From Materialist to Minimalist: If it doesn’t bring you joy, then let it go

If you’re on social media, you’ve seen it: a single piece of furniture, surrounded by shiny white walls, with nothing else in the room but a perfectly placed lamp and fur throw—free of clutter and distractions. This phenomenon taking over your news feed is what some people refer to as “minimalism.” When put into tiny little pictures sprinkled across your screen, it looks attainable, even simple. That’s what I thought anyway, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.


Before I share my minimalism journey, I suppose I should start from what I consider to be the reason I’ve gotten myself into this situation. I was in eighth grade and out with my parents, when we ran into my best friend’s mom. After a bit of small talk, she said, “So did you hear what our daughters have been scheming?” Fear filled my eyes. What was she going to say? 


“They have a pact to not wear the same thing twice this year at school,” she said, and just like that, our cover was blown. One would think that a silly teenage girl idea like this would not carry over into adulthood, but that is not the case. All it took was one year of not re-wearing the same outfit to engrain in my mind that I was some type of failure if I had a repeat. 


Fast forward 15 years, and here I am using three out of four closets in our home for myself, along with the majority of our crawl space and an entire guest room that has been converted to my “closet room.” 

Yes, you read that right—an entire room dedicated to displaying my obsession with “stuff.”

It might sound cute or funny, but in reality, it is the source of most of my grown up temper tantrums. “I hate all of my clothes!” I yell, then throw said clothes on the floor. “I can’t find anything in these drawers!” I think as I struggle to get them closed: how have I gotten this far without some type of intervention? Does anyone care about my sanity and well-being? 

Enter my moment of self-realization. This April, while unpacking my spring clothes, I decided to take a stab at organizing, mostly for fear of being lost under the piles of clothes, never to be seen or heard from again. Unfortunately, my version of “organizing” turned into piles and piles of categorized chaos. I knew right away that this wasn’t going to work.


My minimalism research began with an irrational fear of letting go. Once we place such great importance on “things,” it’s very hard to part with them. As I began to dig more deeply, I came across a website called “The Minimalists.” They explain that the premise of minimalism is to only allow things in your life that serve a purpose or bring you joy. Anything that does neither is to be kicked to the curb. My brain almost exploded upon reading their suggestion that I should do this throughout my entire home. 

I decided to cut myself some slack and just start with my closet. Baby steps, right? Even just focusing on one category of my life has been difficult. My answers to those simple questions generally result in responses such as, “But what if all four of these nude pumps bring me joy?” or “You can’t have too many pencil skirts, right?” They sounded like reasonable questions to me, until I realized that the last time I wore half of these items was years ago. 

My journey is nowhere near complete, and I’m sure I will continue to rebel against the process along the way. But I think that when I finally reach the end, my future self and sanity will thank me.



Catherine Sims is a realtor and blogger living in Rochester with her husband and two dogs.