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.
“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?