How to Respond When People are Offended by Your Minimalist Lifestyle

How to Respond When People are Offended by Your Minimalist Lifestyle
Note from Rachel: This is a guest post from June of This Simple Balance.
When you take your first baby steps towards living a minimalist lifestyle, the last thing on your mind is what friends or family will think.
You just want to be able to breathe again. You need the clutter gone and you need it gone ASAP.
So you throw yourself into decluttering with a gusto you didn’t even know you could muster. When you’re done, your house is finally that peaceful place you always dreamed it could be.
You no longer spend all your spare time organizing and cleaning up.
It’s pretty amazing.
Minimalism is the best thing that’s happened to you in a long time. And when something that great happens to you, who do you naturally want to tell?
Yep, family and friends.
It’s not until you start gushing to your parents about the new lifestyle you’ve embraced that you realize (from the looks on their faces) how counter-cultural minimalism actually is…and how crazy it can sound to someone who isn’t there yet.
Your friends start feeling “used” when you try to implement and adopt a borrowing culture.
Your father-in-law (who remembers every gift he’s ever given) unexpectedly asks, “Whatever happened to that clock I gave you?” He gave it to you EIGHT MONTHS AGO.
Your sister is massively offended that you don’t want your kids to be showered with every new toy on the planet at Christmastime.
If you’re like me, you’re totally blindsided and unprepared for this kind of backlash.
Isn’t minimalist supposed to be a good thing? Then why does it all of a sudden feel so hard?

5 Ways to Respond When Family & Friends Don’t Love Your Minimalist Lifestyle

1) Find like-minded community.

I am so very thankful for the internet. Despite its many flaws, it has allowed me to connect with others who truly love all things minimalism.
I can gush enthusiastically about my latest decluttering spree with people who get it.

2) Remember that minimalist living is counter-cultural.

When we find our people, the ones who “get it”, it’s easy to forget that a big world exists outside of our little minimalist bubble. In that big world out there, consumerism is mainstream.
Whenever you choose an alternative lifestyle, you should expect pushback. When you expect it, you’ll be better prepared to deal with it graciously.

3) Be humble and sensitive.

I never intended to come across as proud for living a minimalist lifestyle, but now I see how I could have come across that way.
In my early days of decluttering, I couldn’t believe that anyone would not want the benefits of minimalism. I definitely overshared with my closest friends and family.
A few years later, I realize that not everyone wants minimalism or should necessarily choose it. Their knick-knacks bring them joy, not anxiety, and that’s awesome – for them.
Even if they do eventually end up choosing a minimalist lifestyle, they’ll choose it when they’re ready. Pressuring them in any way, even if it’s only oversharing your own enthusiasm for minimalism, is more likely to hurt instead of help.

4) Receive gifts graciously.

When I first became a minimalist, I was so fresh off the overwhelm that comes with clutter, I had a difficult time receiving unwanted gifts graciously.
As a recovering people-pleaser, I felt obligated to keep them forever and feared the relational tension that might result in eventually passing those gifts along to another family or the local thrift store.
Realizing that I could express sincere appreciation without being obligated to keep the gift long-term was so freeing! You can also give specific gift guides to grandparents/family who ask for them, which cuts down on the unwanted gifts which inevitably become clutter.

5) Let go of guilt.

Even if your family and friends don’t love minimalism, you need to remember that it’s your life, not theirs. You know what’s best for you and your family. You get to make the choices, and you don’t need to apologize for them.
You can and should be sensitive, but you don’t need to feel guilty for being intentional about what deserves a place in your home. You are not obligated to keep gifts forever.
Declutter unwanted gifts discreetly, but also keep living the best life for you. Your family and friend will either accept it, or they won’t.
One uncomfortable interaction is not the end of the world, though if you hate conflict as I do, it might feel that way at first.
Ongoing toxic relationships are another topic entirely, but minimalism has also helped me to be intentional about how much time I devote to relationships that drain me instead of fill me.

Final Thoughts

Having friends and family that not only don’t love minimalism but are also openly hostile towards it can be sad and stressful. But if you follow these tips, you can do everything in your power to prevent pointless conflict.
How they choose to respond is up to them.
Remember: the only person you can control is yourself. Keep living intentionally, and hopefully, they will eventually rejoice with you over how much minimalism has changed your life for the better.
And who knows? They might even become minimalists themselves one day because of your example.

ebook picJune loves deep discussions about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging at This Simple Balance, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with five kids ages nine and under doesn’t happen very often!

