Minimalism Regret And The Changes I’m Making to Improve My Life

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Over the last year and a half of my minimalism journey, I made some choices that ended in some minimalism regret. I consistently worked towards living a simpler lifestyle, decluttering, and trying to figure out what I want my life to look like.

However, I did not always keep my focus on the end goal.

I have tested out different ideas, methods, and strategies to develop my dream life. Some worked, and others failed. But that is the beauty of this lifestyle being a journey versus a destination.

When I started my minimalist journey, my husband and I were in a transition of getting ready to stage our home and purchasing land. We knew we wanted to build a house, and it was time to put that dream into motion.

We put pen to paper when trying to come up with a path to follow. I had one idea, and my husband had a completely different idea. It was definitely a challenge to evaluate what each path would look like and what worked best for us.

In the end, my husband’s idea was the better of all the options we discussed. However, this meant that we would downsize our living environment by more than half!

I was terrified of what this transition would do to our emotional health, and how we would fit all of our things comfortably in such a small space.

The answer was obvious…. we had to let go of some things.

& by some things, I mean 80% of what we owned!

Yes, it is completely possible to downsize 80% of what you own, when you own a lot of excess! I have lost count of all the boxes and car loads of things that have been sold or donated.

I had no clue we had so much we really did not need! It is insane just thinking about the spare rooms that were full of things we no longer have.

In addition, we were not only decluttering our possessions, but also changing our thought process. Thinking about all the excess we had, we began transitioning things in our life.

Minimalism is not only about being tidy and having just what you need; it is also about conscious and purposeful living.

We looked into removing chemicals, plastics, processed foods, etc from our home; reducing our carbon foot print; and how to live more sustainable.

At one point, it became overwhelming, because we were trying to change so much so quickly. I currently have running list of things I want to improve in our lifestyle.

It has taken time, and, so far, each change has been worth pursuing or researching. We have a long ways to go, but are so excited about our journey.

It is funny, because at first, my husband was hesitant about all of the changes. Now he is almost completely on board with what I hope to change in our lives.

[I am the research guru in our home. When I find new ideas, I bring them to him, so we can collaborate about the possibility of trying it ourselves or not.]

It has been a complete adventure downsizing, minimizing, and transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle.

So why am I telling you this story?

Well, I am glad you asked!

I get asked a particular question that I have not had an answer for until a few weeks ago. It took a few family emergencies, super busy schedule, and a new endeavor for me to see what I had been missing.

The question I am answering today is:

What is my biggest minimalism regret?

This is a tough question, because I love everything about living simple and intentional. But after some thinking, I think I know what my biggest minimalism regret is…

My biggest minimalism regret is thinking I needed to change everything all at one time versus changing one thing at a time. When transitioning into a minimalist lifestyle, certain things are brought to your attention, such as:
  • ethical shopping
  • certain diets
  • zero-waste
  • living plastic-free
  • living chemical-free
  • etc…

Becoming a minimalist can open your eyes to seeing what is important, and being eco-friendly is a high priority for a lot of minimalists. I am not disagreeing with it, but I took these thoughts to the extreme.

Thinking I had to live as a zero-waster, vegan, only shop second hand, etc. While these are things I may or may not transition to in the future, I did not have to do them all right in the beginning.

Thinking I did drove me crazy!

In the first six months, I focused on decluttering as well as all of these. It did not take long to become burnt out with thinking about my next step. For some reason, I could not grasp that I did not have to do all of this at once.

Baby steps were only allowed in my decluttering stage, because I wanted to make a lifestyle change.

Why this idea did not carry over into everything else that spiraled from this transition, I am not sure. It could have saved a lot of headaches and feelings of not doing enough.

So let me walk you through the changes that stuck, did not work, and could possibly work in the future.

Changes that worked…

A year and a half into my minimalist journey, I have transitioned my life with a few of these ideas. My family grows a garden each year so that we eat quality vegetables and fruit.

