5 Questions to Help You Find Your Minimalist Sweet Spot

Minimalism offers all of these benefits: 

  • A clutter-free environment that lowers stress and reduces the time you spend managing your belongings, freeing your energy for pursuits that matter more to you.
  • A more intentional schedule that lowers stress and reduces the time you spend doing things you regret saying yes to, freeing your focus for things you deem more important.
  • Conscious consumption that lowers stress and reduces debt and waste, freeing your money for things that add true value to your life.
  • A more thoughtful use of screens that reduces the time you spend following, comparing, and being sold to, freeing your mind for thoughts of gratitude and satisfaction.

green couch

Except when it doesn't.

It's possible to be so excited about a fresh and spacious home that you paint everything white and keep only a couch, a bed, and your (naked) dining room table.

It's possible to declutter so much that you get worried when a piece of clothing is getting worn out or you break a dish.  Will you be able to manage with one pair of jeans while you look for a suitable replacement for your second pair?  Will you be able to set a nice table when your friends come over for dinner?

It's possible to declutter so much that you discard something you regret.  Maybe six months after a huge purge you decide you'd really like to play the guitar you sold (because you hadn't touched it in three years).  Or you're unexpectedly pregnant and realize you should have kept the baby stuff (even though your youngest is almost 5).

It's possible to pare down your schedule and then feel that you have too much time on your hands.  Or to find out that your friend is really mad at you for bowing out of Girl Scouts because she hasn't found anyone willing to take your place and she's completely swamped with responsibilities.

That's why minimalism isn't one-size-fits-all.

If you like color, you shouldn't try to emulate some sort of white-box aesthetic.  And purging furniture and supplies you need for the activities that are part of your life isn't going to make you happy.

If you wear jeans every day, maybe owning two pairs isn't enough, regardless of what some decluttering guru says (including me).  If you like to have people over for dinner, maybe you need a few more dishes or cooking implements.

If you miss playing the guitar, rent one for a couple of months until you figure out if your desire is real or a passing fancy.  If you decide to buy, look at used options.

If you need baby gear, it's easy to find good used items, or you might even be able to get some free from another mother who's decluttering now that her youngest is potty trained.  Babies don't need a ton of stuff anyway, despite what retailers tell you.

If your friend needs help with Girl Scouts, you might decide to pitch in for a few more months even if you'd prefer to spend time doing something else.  Make it your mission to find your own replacement (or even two people – make less work for everyone).

And if you feel that time is hanging on your hands, you have the luxury of considering what you'd really like to do with it.  Instead of being too busy to learn or explore something new, now you can.  If something has been tugging at your heart, now's your chance to get more involved.  If you've been saying you'd like more time with family or friends, use the time you've created.  Be sure not to let scrolling, clicking, binge-watching, or shopping fill the void.

Find the sweet spot.

Minimalism encourages us to find a balance between too much and too little.  It's a line that's different for everyone, and it's not about a particular number or judging other people for what they own.  It's about looking inside yourself and discovering what's right for you.

Minimalism goes beyond formulas like "one in, one out" (which could keep you caught in a cycle of shopping, decluttering, and shopping some more).  It's not about irresponsibly tossing things into a dumpster just so you can have a spacious, clutter-free home.  It's not about leaving a friend who needs your help with no warning and no support.

Successful minimalism requires you to dig deeper.

The 5 questions

1.  Where does my clutter come from?  Which beliefs and habits allow it into my home?

2.  Why am I tempted to shop even when I don't need anything?  What am I really looking for?

3.  Why is it hard to let go of some stuff?  What do I fear?

4.  Why do I say yes when my heart says no?

5.  What do I want to accomplish with my one life, and what's getting in the way of that?

When you make questions like these part of your journey, you won't merely declutter – you'll learn deep truths about yourself.  What you learn will help you find a sustainable, life-enhancing minimalism that's perfect for you.

Related article:  How Many Tee Shirts Should a Minimalist Own?

Experiment to discover what's right for you.

My book, The Minimalist Experiment, outlines 27 thirty-minute activities and 9 try-it-for-a-day challenges to help you investigate simplifying your life in six areas:

  • physical clutter
  • digital clutter
  • your mindset
  • your schedule
  • your finances
  • your personal well-being

Big changes come from tiny steps taken over and over.  Go ahead and try something new!


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