My own minimalist journey began in small life-changing realizations. It didn’t necessarily start all at once, but being a large part of the minimalist community, I couldn’t help but start to see patterns emerge in some of the major life events that inspired people to turn away from possessions and begin practicing minimalism. To really get a better idea if my suspicions were correct, I took a poll of around 200 minimalists to see what they said sparked their journey. Some had just decided to practice it, but for the most part, I began to see very clear patterns emerging born out of traumatic life experiences. Here’s the breakdown of the top 5 I noticed and how we can use these lessons to inspire us to live a more purpose-filled, simplified life.
What is considered trauma?
Now, there can be some confusion as to what trauma is. A lot of times we consider only the worst of the worst. The truth is, psychology has recognized that trauma is born out of any even that is distressing or disturbing. There are absolutely different degrees of trauma, but make no mistake, most of us have experienced some form of it in our lifetimes.
Just had to get that out of the way.
Does anyone just start minimalism?
So you might be asking yourself are minimalists only born out of traumatic events? Answer: No.
Some people just have an epiphany or realization that their stuff is taking a lot of time and energy to maintain. They recognize there is an issue and they begin to declutter. Pretty uneventful.
In short, yes, there are people who just decide to start minimalism without experiencing any particular trauma or trigger. However, if you are feeling particularly inspired to try minimalism after a major life event, chances are, you will find a similar story in this list.
Loss of a loved one
Many people are shaken into minimalism after the loss of someone they love. This could be a parent, child, grandparent. The options are limitless.
A consistent pattern that continued to come through was that people who experienced a major loss quickly realized how little value their things had to them anymore.
The loss of a loved one tends to be one of those things that opens our eyes and reminds us to hold one another close. When you have suddenly had a life taken away from you, the sparkle and glitter of the latest sale seems to lose its luster.
This can be one of the best and most difficult realizations to have in a lifetime. Seeing life with renewed visions helps us focus only on the things that truly matter and we instinctively begin to embrace more experiences rather than things and redefine our version of what it means to live a successful life.
Loss of a parent
Yes, the loss of a parent is in the same category as the loss of a loved one and can spark the realization to value life more.
However, another common occurrence is when a child loses a parent and is forced to spend their time, energy and money sorting through, throwing away and donating an entire house of junk that their parent left behind.
I know people personally in my own life who used this exact reason as fuel to declutter their homes and live more minimalist in order to prevent their children from having to endure the same ordeal.
It can be so easy going through our day to day life without realizing just how much stuff we are gathering until we are confronted with what it really looks like to have an entire house full of accumulation.
For those who have experienced days of decluttering a lost loved one’s belongings, and how much time and energy it requires to sort though it, it can invoke a feeling similar to that Jagermeister. You know like when you drank too much one New Years Eve and now can’t even stand the smell of?
Let’s not forget those poor families who have lost their entire homes in one sweeping moment. Whether that be fire, tornado, hurricane, or some other natural disaster.
There are entire communities of people who have been forced to flee their homes without a moment to spare. I think it’s safe to say when your life and the life of your loved ones is in danger, you get a really clear perspective of what stuff you’ll bring along on your trip to safety.
It reminds me of that timeless question, “What would you grab if your house was on fire?” We might consider all of the things we value you that we would try to grab on our way out. However, I think the truth of the matter is, you wouldn’t have much desire to grab anything.
Unfortunately, another realization many people had was after having to leave an abusive relationship (or working to let go in preparation to leave).
When you just want to get out with your life, you don’t really care what comes with you. Could you imagine being a mother with several children trying to pack one backpack as fast as you can. What would you take to start a new life with them?
In the case of one minimalist mother, she grabbed clothing, the children’s hand-made Christmas ornaments and an antique side table she was given. With only these possessions she re-built a safe home. That’s really all that is ever required isn’t it?
It can be so easy to get bogged down by the things the TV or advertisements convince us that we need, but when we get down to the nitty gritty of it all, they are usually never the things that bring lasting contentment and security.
While all of these events can spark depression and anxiety, the final common theme was from people who struggled with mental health and used minimalism as a way to control what they could.
Not only have there been numerous studies to show that minimalism helps with depression and anxiety, but for many, just being able to be in control of one thing outside of themselves when everything inside feels chaotic and crazy can be exactly what is required to help them recover.
Take what resonates
If minimalism or decluttering has been lingering in the back of your mind, take a moment to read through these situations (if you haven’t experienced them yourself) and try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has.
Does it spark any deeper desire to eliminate that you previously had?
Did you have a similar journey to minimalism? If so, feel free to share in the comments.