We purchase things in bulk to reduce excess waste, and raise most of the meat we consume. I try to purchase organic when possible, and have reduced the amount of processed foods we eat.

We are currently trying to transition into clean eating, but my rules may not be as strict as your rules.

When it comes to clothing, I love shopping second hand.

While it does not always work out for me, I do my best to not buy new. If I do buy new, I make sure it is something of quality that will last for years. Same goes for my husband.

Neither of us have large wardrobes, so when something needs to be donated or tossed [for whatever reason], it has to be replaced. Being more conscious of how clothes are made, I do try to always buy from ethical brands.

Reducing plastic is another change we are making. So far, we have switched our kitchen utensils to wood or stainless steel [weary of silicone, because it is a plastic bi-product] and our drinking glasses from plastic to glass. Our soap dispensers are glass.

While my husband is not on board just yet, I have started to use a filtering water system for our home to reduce the plastic water bottle waste.

Changes that did not work…

Becoming zero-waste is something I can only dream of achieving. We do not have a bulk store close to us, so taking glass jars to be filled instead of buying things already packaged is not an option.

I do shop at our local club grocery store that has the larger/industrial sized products, so there is less waste than purchasing from my regular grocery store.

For example, I purchase industrial sized containers of cooking oil versus several small containers, leading to much less waste.

Simplifying my aesthetics is another change that has not worked. I love the Scandinavian minimalist look, but switching to all black and white with natural accents is not my thing. I love color!

My bedspread is a red and grey plaid. My rug has green and red all over it. Several furniture pieces are chocolate brown.

While this is not as eccentric as some, my home contains more color than the black/white aesthetic commonly associated with minimalism. I have tried to tone down my color palate a bit, but it will never completely be to the black/white standards.

Frugality is something that is associated with minimalism, and I am not sure why. I am typically a frugal person by nature, but what I am referring to is an extreme frugality.

I do believe being frugal is a great option, but is not always essential. For instance, shopping for a staple item in your closet is one that you should consider spending a little extra to get.

I have purchased many cheap pieces of clothing because the price was right. However, I actually spent more in the long run, because I had to replace these items more frequently.

By purchasing a quality item that costs a little more can save you in the long run, due to being a better made piece.

Changes that can work in the future…

I believe my husband and I will make many changes in the future, but a few to name specifically are:

  • Becoming completely chemical-free in the home. [almost there!]
  • Eating 100% clean. [Of course this is by our standards and rules. It may not look the same for you.]
  • Replace OTC medicines with holistic options.

There are many more, but these are some that I want to share with you today. This list could change, expand, contract, and all the fun things lists do. Regardless, we have some goals to work towards!

Final thoughts

If you are struggling to take the next step in your minimalist lifestyle, I want you to know you’re not alone. If you have minimalism regret in any fashion, know that you’re not alone. This is a journey – not a destination.

I was completely lost in the beginning, so I turned to minimalists that inspired me for guidance. Samantha Lindsey, Melissa Alexandria, Rachel Aust, Karin @ Truncation, and Jennifer @ Simply + Fiercely were a few who helped me directly and indirectly.

I encourage you to find one or a few minimalists who inspire you! [Of course, I would love if one of them was me πŸ˜‰ ] Just reach out and ask for help!

We are in this together, and no you do NOT have to do it all at once! Baby steps are the steps that change our lives! Thinking we have to do everything all at once leads to more ‘minimalism regret’ posts than the world needs.

We all have regrets. In this post, I am specifically sharing with you my minimalism regret and what I plan to change to prevent future regret. In sharing this, I hope it prevents any regrets you may encounter in your own minimalism journey.

27 thoughts on “Minimalism Regret And The Changes I’m Making to Improve My Life”

  1. Hi Erin, I really enjoyed reading this post. Regarding minimalising, I too have found myself biting off more than I could-or should-chew and winding up burned out and completely frazzled…which is the complete opposite of what you’re aiming for by minimalising in the first place.
    It took me several reads to understand the paragraphs about “ascetics” and when I finally figured it out, I had to laugh. “Ascetic” means “a person who practices severe self-discipline and abstention.” I think the word you were looking for was aesthetics. “Aesthetic” means “a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.
    Anyway, you have made my day a brighter one, and I am so glad I subscribed to your blog. Keep up the good work.

