Like any other lifestyle change out there, it’s easy to romanticize the lifestyle in the beginning and you only begin to see the long-term pitfalls once you’ve been on the journey for a while. One of those pitfalls when it comes to minimalism is guilt. It goes without saying that we’re all unique individuals and not everyone will experience this in their minimalist journey, but for me, one of the biggest struggles has been combatting this constant sense of guilt that descends upon my soul every single time I decide to buy something. It’s almost the exact same feeling you experience when you’re in a bad financial situation and you decide to add a box of tic tacs to your groceries and suddenly feel this feeling of guilt wash over you for buying something that isn’t strictly a need (based on a true story as you can probably infer from the oddly specific scenario lol).
I don’t even remember how, when, or why this even started, all I know is that everytime I decide to buy something, I feel awash with guilt over whether I’m just buying clutter or whether it’s something I truly need. This guilt then leads to me feeling like an imposter minimalist and questioning my very identity (lol). (Side note: WHY does my brain automatically think of Among Us every time I see, hear, or think the word imposter now and how do I remove this association from my head?) And the problem is that this line of thinking is obsessive and unhealthy because the point of minimalism is supposed to be to find more inner peace and joy by cutting out the external unnecessary, NOT to create more inner clutter and stress rooted in consumerism.
I know many people have been decluttering more and buying less during this pandemic, but personally, I’ve had the opposite urge – I’ve felt a need to buy more things and make my home feel cozier and a funner place to be in, in order to replace all the fun travels and experiences that I used to engage in pre-pandemic. This has led me to an important realization: Things can be experiences in themselves. When you buy decor items, sure you can look at the decor items as junk, but if you want, decor can be an experience in itself – putting on some nice music, planning out your decorations, moving some furniture around, setting out your decor pieces, maybe putting in some elbow grease to hang up a piece that’s hard to reach, and then finally feeling that sense of accomplishment at the end of a project – this is an experience and it’s an experience that’s facilitated by objects that could very well be classified as needless clutter. It’s all about the perspective.
But despite having this realization, I’ve still found myself feeling guilty about purchasing things and I’m not quite sure how to stop feeling this way. I think the core issue is just that labels are problematic – we tie our identities to labels, then we try and conform our behavior to fit the box of the labels and whenever we do something on the unapproved list of the label, we experience negative feelings.
I’m not sure how I’m going to reconcile my identity as a minimalist and these feelings of guilt that I want to wave a huge goodbye to, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below!