There is absolutely no way I would go back to my previous lifestyle where I created chaos by owning too many possessions.
However, it takes a great deal of work to maintain a simpler life and it comes with its challenges. But, anything worth doing requires hard work. Perhaps its challenges is one of the reasons simple living is difficult for our culture to grasp. It’s simply not all that simple.
Here are five challenges I’ve experienced as a minimalist:
1. The purging never seems to end.
After clearing all of the clutter by recycling, tossing, donating, or selling items on Craigslist or eBay, the purging never ends. I continue to consume; however; more mindfully, but stuff still creeps its way back into the home.
Getting rid of possessions will be a continuous event. Once an area in the home has been cleared of clutter, I have found it’s easier to make it a regular habit of taking inventory on what can stay and what can go. It’s not as overwhelming as the first round of decluttering, but it requires some time and effort to keep it maintained.
Even though this is a challenge, I have found that removing materials is an enjoyable activity. It means giving to others, supporting businesses, money in my pocket, and my home and my mind feel more at peace.
2. It often feels time-consuming.
It takes time to get rid of things. Things need to be sorted, organized into piles, and put into their new homes. Whether it’s driving to a donation center or resale shop, taking photos, and writing marketable descriptions to sell on a website, it takes away from doing something more fun.
Once the challenge of ridding non-consumables is complete, much gratitude will be had. Time will saved when the next purge is worked on and more freedom will be found when not organizing as frequently.
3. You have to embrace letting go.
Decision-making can be difficult in the beginning. It’s especially hard for anyone that is attached to their things or when ownership of an item is shared. One person might be emotionally attached, while the other isn’t.
It may take some discussion to get rid of things, but it’s not worth arguing over. If decision-making gets too intense, then agree to talk about it later. When it’s hard letting go of a personal or shared item, then ask questions like:
What purpose is the item serving?
How often is it used?
Does it bring happiness?
Asking questions like this will help determine if the item is really needed. If this doesn’t help when deciding on a shared item, then allow the other person more time to think and they will most likely agree that it’s time to let go. And if that doesn’t work, then it’s time to compromise.
It takes a period of adjustment to make a change. Heck, my husband and I are still working on getting rid of things after claiming minimalism in 2014, but our quality of life has already improved.
4. It challenges you as a family.
It’s a lot of work to care for a home, family, and pet. My household became a minimalist home soon after my husband and I welcomed our first child. I was overwhelmed with keeping up with the home and yard, caring for a baby, cooking, and everything else that life involves.
I was short-tempered and spread thin because there was always something to organize or clean and I had little time for fun. This wasn’t the person I wanted to be, so with my husband’s help, we discovered minimalism. It has made life much easier and I’m ever so thankful.
The challenge we have is receiving gifts, especially for our little one. We’re fortunate to have a generous family, but our child has received an immense amount of things. Even though this may be the norm, it’s unnecessary.
Kids grow out of their toys and clothing so quickly, and their interests are constantly changing, so I’m purging items on a continual basis. The thought of getting more things can be stressful.
It’s a challenge I’m working on by using meditation, communication, and setting examples. Meditation is used to calm myself and to live mindfully. It helps me to be remember what’s important and to live in the moment.
Communication was used this past holiday season when my husband and I asked family to donate to The Hope Effect to help children in need, instead of getting gifts for our family. It wasn’t a 100% success because we still got gifts, but we received generous donations, and most gifts received were needed.
We tried to set an example by asking everyone what they needed or we gave consumable gifts. It was a great holiday and we were happy with the results.
5. We are constantly swooned by retailers.
Retailers use science and art to get us to buy goods. Even though I live simply, I occasionally get sucked into the distractions at the store — the sale signs, the beautifully decorated home sections, or the latest clothing trends.
Once my attention is brought back to reality, minimalism reminds me that I don’t need to buy more than is needed. I’ve learned to fight against the urges and I no longer have the cravings to shop. I’m more than satisfied with what I have and who I am.
To get through this challenge, I ask myself two questions:
1. Do I NEED to buy it?
2. Why do I NEED to buy it?
It works every time.