    1. Haha!! I love it! Yes, I meant aesthetic. I will correct that! But, hey, I am human! I am glad it could brighten your day!

      I am glad you enjoyed this post, as well! It is good to see that I am not alone with trying to figure things out in this journey. But that is another thing that I love about this journey. We all have different ideas of what we want from it, but we face similar struggles. Being able to relate to others and connect is the reason I decided to really work on my little corner of the internet. Thank you for leaving this comment, Sondra! You made my evening! πŸ™‚

  2. I really love this post Erin! My husband and I have attempted to live a minimalist lifestyle several times over the last 7 years. We would do well for a few months, only to revert back to our old ways after the first setback. Looking back now, I think a large reason is exactly what you just described: we tried to do everything all at once. Thanks for sharing! It’s nice to know we aren’t the only ones who have been on this journey (stumbling as well as succeeding) for a few years.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it, Kristin! It is comforting to know we are not alone either! I have heard of stories of people changing all at once, and succeeding, but that is not the case for my family. This process is a big one, and I have recently found worth in identifying my priorities. I have been working on for several months, and am finally seeing the benefit to knowing what I need to do now versus what can wait. Maybe that was a missing piece for both of us succeeding the way we had hoped in the beginning…?

  3. I am so inspired by this post! I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately, and your post really delves into the concept and gives some practical insight. Following your blog now! <3

    1. Aww! Thank you for the kind words, Kathryn! I love that it inspired you! This lifestyle really is worth the work. Just be clear with what you want your life to look like, and map out a plan to get there. Baby steps are the changes that stick.

  4. Hi Erin. I love this and it’s so true. You start with minimalism and it snowballs. I have too many grand plans. You have inspired me to take a step back… thanks πŸ™‚

    Really love this post, can’t wait to read more

    1. I am so glad this helped, Katrina! If I had known how much my life could change, I would have been a little more strategic, but, at the same time, I am glad I did not know. The beauty of change and how it is implemented into our lives makes the journey interesting. I hope you find clarity in taking a step back from your grand plans. It really helped me, and I know it can help you, too!

  5. My fiancΓ© has been a minimalist all his life and we moved in together in April of this year . I had reduced my stuff to 90%and was hard at first with three closets and dresser full of clothes and tons of kitchen appliances that were only used a handful or times . Lots of wall decor and furniture. But I gave the stuff to a group that people need things and all that unnecessary items are someone’s main items I feel a huge weight lifted off and a feeling of of accomplishment and acceptance. I think I’ve learned from this that . STUFF is just that stuff and it should not consume you or your mind with clutter . It’s a feeling of Freedom and I’m really enjoying that feeling and I know that this is just a start of what and where I want to be in the years to come , as I look forward to the Retirement stage of my life as as a Miminalist.

    1. I love your story, Maureen! It is a freeing feeling to get rid of things you do not need and lesson the burden on your mind. So much clarity has come into my life since doing so, and it is great to hear that it is doing the same for you, too!

