Minimalist Guilt

No minimalist blogger that I can find discusses any downsides to minimalism, save for one, which was just published a few days ago. Of course, the most logical reason for that is that the majority of the time there is very little downside; I have never (ever) regretted getting rid of something after the fact. There are items that I have taken pictures of that I look back on fondly; there are things that I think about periodically as having made my life easier in some way; there are even feelings of sentimentality for which a picture does not do justice. But even in those moments, I am comforted by the people I still have and the things that I value more now because of the space they are provided.

Quick aside for an example: take coffee mugs. I had dozens (note the plural) and we need two at most normally. We have gotten rid of all but a handful to enable us to be lazy in cleaning some days or to entertain on others. I have never missed a specific mug and I now use most (if not all) of my mugs consistently, but I periodically get a pang for the variety I once had. My point is, no blogger discusses that feeling.

But the pang I felt the other day was one I didn’t expect: guilt. At the above link, Tapasya says it succinctly and I can’t say it any better:

I don’t even remember how, when, or why this even started, all I know is that every time I decide to buy something, I feel awash with guilt over whether I’m just buying clutter and whether it’s something I truly need. This guilt then leads to me feeling like an imposter minimalist and questioning my very identity.

That is not wrong.

A new set of towels for the kitchen, an extra snack at the grocery store, a thing that will make life a bit easier during a pandemic, even gifts from or for other people can send me reeling into an introspective spiral of questions around need, desire, and extravagance. That is not to say these questions aren’t valid, but they consistently create a crisis of self, a feeling that I am not being true to some non-existent minimalist code.

When one approaches minimalism, there is the rush of the initial declutter or the space saved by getting rid of things we don’t need. I have a consistent happiness in getting something out, so why wouldn’t I expect an equal and opposite sadness when I have to acquiesce to a need or want that forces me to let something else in.

Last week, I wrote about the fact that items are not leaving my house at the same rate as normal due to the pandemic, but I have a feeling that this guilt would be present even in the absence of the complications presented by the pandemic.


Posted: November 30, 2020



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