Don't Let Minimalism Steal Your Joy

Don't let minimalism Steal your Joy

Minimalism.  It seems to be the new black. Clearing out, thinning your closet, reducing your layers. I respect the minimalist idea that when we let go of what we're holding on to, we make room for more. I have seen the Universe at work, affirming this in my life.

I'm somewhat on the minimalist bandwagon myself; we just moved after 8 years of living in the same house, and we're thinking of moving again next year. So after spending much of the last month and a half of my life packing and unpacking boxes, and STILL climbing over boxes of stuff, I'm ready to lighten my load. I'm ready to get rid of the things that don't serve a purpose in my current life, to pass them on to someone who can benefit from them and treasure them.

We have a toddler, and suddenly I look around to notice that we have acquired lots of large, colorful plastic objects. We have a dog who has more toys than most kids do (yes, he plays with them and notices when one goes missing). I have exotic tassels hanging on doorknobs, and decorate by draping textiles over couches. There are bowls of trinkets on the table, gathered from corners of the world near and far. There are closets of traditional Indian clothes, once worn. There are shelves of harem pants that we used to sell at shows, multiple pairs for each season. There's what I call "the shoe museum," because we all have a collection of something, right?  Apparently I collect shoes (among other things).

If you've ever cleaned out a closet, I'm sure you're with me on this one: getting rid of stuff isn't just a physical battle. It's quite a mental and emotional one as well. I keep hearing myself saying, "where in the hell did this come from?!" or "why did we save this?!" as I stumble upon treasures of yesteryear whose importance has long since been forgotten.  When it's all packed up, it seems like it would be so easy to just take all of the boxes to Goodwill and not think about them again. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes.

But when the unpacking begins, after you get rid of the stuff that was definitely not worth moving, it's like opening a Pandora's Box: rose colored memories of days gone by, the treasures you collected with the friend who's no longer here, the shoes that you wore on that first date, the glass bead making tools from when that was your profession, the cases of cd's that aren't available on Spotify, concert t-shirts that haven't been worn in years. And how can you throw away those mixed tapes from the summer of '89? 

I see lots of images on Instagram of these stark white houses with clean lines, empty counters, empty surfaces. No stuff. When my eyes land on these pictures, at first I feel myself breathe a sigh of relief.  It's definitely easy on the eyes. It must feel good to not be surrounded by stuff. But then I find myself wondering: where are the treasures? Where are the trinkets? Where is the stack of books she wants to read? Where are the kid's toys?

Where is the charm? Where is the connection to the past? Where are the dreams for the future? Where is the blanket that you cuddle under on a cold, rainy day, the thing that makes it home?

So between this influence of minimalist style, and my personal tendency for maximalism, I've been rooting down and listening to my inner voice, trying to find the balance that works for me.

Amidst all of the memories and all of the stuff, all of the sifting, sorting, and agonizing, clarity has come. I hear my inner voice say, "You don't have to get rid of everything. Keep what brings you joy, what really touches you. And let go of the rest."

So here is where I am on my mission to minimize: I value the freedom in letting go, while honoring the beauty of holding space for that which matters. I'm not opposed to the idea of minimalism, and I'll borrow from the philosophy where it suits my style. I will willingly let go of the things that no longer serve a purpose in my life. While at the same time, I'm not forcing myself to let go of the things that touch my heart. I won't give up the charm, or let go of the treasures, while chasing a minimalist aesthetic. I won't let minimalism steal my joy. 

Where do you fall on the minimalist vs. maximalist spectrum? I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to comment below, and let's talk about finding the balance between stark minimalism, and cozy with treasures.


Want to create your own maximalist magic?
Download The Art of Mala Making today!

Download your free visual tutorial: The Art of Mala Making


  • Lory

    I am a retired art teacher. Need I say more? This article was so refreshing! And timely, as I am in the middle of transitioning from my classroom life to my home studio life. We artists simply MUST have physical stuff. I have an inordinate amount of art books, frames found at garage sales and thrift shops, and of course, art supplies!!!!! Add to that my extreme sentimentalism about souvenirs from travels and life, objects that bring back feelings of moments: the red rock from Colorado, the souvenirs from trips abroad, I will never part with!! Thank you for reframing it so eloquently. You made me see I don’t have to feel shame or guilt for what may seem like clutter to some.

  • Karen Earnhardt

    I agree! I think minimalism looks nice in theory but I think those of us who are creatives often yearn for color, texture, memories. It is hard to let go of things because I can imagine them in a new piece of art. As a mosaic artist, I truly believe the saying that these aren’t my junk, I see them as my treasures. Sparks of new creations to come. Until it comes time to move, of course! We downsized a couple of years ago and I should have let some of my older treasures from previous passions go – yarn, wool felt, etc. Thanks for spurring me to think about these ideas more. Good luck with the packing and unpacking.

  • Catherine

    Thank you so much for writing this. It’s so refreshing! This whole minimalism trend has been affecting me quite a bit, everyone around me is pro-minimalist and so I’ve sort of come to believe one shouldn’t have a lot of stuff, only the essentials and a few bits and pieces. This is great and all, and works for the people around me, but it’s different for me! I’m a collector of vintage cameras and camera things, and other vintage things that I don’t want to let go of, I also bead, so I have lots of beads and findings, I also make do art so I have acrylics/watercolours, alcohol inks, mixed media stuff, and a fair amount of art I’ve made, I have trinkets and treasures from the past and from different parts of the world. I also love colour, so theres a lot of colour going on in general around me. I have cleaned out a lot and simplified things as much as I feel possible, so I wouldn’t say I’m a maximalist but I still have more stuff than the people around me which bothered me because I’d adopted their perspective that anything other than the essentials is “too much”. But reading this post is fantastic because it reminds me that it IS OK to not be minimalist. Thank you.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You may also like

View all
Example blog post
Example blog post
Example blog post