Let’s be honest. Minimalism can easily derail into perfectionism. Perhaps it is what leads many people into this life path, because as we age, life gets crazy. Our careers take off, we commit to a life partner, and we get busy raising kids.
Amongst all of this chaos is the need to control the chaos.
But life is messy. Dishes keep piling up in the dishwasher, emails keep coming in, and the car needs an oil change. Some decide to live with one set of dishes per household member, give up their cars and work from home and some even quit their jobs and travel the world.
And many do not.
But the process for all of us is to let go—to set our own metrics for success.
Shut Up, You’re Drunk
I came to a revelation yesterday. We are all just two-year-olds, really. We are not fully formed. Sometimes we have tantrums—but we keep them in our head. Sometimes we metaphorically hit people when we really just want to engage them in play.
We make mistakes—we, sometimes, make big mistakes. But when our 2-year-old child, grandchild or nephew makes mistakes, hopefully, we use it as a teaching moment. We teach them that they made an innocent mistake, but that in the future, how they can do it differently. We don’t judge, we have faith in their ability to learn.
If we are really good parents, we model the behavior we want them to emulate.
But treating ourselves the same way we treat 2-year-olds is more challenging. Especially if you have perfectionist tendencies. And that judgment always transmits to the others around us. Those who judge are usually harshest on themselves.
I love this video of a baby girl in a staged setting at a restaurant. It is made to look like she is an adult behaving like a drunk person. Many of us have the same outlook: babies are just tiny drunk people. They steal food, stumble, and slur their words.
But guess what? We haven’t evolved that far from that stage in life.
I Prefer the Mess to Go Over There
Minimalism is really about making the conscious choice to keep evolving into a fully formed person. Here are three things to consider:
1. Look at your own behavior.
Minimalism is about recognizing that to evolve, we need to look at our own behavior and see if we are living kindly, thoughtfully, and without fear.
Isn’t that what we teach toddlers? To be brave when they are scared of the dark? To be kind to their neighbor and share toys? And to use their mind to learn at school?
2. Ask whether the mess is worth it.
Minimalism is not about achieving the perfect wardrobe, meal plan, or organization method. It is actually about acknowledging—like a two-year-old covered in food, sweat, and mud—what we see in our lives, and deciding if we even want that mess.
Is this mess worth the chaos? Is there another way to have the good food and mud parties and not have a mess? Sometimes the answer is, “oh yeah!”
And other messes we realize just are not worth the trouble.
3. Be honest about your motivations.
We may discover that our decision to covet that toy, dress up outfit or bike, was really only because the neighbor boy had it first. We thought, if we could just have that toy, we would feel different and better.
But you know what happens when you get that toy? It collects dust in the corner. We are all just two-year-olds trying to make life better.