Decluttering,  Minimalism

Can A Person Leave Minimalism Behind?

Not too long ago in the grand scheme of things I decided to leave the minimalist lifestyle behind. I felt that it was fine for someone who traveled a lot (or perhaps didn’t have a family) but that it no longer suited my needs.

Here lately though I’ve found myself looking around my home and wondering how in the world I managed to acquire so much stuff. While the majority of it is stuff I can use, it is far too much to use up in a reasonable amount of time.

For instance, thanks to the generosity of family and friends I have acquired a wardrobe that rivals the size of my original wardrobe when I started traveling down the minimalist path. Now that I’ve acquired a small washer I have no need for so many clothes.

My library has blossomed in the same way. I’ve collected books that I doubt I’ll ever read again but I’ve yet to let them go so I have to shift and dust them occasionally.

Throughout my home I can see little things that have started to collect in my life. There is nothing wrong with the individual items but as a collective they are beginning to feel a bit overwhelming in this tiny house.

So what does a former minimalist do when she realizes that she’s went a bit too far in the opposite direction?

This woman admits her mistake and begins to correct it.

Tonight I tossed several items that would be useless to others around me. The satisfaction I felt was immense. While I have no desire to toss perfectly useful items (or items I know I will use up in time), the act of eliminating a few of the useless ones was liberating.

Heading in the opposite direction has shown me that I was on the right path when I became a minimalist over a decade ago. While I’m not sure if I ever want to be as extreme as I was in the past, I’ve realized that life was simpler when I owned less.

I want to regain that simplicity as I narrow my focus to my immediate path.

I intend to contemplate this subject when I go to bed tonight. I want to think well on my next step before I move forward.

Before I leave I would like to ask you a question: can a minimalist truly leave the lifestyle behind or does it continue to affect them in ways they never imagined?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

7 Comments

  • Linda

    I only know it continues to affect me. While I plead guilty to acquiring unnecessary things, when they get to be too many I am restless until they are reduced in number once again. I have three paper grocery sacks packed and ready to donate right now.

    • Annie

      Good for you, Linda! When our things become a burden, it is time to release them. Keep me posted!

  • John Grebe

    I think to some extent one’s values can shift over time which may change what one values in minimalism, as ultimately minimalism is about focusing upon what you value the most. True while it is more of a hoarder mentality to hold onto items which you do not see yourself using again, a cycle of purging, reburying more stuff and then purging the extra is just throwing away money. As I often say when it comes to consumable items (including clothing) that everyday usage and wear & tear is the best way to declutter over time when it comes to items that are being used. Of course the key words is being used, as good clothing that fits you and is the type that you wear may not be worn for a season if there is an excess of that type but will be when the others become worn out. At the same time it is important to avoid falling into the sunk cost fallacy, especially if a lot of the surplus was given to you. So I’d say as long as it is not perishable and in danger of going bad before you can use it that it is good to keep it and use it as long as you can store it in a way that you can live with. As ultimately happiness and sanity need to take priority over saving money. For example lets say somebody offers you a 20 year supply of toilet paper for a dime and you can fit it into your house but at the expense of needing to juggle the heap between your bed and bathtub due to a lack of space elsewhere. At this point the peace of mind of not needing to constantly moving items around to function at home is not worth the price as it is starting to negatively effect your quality of life.

    • Annie

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, John. Believe it or not, I came to almost the exact conclusion you have on the matter. I intend to tote up the excess clothing and discard the items as they become worn or if they no longer suit the person I am becoming. As for the other items, while I may pass some on to people who need and use them (I intend to take a supply of pens to work occasionally since we frequently run out, for instance), I will simply place a moratorium on these items until my current supply is eliminated.

      I believe part of the reason I accumulated so much was due to my old friend fear whispering at me. That is a reminder that I have to look inside and sort that issue as I move forward.

      I want to move slowly on this. I moved far too fast in my enthusiasm the last time and eliminated more than was practical. I adore my library, but I do not need to accept or keep a book that I will not read or know I won’t read again. While this isn’t a problem with non-fiction, I tend to receive frequent gifts of fiction titles that need to be dealt with. I very rarely read fiction, preferring instead to focus on non-fiction works that will increase my knowledge or open my mind. Reference books are a definite keeper. Those bibles you sent me were an immense blessing as I searched through them, looking for the perfect translation of a single verse that is featured in an upcoming blog post. The stack of romance novels that were passed on to me by friends who discovered I was researching the genre with the possible goal of publishing some romance titles under a different pen name is a different story. I found my personality unsuited to writing in that genre, so they will be passed on to a friend who enjoys them.

      My food purchasing habits will need to be addressed as well. I find myself purchasing items out of habit that I am physically unable to eat right now. While that issue will be corrected early next year, the food will be out of date by then so it has to be sorted if Katie isn’t interested in them.

  • Everett Bogue

    Annie, I have too much stuff right now.

    After a year and a half plus working at Levi Strauss & Co in Rosemont, Il, I’m reminded every time I walk by my closet that I have a stockpile of denim (mostly truckers and jeans) that could probably last me the next ten years. The trouble is, if I left this apartment to travel somewhere, all this denim wouldn’t all fit into my backpack.

    So whenever I contemplate leaving, I start going through the mental hoops of deciding which jeans I’ll keep, and which jeans I’ll have to carry the four mile walk to the Good Will in Des Plaines, Il. to donate.

    Yes, I’ll have to keep the Made in America, Cone Mills White Oak Selvedge Raw Denim 511s that I got on clearance for $32 dollars but haven’t quite had the guts to wear yet. I’ll pick one denim trucker, and take that on the road. I’ll of course put on my Red Wing boots before I go, and throw out the Doc Martins.

    But I know that if I can never leave minimalism behind that eventually I’ll have to leave all of this stuff behind if I want to go anywhere.

    That’s the trouble with stuff. The more you have, the more you have to let go.

    Beyond the stuff though, I have another issue with leaving that I think is more important than the stuff. Right now I have two jobs (The other job is at The GAP) at a mall frequented by International tourists. It’s minutes from the most frequented airport in America.

    What if I go, leaving behind the two jobs, and I don’t make another dollar anywhere else (the Internet, on the ground) for who knows how long.

    Beyond letting the stuff go, I’m worried about letting the jobs go right now.

    • Annie

      Everett! I am SO glad to hear from you! We seriously need to do some catching up!

      I’ve no desire to travel at the moment (not sure if it is age or simple contentment with my life), yet I’m like you; I have allowed too much of a surplus to build around this place. I’ve started slowly, contemplating my moves thoroughly before I begin. I’ve actually started with less physical things and the time and peace I’ve acquired have been significant. I intend to share a bit more as time goes on.

      The world has changed since the two of us achieved freedom but there has GOT to be a way for us to break free again; a way that we can show others so that they can achieve their freedom as well. I may not know what the right combination is yet, but I intend to find it.

    • Annie

      As for jobs, I do believe the job market on the ground is changing. In my part of the rural US, factories are begging for workers. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t stumble across a new Help Wanted Ad. Perhaps the cities are becoming so saturated that it is time to transition to more rural areas?