  6. Oh Erin! I hear you! When my husband and I decided we wanted to lead simpler, cleaner, less cluttered lives, I believed we had to accomplish that all at once. I did most of the decluttering myself as my husband is so indecisive about letting things go. I went after it with a vengeance, donating nearly every single thing I considered unnecessary. I went after the frugality the same as you, but I went so overboard, I would run out of things, (like the single lipstick I owned) and then tell myself I didn’t really NEED another one. The same was true with my wardrobe. One day, my husband and I had an occasion to attend and I did not own a single pair of dress shoes or a dress appropriate to respect the occasion. Our home became a skeleton of its former self. We both have a true eclectic sense of style, which can lead to clutter all on its own. I donated so many things, my husband announced to me one day, that I should donate the sofa and chairs in the living room because they looked ridiculous with what was left in the room. Our eating and food shopping habits got the boost they had needed for a long time. Finally, I had gone down to our storage room one day to get my grandmother’s sewing table I had decided to recycle into a writing desk. It was GONE! I asked my husband what had happened to it? He reminded me it was in the first truckload of stuff the DAV had sent to pick up my donations! I cried! I did not remember donating that! I was hit with a lightning bolt realizing my quest to minimalize, simplify and declutter had become a monster within me and was running and ruining our lives. I took a long hiatus from our simpler life, got myself and my things in order, got our home looking like a home again (I bought nothing brand new) and thought very hard about how ridiculously I had tried to do it all at once and many times quite thoughtlessly. Our lives are simpler but no longer stressful, I am a much calmer person and I finally bought ONE lipstick…on ebay of course. If anyone is considering the minimalistic life, plan very well, really give your donations some thought and as you said, Erin, do it in the tiniest of baby steps.

    1. Oh wow, Judith! That is taking it to the extremes. I am not sure I could declutter so vigorously, but it does teach you a lot. I am with you on running out of things. I tossed all of my lipsticks, because I did not wear them. However, I find that having one quality lipstick is needed to help boost my confidence when I am feeling lower than normal. Silly, but it does help. Also, it can be difficult to feel that we need to do it all at once, because if we do not we are failing. Of course, this is certainly not true by any means! Each time I did not accomplish my monstrous list of things I wanted to change made me feel horrible. But the day I woke up and realized this is a journey, not a sprint, I felt at peace. Getting there is hard, but makes life so much simpler. Thank you for sharing your story with this community and myself! Everyone can benefit from everyone if we simply share!

  7. Erin, this is a great post! So many of us are “extreme” about something, whether it’s minimalism or something else. There is no “one size fits all” version of minimalism. It isn’t “wrong” or a “fail” to have color. The minimalists who have everything in black or white probably loved black and white before they became minimalists. Hold onto your colors! Every minimalist’s life should look different from everyone else’s. It would be pretty boring if every home had bare white walls and black furniture and every person wore nothing but black and white — sounds like some awful sci-fi movie, doesn’t it?!

    1. I completely agree with you, Jean! I love that minimalism is different for everyone, but it is so easy to get caught up in what others do. I think that was my biggest overlooked mistake. Taking a step back was exactly what I needed to see that.

  8. Erin I really enjoyed this post and while I understand the need for advertising, one ad after each paragraph is pretty excessive and distracting. Especially the shorter paragraphs sandwiched between ads. so many important ideas here but the clutter is so many ads dilutes the message. not wanting to be mean, just helpful

    1. Cathie, I appreciate the feedback. I actually cut down on the amount of ads on my site, so I am not sure why you are seeing an ad after each paragraph. In fact, I have never had my site set up for so many ads. I will message the tech support to see what is going on with this. Thank you for letting me know!

  9. Hey Erin, when I looks at it through Pinterest there are heaps of ads, not direct from your site. Maybe the way Pinterest shows it configures differently. I did think it seemed a bit odd, which was why I commented. Thanks for responding so quickly.

  10. I absolutely love this. You totally stand out from the crowds of minimalists..why? because not once have you used the words “essential” or “must have”. I get tired of being told by “experts” what my life should look like. We downsized ..well , actually moved north to get rid of the mortgage..and ended up with an extra bedroom and huge garden lol.. but we now can grow our own veg and have a sewing room. Life os slower. I work two days a week as a home carer. I make all my own household cleaners , shampoos etc and have banished chemicals. We became vegan too and have not looked back. Will be subscribing to your blog for sure. Brilliant, honest, no nonsense refreshing change. Thank you.

