Inside: An honest look at the top pros and cons of minimalism, from the perspective of a seven-year minimalist mom.
It’s that time of year again – the day after Christmas in America. The Christmas that many Americans will spend much of 2022 paying for, the day of so.much.excess.
And as happens every year, a significant number of people are waking up anxious and wondering…
“Hmmm, maybe this is too much stuff. I have nowhere to put it all. Something has to give…maybe there’s something to this whole minimalism thing, after all.”
If you haven’t considered adopting a minimalist lifestyle, it’s time to start seriously considering it. Don’t let anyone guilt you into not choosing minimalism because the economy, or your kids, to name two popular reasons they give NOT to do it.
Well, unfortunately, the economy can’t grow forever and ever. Endless growth isn’t sustainable, and it’s killing us and the planet (the planet our kids are going to inherit one day).
Thankfully, more and more people are catching onto the idea that less is more.
We are working ourselves to death to pay for physical possessions that other people are working themselves to death to produce. And all for things that we will forget about and end up in the trash (or gathering dust on a Goodwill shelf) in just a few short months.
And as for the kids…to quote one of my favorite books:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
If our kids don’t understand the intense damage being done by consumerism, nothing is ever going to change.
Is Minimalism Even a Thing Anymore?
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So much has changed in the past two years. But while some believe that as a result, minimalism is trending downward, I do not agree.
It might not be “trending” anymore, but minimalism still has just as much life-changing potential to offer as it ever did.
That being said, because I also believe in painting an honest and clear picture of what this lifestyle is really like, I knew it was time to write a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time: the pros and cons of minimalism.
Yes, there are cons. And yes, I think you need to hear about both before you leap into this lifestyle.
It will save you a LOT of disillusionment and bitterness to hear these things up front.
The Cons of Minimalism
Five years ago, I wrote a post about the downside of minimalism. Back then, we had five-figure student loan debt and were living on a low income for our family of then six (not yet seven).
It was my first post to “go viral”, and it brought a LOT of backlash. Minimalists didn’t want to consider that decluttering and living a minimalist lifestyle might not be all smiles and roses for some people…or some classes.
All of the things I wrote about in that post? I still feel them on a regular basis, but they are far less painful because we have nearly doubled our family income since I wrote it last.
Income makes a difference in decluttering and minimalism; they change how you approach it. It just does.
Anyone who tells you differently…I don’t get it.
Here’s what I consider to be the top three cons of minimalism, the ones that still affect me to this day.
1. You will probably end up rebuying at least a few things you declutter.
Last month, my mother-in-law’s modem died. I looked for our extra one and realized I had just decluttered it a few weeks before.
We hadn’t need it for a year and a half…but I was still a little bit sad at the timing.
Crayons. We have decluttered crayons over and over again.
They go unused for over a year between kids, or I just go through an intense decluttering stage where I cannot handle a bajillion coloring instruments in our house, and out of our house they go again.
Well, we just bought new ones last week for my almost 3-year-old who is finally old enough to use them. I felt slightly guilty that we had to rebuy them – again.
There have been more than a few instances like these in the past several years. Every time, I felt guilty or silly for having let it go in the first place.
But I am learning to be o.k. with needing to buy something again one, two or three years later. I am prioritizing feeling at peace in my own home over keeping an item just in case we need it again years from now.
Especially if you come from a low income or frugal background, it takes time to prioritize a year of peaceful minds and clear, open spaces over $20 saved. It was very difficult for me, and I still wrestle with it; but it’s getting easier.
Don’t be surprised if you feel regret. Expect it, and know you will need to learn how to change your mindset on money versus mental health.
2. Minimalist books and blogs can be taken as prescriptive, not advice that needs to be tailored to your unique situation.
Most minimalist bloggers are kind and good-hearted, and we offer a lot of advice. But that’s just what it is: advice.
You don’t need to ascribe to every value of every minimalist blogger. The whole point of minimalism is to know yourself, and from that place of deep knowing, to own only the things that are truly useful or bring you joy.
But sometimes, it’s easy to listen to all the voices, to get caught up in trying to model your life after theirs, your home after theirs.
That doesn’t work. And it’s only a matter of time before you become frustrated and give up.
If you were introduced to minimalism by one minimalist blogger, you may want to broaden your horizons and read other perspectives.
Your home doesn’t need to look like a hotel room to be a minimalist home. You don’t need to own one spatula or one pair of scissors to be a minimalist (this would never, ever work for our family or our lifestyle).
Listen to advice, and apply selectively what works and doesn’t work. Only you can know what to keep and what to get rid of.
Minimalist bloggers can help and guide, but ultimately, the decisions are yours. After all, you’re the one who has to live with them.
3. Anytime you choose an alternative lifestyle, you can expect a least a little (or a lot of) pushback.
Yesterday on TikTok, I came across a sweet mom sharing how her family uses the “four gift rule”. Each of her kids get four gifts, plus a bonus Santa gift (something they’ve asked for).
Oh, the comments. Always the comments.
