When I first stumbled onto the world of minimalism and I found myself interested in the concept I asked myself
How hard would it be?
My first instinct was the simple answer:
“It can’t be very hard. You just stop buying stuff and get rid of all the things you don’t need that you already have! And you just don’t buy stuff you don’t absolutely need!”
Seemed easy enough.
And, in a way, it’s exactly how you become a minimalist. Though my gut reaction completely missed out the fact that the world around us is designed to make us want things we, essentially, don’t need.
Obstacle Number 1:
We are taught from a very young age (though not explicitly) to associate ownership of stuff with status. Fancy clothes, fancy accessories, fancy car and fancy house. It all comes with money and the more money you have, the more important you are. Of course that misconconception often leads to people overcompensating, living beyond their means and accumulating things (and debt) as they go…
I know. I was one of those people. And sure, not everybody will end up with 84 different shades of nail polish as a result, but you get what I’m trying to say.
Obstacle Number 2:
Rampant consumerism is a thing. We are bombarded with ads that paint a rather vivid picture: whatever your problem is, it can be solved if you only buy this amazing Thing! It can be makeup, clothes, candy or even drugs (of the legal variety since only those are advertised on TV). We are expected to shop for stuff we don’t need (and at the same time we are expected to save money for retirement, but those mixed messages are a topic for a different post) and the message is: it will make us feel better. And, thanks to endorphins, it does. Which is why “Retail Therapy” is an actual thing that happens. It’s where Hoarders come from and there are people actually addicted to that feeling.
Obstacle Number 3:
Spending money is tied incredibly tightly with having a social life. While yes, you can hang out with friends without spending money, it’s rarely the first idea that pops into your head. I know, because it’s never the idea that pops into my own head when I decide to hang out with friends. It’s either going out for coffee (since I don’t drink alcohol, I’m saved bar and club hopping in favor of sitting in a cafe drinking coffee and most likely eating cheesecake), going to the cinema (and buying popcorn and soda, because how can you not, right?), or hanging out at someone’s place, though that usually comes with snacks and most likely pizza. Teenagers hang out at the mall, window shopping, or just outright buying stuff, learning quickly that buying stuff will give them status (see Obstacle Number 1) and if they admit they don’t want to spend money or worse, they don’t have money to spend, they risk being ridiculed.
So yes. Minimalism is easy, if you ignore the social conditioning, messaging and years of consumer indoctrination.
Once you achieve that, you arrive at the final, and in my opinion the worst obstacle.
Obstacle Number 4:
Comparison. Social media is both our lifeline, source of knowledge, and in a way, the reason why we’re depressed all the time. (Though maybe I shouldn’t put the qualifier there, since there is ample research proving social media is, in fact, a contributing factor to depression.)
For me, it’s where I found minimalism and zero waste, which admittedly changed my life. But at the same time, Instagram and youtube is the source of some stress in my life, because I can’t help but compare myself to all those established minimalists and zero wasters. And I’m not even talking about their perfect photos on white backgrounds, and success stories of putting a year of your waste in a mason jar…
I’m talking about the idea that they all have their lives all figured out and don’t stumble on their path, while I’m sitting in my corner flailing, trying very hard not to order pizza and give up sustainability because my grocery shop insists on wrapping everything in plastic. I look at those minimalism tours and it makes me want to go out and buy myself more scrapbooking supplies to make myself feel better.
I do realize that on this journey, against all the obstacles listed above, I am my own worst enemy. And I’m relatively certain I’m not the only one.
Minimalism is turning out to be a little bit more difficult than I thought. How difficult (if at all) is it for you?