minimalism · musings

WHEN MINIMALISM FEELS LONELY

Sorry for the melodramatic post title, but doesn’t it feel that way sometimes? For me it does. Not all of the time, but definitely some of the time. Minimalism is a wonderful, wonderful thing, but it has also posed a huge challenge when it comes to maintaining some kind of normality in my personal and professional relationships. While I’m blessed to have a husband who has a truly minimalist soul, I don’t have any other family, friends (IRL, that is!) or colleagues who identify as minimalists or even identify with the philosophy at all, really. That’s not to say that everyone I know is a shopaholic or a hoarder, it’s just that we’re not on the same wavelength, if you know what I mean.

It was only the other day that I posted about my Christmas boycott. Funnily enough, just after that I found out that it’s a tradition in my department at work for everyone to give gifts to each other in what I later discovered is a planned gift-giving session involving sitting around in a circle, unwrapping all your gifts and then hugging each other excitedly upon discovering what the gifts are, surrounded by mounds of discarded wrapping paper and gift bags. Obviously, that and me are not compatible.

The prospect of this gift-giving bonanza was definitely a test of my resolve this year to boycott Christmastime consumerism. Luckily I had about a week’s notice of what was to take place, so I was able to act swiftly and it turns out that for the most part, my damage control was successful. I advised the six other people in my department that I wouldn’t be giving or receiving gifts, but instead would make a donation in each of their names to the RSPCA, and that should they wish to do so, they could also make a donation on my behalf with the money they would otherwise have used for my gift.

In the end, two of my six colleagues said they would be making donations, which is more than I expected, and only one ignored my wishes and gave me a gift during the gift-giving session (Can you imagine my delight? Her justification: I couldn’t not give you a gift. Don’t worry, it didn’t cost much! I think she missed the point entirely…). While my colleagues really did try their best to include me, as they are lovely people, I couldn’t help but feel that I just wasn’t one of them. As I sat awkwardly in the circle, watching the unwrapping process, I could see that this was a truly fun experience for them, and I felt quite lonely in the knowledge that I just couldn’t manage to find it fun. I didn’t feel left out for not giving or receiving material gifts, of course – that’s exactly what I wanted! – but I felt emotionally alone in my choice to not take part.

This really reminded me that anyone who thinks choosing minimalism is some kind of cop-out, laziness or extreme form of stinginess is seriously mistaken. It’s a conscious lifestyle choice, and one that doesn’t come without compromises. When we gain simplicity, we are trading in our connection to many of the activities and beliefs that our societies hold as sacred, and that can be a bitter pill to swallow when we spend much of our time with people who don’t share our views.

But moving right along to the positives in this.

The lovely and very wise Britt of Tiny Ambitions offered some excellent words of advice regarding going against the grain in this post on when minimalism feels difficult:

“Rest easy in the knowledge that you are making this change as a commitment to yourself and your family. Everything else will fall in line.”

Well said, Britt! It is wonderful to have awesome blogger friends out there in the ever-expanding online minimalist community to remind me what this is all about when minimalism feels challenging and isolating.

I have no regrets in choosing this path; it’s the most liberating choice I have ever made but it’s also lonely and at times that’s really hard because even though I’m an introvert, I love connecting with other people. It really is comforting, however, to remember that I have made this choice as a commitment to myself. For me, it’s about bringing my lifestyle in line with my philosophy: less stress, less stuff, less waste. From the beginning this has felt absolutely, entirely right, like an enormous breath of fresh air that has brought joy and a renewed sense of purpose to every aspect of my life, and all this certainly outweighs the social awkwardness of not fitting in.

But on another note, could all minimalists please unite and move to the same place? Pretty please? That would make my life a lot easier. Thanks 😁

Have you felt lonely in your minimalism or other alternative lifestyle choices?

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “WHEN MINIMALISM FEELS LONELY

  1. If it wasn’t for the internet, I would definitely feel like the odd one out in my lifestyle choice. Just this week, my department threw a tree decorating party. And I just sat in my office because that’s just not my thing. Maybe I’m just an antisocial weirdo? Or, maybe I just know what I do and don’t like.