People were losing their minds over the fact that this mom would not go “all out” and buy anything her children wanted, that they only received five presents each from their parents.
Hopefully social media is not indicative of all the people in your life and how they will respond if you choose to adopt a minimalist lifestyle…but it could be.
Personally, I have experienced everything from kind misunderstanding to open hostility. And that’s from social media trolls…to friends and family.
But because we also choose homeschooling and gentle parenting, I’m getting more and more used to being labeled “weird”. To be honest that’s kind of the point: I don’t want what mainstream America has to offer.
So if you choose to leave mainstream consumerist society, to choose not to be a cog in an economic system of more, more, more, be prepared for pushback. It’s really not a matter of if, but when.
The Pros of Minimalism
On to the good stuff, what makes minimalism worth it. Because obviously, I’ve found the cons worth persevering through for seven years now because the pros are just that good.
Here are the top three pros of minimalism, at least from where I sit.
1. You will have more time for doing whatever it is that you love.
This is the best part about minimalism. It’s what has literally transformed my life.
Because of minimalism, I can homeschool. I’m not paralyzed by my home, not even with five kids and a work-from-home husband here all day, every day.
I had time to start a small business and work part-time to grow it into a full-time income. I can share what I’m learning with others – one of my favorite things to do!
I have time and breathing room to work on myself in therapy every week, and to exercise regularly.
Before minimalism, I was so overwhelmed keeping up with all of the stuff in our small home. I couldn’t fathom having time to do anything else like homeschooling or working or self-work.
This pro of minimalism right here makes all of the cons worth enduring. It has completely changed our lives.
2. You will learn how to shop with purpose and intention, so you enjoy what you buy long-term.
Minimalism was the first step for me in learning to shop with purpose and intention. Before, I shopped pretty mindlessly, with a vague idea of what I actually needed or wanted.
Minimalism helped me declutter over the course of a few years and find a happy place where we have enough, but not too much. It gave me the foundation I needed to start examining what “wants” actually brought me joy.
After reading this book and this one, I know that freedom for myself and my family, learning (myself and my kids) and drinking coffee all bring me joy. So I choose to invest in those three things almost exclusively.
It’s o.k. with me that I buy physical books (although I do still check the library first). It’s o.k. with me that we spend a significant portion on homeschool experiences and resources.
It’s o.k. with me that I buy a weekly Starbucks, and that I buy the occasional coffee mug…although that last one is usually to replace on my kids broke.
Beyond that, I love NOT spending money, so that we can invest in the future, when hopefully my husband can enjoy the same freedoms in his work that I and my kids do.
I also value simplicity, so I know that spending money on extra home decor won’t bring me lasting happiness, and will actually make me LESS happy. So I don’t bring those items into our home.
Over time, you’ll figure out the few things that bring YOU joy. You’ll get better at resisting impulse purchases because you know they won’t bring you lasting happiness.
The result is significantly less clutter over time and often (but not always), a better financial situation, too.
3. Your home will be a haven, not a burden.
Is your home something you look forward coming home to at the end of the day or waking up to in the morning? Or is it more of a burden?
When you choose minimalism, your home will over time become a true place of rest for you and your family. It will feel peaceful because everything in it is intentional.
The majority of your budget every month goes toward your home, whether you own or rent. Do you really want to be pouring all that money into something that feels like a ball and chain around your neck?
It doesn’t sound like a good idea when you put it that way.
When you stop letting your house and your belongings own you, your home, the thing you pour so many resources into, can become what it was always meant to be.
Do The Pros Outweigh the Cons? I Still Think So, Seven Years Later.
I’ll leave you with this story.
A few months ago, my very sentimental 12-year-old daughter was overwhelmed by her room on a regular basis. It was a source of anxiety for her and was creating tension between us.
I would offer to help her clean, as it was getting borderline hazardous in there. But her anxiety would kick into high gear, and I would back off. It wasn’t worth causing her more anxiety, especially given how much anxiety we’ve all endured the past two years.
Then one day, much to my surprise, I woke up to piles and piles and stuff sitting outside her room. She had stayed up well in the night doing an extreme decluttering and removed more than half of the items in her room.
She raved about her room that day, and for days after.
It was so easy to keep clean, she said. It didn’t give her anxiety anymore.
And this was my sentimental child. The one who couldn’t get rid of a puzzle given to her five years ago that is missing a piece, or art she created when she was five.
But something clicked for her about minimalism. She was finally able to let go of many sentimental items because she decided it was worth trading the comfort those items gave her for the greater comfort of a decluttered, peaceful room (her words, not mine).
That’s what I want for you. To be able to put these pros and cons on the scales, and to see that yes, the pros far outweigh the cons.
It’s worth putting in the hard decision-making, decluttering work to get to the other side where you can finally breathe. It’s worth feeling occasional decluttering regret and feeling the sting of unkind words about your lifestyle choice.
Minimalism has brought me – has brought our family – SO much freedom. I cannot help but hope that you choose this life for yourself because even with all the struggles, it’s been so worth it.