The minimalist dilemma: where do you draw the line?

May was not a minimalist month in our home. After searching for a bigger and better apartment for six months of we finally made the decision to stay put. The next step was getting our very tight space ready for life with the baby. As we had done virtually nothing to our home during the apartment hunt, there was a lot to do: in addition to accommodating the baby’s things, we wanted to paint the walls, create more storage space and finally put some photos on the walls.

In the end I’m glad we didn’t move to a bigger place, as redecorating our space was stressful. It started off with the worst week of the month, when the painters created havoc for three days and my laptop died. Then came the steady stream of purchases: a bed for the guestroom (so at least one of us can sleep in peace), a new sofa (I’ve been sitting on the floor for the last year), a crib, and changing table and a host of organizing knickknacks. On paper it doesn’t look like much but my mind still reels at the thought of all the items we bought over the course of one month.

It’s not about the money. What really gets to me is the realization that whatever you buy, you’re always going to want/need one more thing to make it perfect. It’s like once you make that first purchase, the flood-gates have been opened. Take the kitchen as an example: first I bought rails to fit on the walls to organize our pots, pans and cooking utensils. Then we realised our spatula was old and needed replacing. While replacing it, my husband remembered that he’s always wanted to get a slotted spoon. Back home, I noticed that our rubbish bin looked really mangy now that the kitchen was organized. And so on…

I’m pretty sure this is a dilemma that most mainstream minimalists face: to streamline your possessions and living space and minimize mental clutter you need to slightly increase physical clutter. That’s okay. We can’t all live out of a suitcase. But where do you draw the line? Seeing as you could argue that any item except for oxygen and food is a non-essential, how do you know when stop?

In my case, I simply decided that by the end of the month I’d had enough. I didn’t care if something didn’t look perfect or hadn’t been crossed off my to-do list. If we had survived without it for the past year, we could hang on for a little more. June was declared a no-purchases month. I’ve simply refused to buy anything that is not included on a supermarket shopping list.

For the moment the mental stress associated with buying another item far outweighs that item’s benefits. So although my rubbish bin might still look a bit crusty my mind is much clearer.

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