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Cathy on 05/08/2019 at 1:24 pm

    I had friends who fit the model of minimalism, (without calling it minimalism – they had tons of storage in their basements, or inherently cycled / changed things out frequently) who openly commented on my house, upon visiting (single mom, working full time, with health issues, legal / financial and other issues) ; all I heard, esp after a few visits – they would openly comment every time – clutter and critique it. I was not physically, mentally or emotionally in a place to handle the comments, even if they were said after looking around the room, down their nose and saying with a sigh “how can I help?”….was not that helpful, because of how it was delivered. The clutter was a visible symptom of other issues that need help – how about paying for someones child care for 6 months, or find a Dr who knows what they are doing, instead of saying “its all in your head” ? (with no strings attached) Now that is helpful ! If you are “sharing your love of minimalism” with friends and family, understand you can and will likely come off as critical, lacking empathy, possibly snotty, judgemental or self centered. If I can do it, you can do it, is the worst shaming thing to say. For many, It takes alot of physical work, effort, energy and time (which many of us lack, in todays’ life/world) to even begin the minimalism journey. I wanted to clear my clutter badly, (adding a baby to a house bought for 1, was, and still is a challenge) but after the comments from “friends and family” who saw the visible overwhelm / clutter (not acknowledging the other factors) – and commented – I say, keep your mouth shut, when visiting others. Offer support, tips, ideas or this website, only if they ask, or comment, after visiting your home. Invite them to your home – but don’t openly say, “I don’t like the clutter in your home”…. this article is good, but does not hit the deeper society issues, that often put people on the track of excessive stuff/clutter. Sorry, in my experience, but most minimalists are really lacking vision and understanding of the factors affecting others – and it’s not buying more / consumerism. Best wishes from another view.

    • Rachel Jones on 05/08/2019 at 3:15 pm

      Wow Cathy, that’s so hard! The comments I had from people who “had it all together” were very hard to take and I only ever felt shamed. They weren’t minimalist, but their homes were never messy.
      My mom used to come over and do my dishes all the time and I thought she was judging me for lacking the ability to get it done and she told me: “When I was a young mom, I had dishes in the sink all the time and I decided that when I was older and was around young moms I would do their dishes!” It’s such a relief when people understand and truly want to help. ❤️

  2. Heidi on 05/08/2019 at 6:28 pm

    Hi there,
    That doesn’t sound helpful at all for you!
    Yes, my husband is very minimalist and he often had an agenda with me to get me to get rid of many things! He is well intentioned and lives me of course but I always feel like he’s asking me to get rid of stuff for him and not on my terms.
    I know that I do have more than I need and sometimes I feel very guilty about it. I know that I need to get rid of things but I need to go through my things at my pace not his.
    For example my closet space is three times as big as his.
    However I am only eight months post pardum with our second kid. I have a few totes in our basement of clothes that I’m not ready to go through and decide what to keep or loose fit now..
    We also have some totes downstairs that store hand me down a have for the kids .. it does need some better organization however, I like that we do not have to go out to buy things when needed.
    It feels very exciting digging g into the totes and discovering the cute outfits!!
    However we have an annual community yardasale coming up and that’s pressure re we for me to get through my things to get some stuff ready for that.
    I would like to pace myself and I live giving things to other people and passing it on!!
    Even just dropping items to Goodwill for example ,feels very uplifting!
    To share.uout stuff and also have less things to keep track of!
    Good luck on all your journeys. I do not believe that minimalism is a static lifestyle that way above everyone else! Life is dynamic so we are always needing to be adapting to the changes! Sometimes we fall and fail and need to reset.

    • Heidi on 05/08/2019 at 6:38 pm

      PS in addition, I have already given away so much already in the last three years especially since we moved to the city and in a much smaller home. Often I think he forgets many of the adaptations I have made to living with him and our two kids.
      Before moving to this home, we rented a farmhouse from my parents so we had so much space to buy and store it was out of hand for sure!
      Also, since we were renting from my parents’ then my mom would also Store thing in our place and validate her plans with each item .
      Though she already had two storage units full of pieces with similar fates .
      I was so happy to be removed from that place that put me in between my husband and my mom because they are very strong opposing opinions.

  3. June on 05/08/2019 at 7:13 pm

    I’m so sorry you were hurt! Thank you for sharing your experience. ❤️

  4. Charlene Farwell on 05/17/2019 at 5:43 am

    Thank you! It has been one of THOSE days. You lifted me up. Breathing deeper and calmer already.

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