I spend quite a bit of time in online minimalist communities and reading blogs on the topic. As a result, I have seen many people adopt and then give up on this lifestyle. Over time, I have identified a few main reasons why this tends to happen.
Here are five simple reasons why minimalism does not work for some people. These can actually be applied to any sort of lifestyle.
1. Expect too much of it.
A number of people (ironically) make minimalism out to be something far more complicated than it actually is. You don't need an expensive course or lengthy instruction manual to get started. It really is simple: discard the inessential, hone the essential. That is the only rule. The benefits of that are myriad: more time, saved money, mental clarity.
Minimalism will not make you happy any more than buying stuff will make you happy. Only you can make yourself happy. I am glad I have already learned that at a relatively young age. Minimalism has done amazing things for me and changed my life, yet that is not guaranteed. Decluttering alone is meaningless without actually assessing what matters to you. Ignore those who treat minimalism like a cult or religion
2. Take it to extremes before you are ready.
If you wake up one day, decide to become a minimalist and straight away discard everything but the contents of a backpack, it is unlikely to work out.
Extremes just do not work in the long term for anything, especially for drastic habit changes. Switching from a typical consumerist lifestyle to owning very little is like going from a couch potato to running 20 miles a day. Or like going from a junk food addicted omnivore to a raw vegan. The experience might be valuable for resetting your attitudes. It's also possible that you end up worse off and discouraged, unwilling to take the plunge again. One of the reasons minimalism has been so beneficial for me is how slow I took the decluttering process. It took me nine months to go from being a hoarder to owning fewer than 150 items. Jumping straight in would have been scary and probably harmful. Chances are, I would have rushed out and bought heaps of new stuff to replace the gaps.
3. Don't fit it to your lifestyle.
We all have different lives, meaning different requirements for our possessions.
Take into account your profession, your hobbies, your family, your pets, etc. I often see articles entitled something to the tune of 'why I am quitting minimalism' which reject it as being restrictive. Curating the perfect wardrobe was too hard for them. They felt guilty about letting go of their sentimental items. They wanted their kids to have the abundant childhood they themselves lacked.
The problem in those situations is not minimalism in itself, but how it is treated. Those people failed to fit it to their lifestyle and tried to squeeze themselves, a round peg, into a square hole. I have even seen people asking if they should get rid of their pets or quit hobbies in order to be a minimalist.
4. Get sucked into lifestyle porn.
Airy Swedish rooms with stone floors and elegant metal furniture. Sparse Japanese apartments, wood lined and sprinkled with plants.
Crisp white blouses, black overcoats and grey woollen socks. Chunky silver rings and outline tattoos.
The aesthetic lifestyle porn side of minimalism is alluring. It is also somewhat difficult to attain and can be discouraging. Those images are heavily curated, edited or even set-up in a studio. Real life is messy and complicated. Intricate tattoos fade with age. White clothes get stained. Coffee gets spilt on furniture. It happens. There is no need to throw out everything and replace it with expensive, black and white stuff.
5. Berate yourself when you slip up.
So, you brought shoes because you were sad. You let your aunt give you a weird fuzzy jumper. You ordered a new blender online because it was on sale. You brought a phone in the latest model even though the old one worked fine.
That's it. You are no longer a minimalist. Please return your symbolic plain black t-shirt and leave the clan.
Actually, no. It's okay. The absolute worst way to look at a lifestyle as something dogmatic. Turning minimalism into a source of guilt is a surefire way to make yourself miserable.
Remember, it's not a goal. It's a process.