The Quick and Easy Guide to Coming Out as a Minimalist

“So, I hear you’re a minimalist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Last week, a reader emailed me for advice on how to “come out” as a minimalist. She wanted to explain to friends and family her desire to live simply—in a way they would understand, and without sounding judgmental of their lifestyles.

I think it’s a fabulous question, and imagine she’s not the only one struggling with this issue. For outside the cozy confines of the blogosphere, a declaration of “I’m a minimalist” may very well be met with, “You’re a minima-WHAT?” Smirks, raised eyebrows, and quizzical looks are not out of the realm of possibility, either.

I’m lucky—I eased my way into minimalism long before it was a popular Google search. As I decluttered slowly and methodically, year in and year out, my friends and family had plenty of time to assimilate my lifestyle. Though they may have found my empty rooms, bare walls, and sparse wardrobe quirky, they simply accepted it as who I was.

Those of you on a faster track to freedom-from-stuff, however, may find things a bit more challenging on the friends-and-family front. Never fear – I’ve written this Quick and Easy Guide to Coming Out as a Minimalist, just for you:

1. Tell the truth. Be honest about why you’re embracing a minimalist lifestyle. For example: you’d like to be more mobile, you’re concerned about the environment, or you’d like to be able to find things in your home without mounting a search expedition.

2. Focus on the positive. Explain the benefits you’ll experience from adopting a minimalist lifestyle, rather than the negatives associated with a non-minimalist lifestyle. For example: instead of saying you gave up your TV because it’s a soul-sucking time-waster, explain how you’ve found more time to read, write, and pursue your hobbies without it.

3. Give concrete examples. Many people have a hard time relating to “minimalism” as an abstract concept. However, if you tell them exactly *why* having less stuff makes you happier, they’re much more likely to understand. For example: you’re striving to declutter your home so you’ll have more space to work on your art, play with your kids, or do yoga.

4. Make it about you. “I don’t want to end up like you” is not the way to tell your debt-ridden, shopaholic sister-in-law that you’ve decided to consume less. Concentrate the attention on your finances, your clutter, and your closet space.

5. Don’t preach. Banish the phrase “you should” from your minimalist vocabulary, and don’t in any way suggest that your lifestyle is superior to someone else’s. If you put people on the defensive, they’re much less likely to understand or embrace your choices.

6. Show instead of tell. Here, as in many aspects of life, actions speak louder than words. Invite people over to your newly-decluttered space, so they can see your calm, spacious, and serene environment. The sight of an elegantly-spare room is much more powerful, and compelling, than a vague concept like “minimalism.”

7. Ask for help. Recruit a friend to help you declutter your wardrobe, or destash your hobby supplies. It’ll give them a first-hand look at how and why you’re paring down your possessions. Not only will it help them understand your choices; it may also inspire them to do the same!

8. Have a sense of humor. If someone pokes fun at your mattress on the floor, or teases you about your empty cabinets, smile and take it in stride. Appreciate the lighter side of living outside the status quo.

9. Steal my words (and those of other minimalist bloggers). If you’re not feeling eloquent enough to explain your decision to others, let us say it for you. Whether you’re struggling to explain your lack of a couch, your limited number of shoes, or your desire to downsize to a tiny home, you’re sure to find a relevant blog post you can forward along. At the very least, they’ll know you’re not the only “crazy minimalist” out there. ;-)

10. Don’t assume a negative reaction. In fact, you may be surprised how many others share your desire to declutter. Mention offhand to your colleague or neighbor that you’re “downsizing your possessions,” and you’ll likely be met with a knowing sigh, and a comment to the effect of “I’d like to do that, too.”

It’s never easy to make a dramatic lifestyle change, let alone explain that choice to those around you. However, with a little tact, grace, and charm, you can help others understand the joys you find in a minimalist lifestyle—and perhaps even inspire them to join you on your journey!

Does anyone else have tips or experiences to share on “coming out”? Let us know in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

59 comments to The Quick and Easy Guide to Coming Out as a Minimalist

  • I have helped people declutter for many years as a fund raiser for our synagogue. We have a “Goods and Services” auction every year and I donate a morning or afternoon of my help sorting and/ or decluttering. I have helped with basements, walk in closets, garages, and even a bathroom. Lately, I have been helping a woman clean out her home office. On one of my trips, I asked a woman if she really needed 6 pairs of white dress shoes. There are many single people living in huge homes because they can’t sort things by themselves.

  • […] link: Quick Guide to Coming out as a Minimalist (Miss […]

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