    1. Cate, your comment is making me all warm and fuzzy feeling! I appreciate your kind words. I love that you moved to get rid of your mortgage, and ended up with more space. Having space for a garden and sewing sounds wonderful! I am glad that you picked up on not being told what minimalism should look like for you, because the truth is that it is different for everyone. I may live in a small space, but we have almost 19 acres that come with it. So glad you will be subscribing, and I look forward to chatting with you more! Our stories have some similarities [gardening, non-toxic chemicals, and being who you choose to be], so it will be nice to connect and learn from each other!

  11. Erin, sounds like you’re doing great! I have a tendency to go all out (to extremes) when I decide to do something, but I’m glad you learned to pace yourself before you got totally burned out. Two things I’d like to point out, though: 1. True frugality is knowing that a more expensive, high quality item is often the best buy. 2. Minimalism does not require anyone to have a black/white/grey/beige color scheme. So you’re doing great!

    1. Jean, you are just as delightful as your blog name! πŸ™‚ I appreciate your kind words very much, and you are absolutely right in your points. Quality is definitely the ultimate frugality, and color is so much fun! Thank you again for your kind words!

  12. Wonderful article. It sound’s like we are on a similar journey. While I like some aspects of minimalism, the whole package is not for my family. I’m working toward what I call “moderate minimalism.”

  13. Oh, I agree!

    I have never understood where the idea came from that minimalists have to have a neutral palate in their home decor. Surely the focus should be on having only what is truly necessary, and not what colour it comes in? For me, colour brightens my mood as it does my decor. My home is small (about 1000 square feet), and my furnishing minimal. My walls are grey, the trim white, my bathroom towels white — and my living room sofa is bright red, the comforter on my bed a riot of bright colours. If I had to wash the colour out of my home, I wouldn’t feel calm and focussed, I would feel depressed!

    So I say, if colour enriches your life, include it. We each decide what is ‘homey’ and what is ‘too busy’.

    As for frugality, my mother had a term she often used, “False economy”. That’s the idea that less expensive is always better. Sometimes, paying extra for the better quality item means that it has to be replaced far less often, so that, in the long run, the more expensive costs *less*.

    As minimalists, we tend to look for classics rather than trendy items, intending them to last. Why undermine that goal by purchasing poorer quality? Conversely, pricier is not necessarily better quality. You have to determine that on an item-by-item basis. Going by price alone is not the best measure.

    1. I’m glad to know that you prefer color as well. There are some spaces, such as my bathroom, that I don’t mind a more neutral color palate. But in the living room and bedroom, it just does not feel as lively if there isn’t some color. I have since flipped over my comforter on my bed to a solid grey, but the Himalayan salt lamp I have on my nightstand adds in a pop of color to make it feel warm still. It a give and take with the seasons of life.

      You make some great points on frugality, too! I’ve heard of the false economy, but it is not a term I use often. I think when you discover which pieces to invest in that it becomes easier to see how well your dollar goes. For instance, I purchased a blazer for $100+ that fits wonderfully and made of great quality, but I purchased a pair of jeans that were close to the $100 mark and they only lasted for 4 months. I’ll purchase from my blazer’s brand again, but will never spend money with that jean company again.

      It is really all trial and error when it comes to figuring out what is too much or too little and too cheap or too expensive. Add in all the factors of variance in quality and you have yourself a puzzle. Thank you for the thoughtful conversation, Ilona! It is nice to talk to someone in detail about these things. I feel we don’t do that enough.

  14. One of the best things I learned about minimalism over time is that minimalism is a JOURNEY, not a destination. We can do a massive declutter until we only have 20% of our stuff left, but without the continuous intention of minimalism, the amount of stuff we own will creep back up. Also, a frugal minimalist will definitely spend more to get quality and not just go for the cheapest option. A frugal person usually focuses on VALUE versus price alone.

    1. Bri, you are so right about this being a journey and living with conscious intention. I also agree with your take on a frugal minimalist, but I do believe there are those who believe in spending as little money as possible. I wish there was a better way to explain it, because frugal means different things to different people.

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