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What Will People Think!?!

what will people think - adopting minimalismImage: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A while ago I got an e-mail from a reader who asked me to post on what others around me thought when we first adopted minimalism.  It isn’t a bad question (and I am sorry it took so long to get it in the posting schedule).  What Will People Think!?!

Somehow in society we are taught to ‘dress for success’ but then not to worry about what people think.  How does this fit together?

When adopting minimalism, asking the question ‘What will people think?’ is very real.

What will people think?

  • What will people think if I start selling stuff?
  • What will people think if I get rid of X (fill in the blank)?
  • What will people think if I downsize?  Sell my house?

I have (mostly) nice friends so I can’t really tell you exactly what people thought of our downsizing but I can say that two common thoughts were?

  1. Are they short of money?
  2. Are they crazy?

The money one is probably the most common.  (crazy was probably established before this point ;))

It make sense right?  Someone adopting minimalism looks the same as someone who is being foreclosed on (or should because even then some people can’t part with their stuff… but that is another topic)

I think there were (are still) people worried about the kids.  It is deeply rooted in our society that kids need their own bedroom and lots of toys.  Not specifically lots of toys, but they need one of everything to make them happy and that ends up being lots.

Another thing closely associated with being short of money is our societies picture of failure.  If someone can’t own the big full house, with lots of full garages, than they are failing in life.

So adopting minimalism can have others thinking you:

  • are short of money
  • crazy
  • terrible parent
  • a failure

There are probably people out there who think all these things of us.  To me the hardest is the terrible parent one, but they are all embarrassing and disturbing.

The good news is that most friends and family – people we care about – don’t think this.  They probably had more questions than they voiced while we were going through the process but I think it is okay to expect that.  Try something new, anything new, and people will wonder what is going on.

In fact, we have helped inspire people to cut back.  Often in conversation people tell me about how they are wanting to cut back or asking questions about adopting minimalism.  This is exciting to me!

It is interesting to me, how in society, we want so desperately to fit in but admire and follow those who don’t.  We are careful about what we say or how we dress so it doesn’t stand out or offend anyone, but we admire people who have clear opinions.  We try to cover all our bases and be balanced (or as close as we can get) but we admire those who give their all to a cause or a talent or a dream.

None of this is wrong or right, it is just the world we live in.

To tie it all together I think you should totally adopt minimalism as it fits you and your family best.  I think anyone and everyone would benefit with minimalism in their things, their schedule, and their mind.   Everyone is different and everyone’s version of minimalism would be different.

If you do try and change what you are doing on a small scale (like changing your hairstyle) or on a larger scale (like selling everything you own and moving to Africa) people will think about you differently.  Probably worse at first, but there is a decent chance they just need to wrap their mind around it and might like the idea later.

I think it is good to ask ‘What Will People Think?” and be ready for some questions, but PLEASE don’t let it stop you from living the life you want.  No one else defines success for you!  Only you do!  It is far better to be a failure in everyone else’s eyes and die a success and happy with your life than die after making everyone else happy.

Have people thought you were crazy (or worse) when you made a change and then come around and liked the idea later?  (if you are reading RSS or on currents join us in the comments)

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17 Comments

  1. Laura Eadon Laura Eadon

    My family and friends joke along with me, calling me “OCD” and whenever I turn something down or give something away they joke “it’s clutter!!”

    They might things I’m crazy, but all in good fun.

    Besides, even if they didn’t, it’s my life to live and I hope others stand up for their happiness no matter what others think.

    • I think it’s good to be a bit crazy 🙂

  2. Laura Eadon Laura Eadon

    *think I’m crazy

  3. We struggle with too many gifts and how to not appear to be ungrateful. Especially my husband’s family will give him sweatshirts annually. He doesn’t wear them out that fast, but hates to donate them until they have seen him wear them! What will they think?

    • I understand 🙂

  4. I sometimes feel that people don’t understand my choice to be a work at home dad. It has been hard financially, but I am here for my kids and to support my wife in her business. But a lot of people don’t understand anything outside of the “man goes out and earns the money” concept.

    Anytime you do something that is contrary to the social norms you’ll find people who wonder what you’re up to. Some may even be somewhat hostile.

    • Yep, but they don’t know what is best for your life 🙂 Good job! It is interesting that it is tied into the ‘taking care of’ concept of society. That parents (especially Dads) need to go out and work to properly take care of their kids. If your kids have a roof and food to eat there is a much greater chance that what they need most is you at home ‘taking care/being with them’. It is very common to say that kids need their parents more than they need stuff, but it is rarely prioritized in that way.

  5. I am sure people have thought that I lost my senses. I quit an eight year job with a fortune 500 company in the nineties so that I could have a more simple life and spend more time with my family. At the time we truly needed the money, so people just didn’t understand my choice. I don’t regret any of my decisions. I wouldn’t change one thing if I could go back. I have poured my heart and soul into my kids’ lives. And that’s what is most important to me. We’ve been in the same little cottage for 26 years and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything different. I would be happy to live in a camper, but my husband and children aren’t on the same page with me about that!

    Thanks, Lorilee! Your writing truly inspires me to keep living the simple life that I LOVE!

    • thanks so much for your comments. You sound like you have lots more experience than me 🙂 I never regret leaving work to watch my kids either.

      • It’s a continual learning process for me (more years of experience doesn’t necessarily mean anything).

        • 🙂

  6. Shelly Shelly

    At my son’s 3rd birthday party we stated in the invite “gifts welcome only if found or made.” I LOVED the creativity! Rocks, shells, a square press board with a grid of nails tapped in (sticking in just enough to hold it) and rubber bands to stretch over them… pictures, and all sorts of lovely things! My son felt so important – and one mom was just stoked to death that we had the gifts stated that way. She LOVED it. Others were really uncomfortable – wrapping their handmade or found item in tons of giftwrap and ribbon (thoughtful, but just not necessary for my 3 year old son). And one of his bought gifts (outside the party) came with bubble wrap. Nobody would ever understand it as purely as a mother, but my child loves that stuff more than the gift that it was protecting! I’m crazy and content.
    Next year, we’re thinking about having book birthdays so we don’t get more toys… or gift certificate birthdays to experiences rather than things. I just love being happy with what we have, and still exploring the possibilities beyond tradition.

    • that sounds so fun!

  7. Great topic! I’m not (yet) an officially self-declared minimalist, but I’ve been working on cutting back pretty consistently. The most common response I’ve gotten is that people are inspired to get rid of some of their own clutter. A close second is a reaction almost like offense, like by rejecting the hoarding of physical things I am somehow ridiculing a culture people hold dear. It’s not a reaction I expected, but I guess I can understand it, maybe.

    • Lots of people take offence because they think that by someone making personal choices for their family that they somehow think the rest of the world should also change. … not sure what to do for those people either.

  8. jesse jesse

    Great post! Me and my family are currently selling 90% of our stuff to move into an RV. Its been a dream of our for years and everyone thinks we’re nuts.
    Love the encouragement!

    • Jesse that’s awesome! We have been dreaming of that too but we have a ways to go to save up. I would love to hear your story or feature it sometime on the site if you want to share 🙂

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