Like many out there, you embraced the minimalism trend and have enjoyed a happier, more peaceful life for it. Even though you enjoy concrete benefits from the practice, however, you may find yourself falling victim to “clutter creep.” With more than 61 million Instagram users identifying themselves with #minimalism, and another 4 million identifying themselves with #minimalist, there’s no doubt that this trend is here to stay. The question, though, is can you get back on track once you’ve fallen off of the minimalist living wagon?
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Falling Off the Minimalism Wagon: How Did It Happen?
If you maintained a minimalist lifestyle for some time but have seen signs of clutter creep occurring, you are probably wondering how you let it get to this point. First, be kind to yourself and acknowledge that things happen in life that often get in the way of our best-laid plans. Whether it’s a new marriage, a new child, a new home or simply a new lack of spare time, you may have started to notice signs of clutter rearing its ugly head again. The most common signs of this are constantly losing track of important items and noticing stuff starting to take up more and more space in your home.
Waking Up to the Problem: First Steps
A small bit of good news: If you catch the problem early enough, getting back on track can be as simple as maintaining and tracking your belongings more carefully once more; holding yourself accountable again; and checking in with your mental state.
Honing the Minimalist Living Habit
To most effectively reembrace the minimalist lifestyle, it helps to understand how habits are honed in the first place. Ideally, a new habit that you’d like to embrace is one that is easy, appealing, obvious and personally satisfying. When attempting to introduce or reincorporate a habit into your life, you need to identify a cue, a craving, an appropriate response and a reward. In the case of minimalism, the cue may be noticing clutter; the craving may be wishing it wasn’t there; the appropriate response might be to find ways to eliminate said clutter; finally, the reward should be obvious here: a decluttered space and a newfound enthusiasm for minimalism.
Why Do Good Habits Slip Away?
A habit slipping away is somewhat like a tiny crack in a windshield. At first, the crack—or the lack of maintaining the habit and the resulting consequences—appears small. Over time, though, the crack splinters, widens and becomes undeniable; in other words, clutter again takes over your life. Left unchecked, this can easily result in throwing up your hands and falling off the wagon entirely, but it doesn’t have to. By being on the lookout for small setbacks, you can fix the issue and get back on the proverbial wagon more quickly and easily.
Starting to Slip? How to Get Back on Track Fast
Again, the first step in avoiding the downward spiral away from minimalism and back toward cluttered living is to be vigilant for signs of slippage. The earlier that you realize it is happening, the easier the process of getting back on track will be. If you notice a problem developing, deliberately inject the habit into your day—and give yourself some grace. Striving for 100-percent perfection is a surefire way to give up completely.
To effectively remain on the wagon and avoid clutter creep, constant monitoring is a must. Some ideas include using a daily checklist, marking on a physical calendar every time that you work on the habit and performing weekly or monthly reviews of the situation.
Tips for Getting Back on Track with Minimalist Living
If you’re ready to kick clutter creep to the curb and to reembrace minimalist living, these tips will help:
1. Be Kind to Yourself
It is very easy to want to beat yourself up over letting things devolve. Avoid this temptation because chances are that it will only worsen the problem, leading to self-sabotage that will keep you in this rut even longer. Try to find the good in slipping up. Perhaps you got really busy with a new job or with a family visit, for example.
2. Set a New Intention
In this case, of course, the new intention will likely be to reembrace minimalism. You already know that it’s an attainable goal because you’ve accomplished it before. Try not to be overly rigid as you work toward your goal. Start with small, easily attainable goals, and then work your way up from there.
3. Recalibrate Your Monitoring System
Ward off another slip into cluttered living by assessing and improving your monitoring system. As noted above, this might mean marking a daily calendar, completing a daily to-do list or performing regular reviews of your progress and the overall situation.
4. Identify Obstacles and Remove Them
Figure out what triggered you to fall off of the minimalism wagon. Was a particular time, location, event or mental state somehow involved? For example, did you have guests stay with you long-term? Maybe your emotional state took a nosedive for some reason and needs to be addressed. It might even have developed from a change of location or with personal events occurring in your life. Whenever possible, remove these obstacles, or at least be cognizant of how they can affect your progress in the future.
5. Identify Why You Fell Off the Wagon
While you may be able to trace the start of your fall to a particular time, place, event or emotional state, you should also figure out why you kept letting things slide until they got so bad. Did your life just get way busier? Did you become depressed? Were you dealing with outside stressors that sapped your ability to care or keep up?
6. Start Now
When it comes to returning to the minimalism wagon, the sooner you start, the better. Remember that energy is actually generated through action; it doesn’t just spring up and become available for use. Keep in mind that motivation isn’t a real thing. Waiting for it to develop will just keep you from ever achieving your long-term goals. Starting with small, easy-to-achieve steps will help to build up a momentum that is sure to help you get pointed in the right direction again. Before you know it, you will be back to living the minimalist life that brings so much joy to you and those around you.
You Can Do It!
Like any habit, minimalism, once developed, isn’t etched into stone. It is just as ephemeral as any other good habit that isn’t properly maintained and monitored. Succumbing to clutter creep isn’t fun, but it is not the end of the world, either. In fact, it could even end up being a great learning experience that helps you to embrace minimalist living even more. In turn, you will find even more joy and peace in the lifestyle—and isn’t that all that any of us want?