How Your Self Image Can Interfere with Your Minimalist Journey

In my mind there have always been two types of people: minivan drivers and non-minivan drivers.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. Some of my best friends drive minivans. And they love them. And I love those friends.

I, on the other hand, somehow got it in my mind over the years that a minivan equaled a life without excitement and a lack of self image (cough, cough….others thinking you were uncool.)

You see, we are all conditioned to have certain preconceived notions. This is no one’s fault, really. It just comes with growing up and living in a household, community and culture.  And in many ways it is a good thing. It helps us find and bond with kindred spirits (i.e. friends and soul mates) with whom we have things in common. These are the people who you often feel most comfortable with.

But on the flip side of that, it also causes biases that don’t often serve us well in life.  And it definitely doesn’t help us be a good minimalist.

Sometimes we have difficulty moving from one phase of our life to the next and that holds us back from cleaning the clutter from our lives. For example, I held on to clothes from my 20’s and later from my 30’s because I still saw myself as the cool, hip girl. Never mind the fact that I was no longer actually wearing most of them. Because (a) they were still in my possession, and (b) I MIGHT wear them SOMEDAY.

Would it surprise you to learn that never happened?

Me neither, looking back at it now.

But there are three things about this type of situation that seem to always hold us back, no matter how long we have been a minimalist:

  • Holding on to memories.  Lots of people have garages or attics full of memories, and let me tell you those memories can take up a gigantic amount of space. Now, I never advocate for getting rid of sentimental items that you can never replace (or that you actually use). I am talking about sports equipment for sports you no longer like. Or old furniture that you know will never be used again. If you don’t use it, lose it. You can always take a picture that will last forever. Maybe you enjoyed that certain activity in college but if that is not you anymore, then it is okay to move those items out of your life. Make a scrapbook with pictures of these items and send them on to someone who can and will use them.

 

  • Fearing the next stage. This is definitely where I landed with the minivan. I still thought of myself as the snazzy dresser who attended interesting cultural events and saw the hottest bands in concert. (How would it look if I pulled up to see Foo Fighters in a minivan?) If I wasn’t that cool and happening person anymore, then who was I? Can you say identify crises?

 

  • Caring what other people think. This holds most people back in all aspects in life, sometimes without us even realizing it. This was definitely happening to me. But one day something happened and I suddenly JUST DID NOT CARE ANYMORE. It suddenly made more sense for everyone to travel in comfort than for me to look “cool” – whatever that even means.

So the day we purchased a minivan I knew it was the right choice. I then used it to haul multiple loads of extra stuff away from my house and to a place where others could benefit from it. I hate to admit it, but this included some clothing and other items from my “cool” days.

How To See the Light

You see, we are all constantly changing and becoming a better version of ourselves, and with this wisdom comes a few points that we all need reminding of sometimes:

  1. It’s okay to evolve as a person.
  2. People who love you will still love you.
  3. People who don’t like you will still not like you.
  4. There’s no need to impress strangers (or your neighbors, your college ex-roommate, etc.)

And yes, buying a minivan added another vehicle to our driveway, but that is okay because it simplified our lives in other ways. It is now our go to vehicle for trips of any length, and therefore, stays loaded with most items we will need. It also carries all sports equipment and lawn chairs for practices, among other things.

It saves us so much time in planning and physically loading (and unloading) items that it was well worth the purchase.

And looking back now, I can see where our lives could have been much simpler for several years now if I had made the right decision –  although my hubby was my partner in crime on that one.

So when working to simplify your life, make sure you look at what serves you best and gives you the most joyful life possible –  regardless of what your ego says about your self image.