If someone were an addict, let’s say of alcohol, and that person removed all temptation from their life – no more beer or wine or whiskey – that someone would be celebrated by most people for making strides towards recovery. People would cheer the removal of those temptations and be encouraged by the transformation of the addict into a sober individual.
The same would be true for a drug addict.
Likewise, a person who removed all electronic devices from their house in order to stop giving into a pornography addiction would be celebrated.
And if one were a morbidly obese person, most others would cheer for the removal of fattening foods.
But when someone chooses a minimalist lifestyle, when that person decides to live intentionally and rid their life of the things that distract from their happiness, peace, and greater purpose, when that person decides to stop buying things they don’t need and to declutter all the jumbled mess around them, when that person decides to make a lasting change that is incredibly countercultural… celebration is often far from the reaction one gets.
Have you been there?
Have you seen the criticism and judgment of your minimalist journey firsthand? Have you felt like you’re doing something wrong even though you know that your life is better now than it ever was before? And has a lot of the backlash come from someone close to you?
It’s hard to know what to do when the answer to any of those questions is yes.
We live in a society that is consumer driven. It is literally a part of our cultural norm to buy more and more and more – going into debt is made to look sexy. Seriously, if you’ve seen any of the latest credit card commercials then you know how they try to make overspending look glamorous. And a lot of people buy into it.
Purchasing new, bigger, better, fancier, more state of the art, faster, trendy, etc… it’s what people do.
And when someone steps outside of that and says no, others take notice.
The Judgmental Critics
Check out some of the major minimalism blogs or YouTube channels and you will no doubt discover a lot of disapproving people in the comment sections. Reading comments from those people can be annoying at times, but at the end of the day those comments are just random thoughts from unknown people on the internet. Random unknowns don’t tend to bring about hurt feelings.
But when someone you love starts to take notice of your new minimalist lifestyle and feels the need to chime in with their not so approving opinions, well, it can sting.
The criticism of your chosen minimalist lifestyle can feel more like harsh judgment at times, and for what reason? Because you cleared your house of clutter? Because you are saving money? Because you are living a more peaceful and meaningful life?
Well, frankly, all of the above… and more.
When taking in the criticism of others, we need to remember that those people are also living in the same consumer driven society that we long to escape. They are taking in the same information, dealing with the same struggles, and feeling a lot of the same stress we have felt.
And they are looking for ways to cope with it.
It can be easy to feel hurt by a family member or friend who lashes out over your minimalist journey. I think it is normal, actually, to experience hurt feelings. After all, we want the people we care for to approve of our lives and to understand us for who we are.
But sometimes, we need to look at things from a different angle.
Critics Struggle Themselves
I read a lot of posts that say if someone you care for is critical of minimalism then you should just continue modeling it for them and let them see how it benefits you. That works well for someone like my husband who is around me every day and sees firsthand what minimalism is doing in our lives. But I don’t think it works well for any loved one who lives in a separate house.
When someone lives apart from you and begins to criticize your life, you can’t really model anything. It is at that point that I really believe you have to start looking at what might be causing unhappiness in their life that would then cause them to lash out.
Are they really upset that you got rid of so many possessions? Or, are they feeling trapped in their own piles of stuff and unable to make any sort of lasting change?
Are they really bothered that you downsized your home? Or, are they feeling embarrassed by their constant need of more space to store the piles of junk that they never use?
Does it really bother them that you only keep what you really need or absolutely love? Or, are they just trying to figure out how they came to own so much that they don’t care about?
When people are unhappy in their own lives, they tend to take it out on others. Often, the criticism and judgment that comes out of their mouths is more of an anger response that dwells deep within them.
Yes, the criticism can hurt. No one likes to be made to feel bad for living life. Yes, the judgment can sting… but if we’ve truly come to a place where minimalism is a lifestyle we want to be a part of, then we need to be able to respond in a way that shows grace and good character. Because believing in what you are doing cannot be shared if you lash out right back at the critics. Responding to anger with anger only breeds more anger.
I have family members who do not understand at all why I am the way I am. It has gotten to the point where every time I see them I get at least a few comments about how I don’t spend money, throw everything away, don’t want anything, etc…
The comments made can be hurtful. They can be snarky and rude. They can bring me to tears if I let them. And they have before. But I recently discovered my voice in it all. And it isn’t a rude or loud voice. It is simply a voice that says I am at peace with who I am.
And it is a voice that begins with a smile.
Rude comment… I smile.
Snarky remark… I smile.
And I answer to the best of my ability with why I like minimalism. Things like because it makes me feel calmer inside, and more peaceful in my home. Because I have more time to enjoy life and less time is spent dusting. Because what I own I really like. I know what I have, where it is, and what it’s for.
I’m saving money.
My kids are happier.
My husband comes home to well maintained house and it takes very little effort.
I can take three hour walks and not feel guilty.
I can spend the day reading a book and not feel like I wasted my time.
Other than that pesky house payment, I don’t live in debt.
I can give more of myself when I’m not consumed by keeping up with whatever the latest trend may be.
I got rid of many distractions… and now I can focus on what really matters.
And I smile.
Grace and good character can really take you far in this world. Give the critics grace for their not understanding and for their own struggles that they project upon you, and have the good character to respond in a kind and loving way.
And then go home to your minimalist house, pour a cup of tea, sit down, and enjoy the peaceful setting you’ve created. Enjoy it, because chances are you will have to have those conversations over and over again… until one day it clicks and the judgment turns into respect for a life well lived.