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.
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.
June 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!