    Thanks for including a quote from of my posts. When I read it, I didn’t even remember writing it 😂 But I’m happy it’s resonated with someone (even if that someone is on the other side of the world).

    I know one thing for sure, we Minimalists need to stick together! Great post Lisa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Britt! Oh I would feel the same way about a tree decorating party…fortunately to date I have not been subjected to one! If you’re an antisocial weirdo then I definitely am too! We minimalists definitely all need to stick together 😃

      Like

  2. Hi Lisa! I’m not a minimalist but I’m inspired by minimalists to make some changes in my own life. I love Britt’s blog and visit it often. I can completely relate to your workplace story. My husband’s family is doing a gift exchange online where everyone has to list something they want and whoever gets their name will buy it for them. It seems unnecessary and I feel like I have to come up with something I want just because of this. I would rather they make a donation instead!

    I don’t have kids and can feel isolated by my choice to live “childfree.” I’ve found a great online community which helps! Plus, I’ve started networking with other bloggers and it’s wonderful to connect with people online, especially as an introvert!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Courtney! Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. Isn’t Britt’s blog great? 🙂

      That’s interesting about your in-laws’ gift exchange. If you feel strongly about it, I wonder if you could write down the donation as the ‘thing’ you want? Since it seems most donations are made online nowadays, the person who gets your name might actually find it really easy and oblige your wish. My husband has had to do Secret Santa at his work for the last few years and he just asks the organiser to tell his SS he would prefer a donation instead of receiving a gift. Each time the person has thought it was a great idea and has been very happy about making the donation!

      We’re also living childfree, having made this choice together in the last year, so I can completely relate! Online is definitely the best place to meet fellow non-parents, since just about everyone I know either has kids or wants to have kids!

      Like

  3. Hey, I just started reading your blog and I love it so far!

    I have never been strictly “minimalist,” but coming from a low income family, I was never a big participator in the typical consumerism-focused culture that is so prevalent in the US today. Now that I’m an adult I’m glad that I was raised to be frugal and careful with my purchases, because I feel like I’m free from a lot of the “needs” that a lot of my friends and colleagues have. At the same time, I have always felt a little out of the loop, because so much of the standard daily life seems to be focused on Stuff, and the acquisition of money in order to obtain more of said Stuff, and people seem to really enjoy that. I don’t think its fun, it just makes me anxious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mickey! Thanks so much for reading and I’m really glad to hear that you’re enjoying the blog! I can definitely relate to what you’ve said as I also grew up in what I would describe as a low-income family with a single Mum. While I don’t feel I was ever deprived of anything, I was definitely taught to be frugal and to look after my possessions. It seemed difficult back then, because it was hard to not be envious of my wealthier school friends at least some of the time, but like you, I think it set me up to be wary of our consumer culture.

      Like

  4. Gift exchanges are how some people try to build bridges to connect to other people. The trick is to give up on the means (gift exchanges) without giving up on the ends (building bridges.)
    When I stopped doing long distance gift exchanges with my mother, I also arranged for her to fly to Chicago to see my wife and I at least once a year, and she appreciates that more than Stuff. And since my wife and I often explore together what the world-class city we live in has to offer, we don’t need to give one another Stuff. And spending time with co-workers outside of work goes better than taking part in office Secret Santas. Of couse, everyone’s circumstances are different, but I’m just talking about how I got out of the gift giving cycle.

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment and for sharing your story on this! That’s an interesting insight on the psychology behind gift exchanges and I agree that the key is finding ways to keep building bridges while rejecting the gift-giving part. I feel it’s a shame that for what seems like so many people, exchanging gifts is the number one way of showing friendship and affection. It’s as if the dollar value of the gift is also a measure of how much we love that person. That’s great that you and your wife are doing so many things to enjoy experiences over things. Our household has the same philosophy!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s