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When It Is Taking Too Long

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What happens when a goal takes too long?

When it feels like it is eating up the life?

When there doesn’t feel like there is significant progress?

When does focused work turn into an obsession?

Where should I give up and seek contentment instead of growth?

Burning Need For Change

When does the uncomfortable state of our lives turn from motivational growth to an life-sucking obsession?

Since the theme of this blog is simple living I am going to talk about the simplification process.  However, I believe this works for many different goals in your life.

A few weeks ago a reader wrote me a bit discouraged.  She said she had been trying to simplify for quite a while and, though there had been progress, she didn’t feel like she was simplifying as much as she wanted too.  What upset her more was the fact that she thought she was just as obsessed about simplifying material possessions as other people were in collecting them.  Had it turned from one obsession to another?

Short answer is ‘no’ – I don’t think so.

Changing to a minimalist/simple life, for some people, is fairly quick and painless.  If they are single, more open to change, or don’t own many things, this could be a (relatively) easy process.

But for most people, myself included, the process of simplification felt extremely long and drawn out.

This starts because we often refer to the process as an event.  But, though there can be great progress made in simplifying in a short time, this concept of simple living and minimalism is a change in thinking and life values.

First

Changing our thinking takes time – usually a lot of time.  Where it is often a revolutionary idea to envision a simple life, this doesn’t come with the ability to get rid of things we have treasured and owned.  This creates tension in our minds because these things don’t add up.  We can’t have the simple life we want without changing our current life – and change is never easy.

There are many tools for helping make these changes and decisions.  I have been writing over the last few years about how to make these changes, what to keep, how to make priorities, and more.  But, while all this is helpful, changing ideas and habits take time.

I can’t speak for other minimalists, but I lived in a state of tension and confusion on these ideas for about 3 years.

How much is enough?  What does the simple life (realistically) look like for a family?  I still have more than I want.  What do I need and what is excess?

I can’t count how many times we went through our belongings and tried to simplify them.  Looking back I wish we could have just cut down faster.  It would have saved so much time of sorting and stressing.  But it takes time for the mind to change.

Second

This is a journey without an ending.  Though I believe you can simplify to where you are comfortable with your life, this point will change through your life.  Instead of focusing on a material or a schedule goal, it is better to see how they are acting as a tool for your life.

There isn’t a point where you ‘achieve minimalism’.  Minimalism is a choice you make in your head when you start the process and use to make decisions as you move forward.  Many people write me with “I am not a minimalist yet but… ” and talk about how they are trying to simplify.  But that isn’t correct.

You become a minimalist when you see a different lifestyle – one less distracted and ruled by things – and you start moving toward it.

So when does it become an obsession?

… when you stop making progress toward your goal.  When you give up on change but not on the idea.

Think of the person who is unhappy with their weight but has long since given up on the idea to exercise or eat healthy.  They are just miserable but aren’t willing to make changes.

Change is hard, discouragement is almost guaranteed.  Sometimes there will be progress and some days it will feel like nothing is changing.  As humans we want fast change and effective results but we need to realize that it may take longer than we want.

Tips:

  1. Focus on the progress you have made instead of how much farther you have to go
  2. Break future tasks in to realistic and manageable projects
  3. Be patient with yourself and pace yourself for a journey.  Small changes over a long period of time are more effective than a few big changes.

Thanks for reading!

8 Comments

  1. Well said! “It takes time for the mind to change” – Great line. When we have a new epiphany, we tend to want to respond to it in a sweeping radical shift and then beat up in ourselves when we meet delays (or even failures). This approach is counterproductive to living a simple life. Simplicity is more natural than that.

  2. In our society we are taught instant gratification which definitely doesn’t help when trying to make a lifestyle change. We might read or see something about minimalism and be inspired, but then we want that in our lives now! True change takes time and unfortunately there isn’t a substitute or a magic wand for it. It is a cliché, but it is about the journey and like you said, with minimalism/simple living there really isn’t a destination.

    I find my mentality is still changing and I was never a hoarder to begin with. When we allow change to happen slowly over time it allows us time to learn, mostly about who we are and how we want to live.

    MarieG lifesimplybalanced.com

  3. Rochelle Rochelle

    I was recently stressed about how hard it was getting to “finish” simplifying our home. You’re right… It is a lifestyle.
    There is always going to be someone giving my kid nonsense (cheap toys that will not last for one reason or another) that challenges our chosen simple ways. Learning how to maintain our standards is the goal.
    I also wish we had cut back bigger sooner. We took time figuring it out too. I can really relate to this post. Meditating on it and finding peace about my goals and personal direction seemed to be another step in the process.
    Communities (like your blog) are great ways to reinforce the beauty and joy in my choices. Thank you!

    • Heather Heather

      Lorilee, thank you for the comment about wishing you had parted with more things sooner. And thank you to Rochelle for the comment about meditating on and finding peace in her goals and direction. Both of these are very helpful to me as I plan a move to a smaller home with my husband and children. I have been stressing about what to take etc, and I really needed these pushes in the right direction!

  4. I’ve just resolved to downsize gradually because that works for me. We have the luxury of time before we actually move (as in another year – 18 months) so we just plug away a little at a time. It’s nice to take a trunkload of stuff to Goodwill every couple of weeks without ever having to have major decluttering projects.

    Focusing more on downsizing the things that suck up TIME (and money) than room at this point. We just sold our goats about a week ago. It was sad but part of our downsizing process – and saves money every month on food, vaccinations, etc., as well as the time to care for them, plus room for the hay, clippers, chow, etc.

  5. Nancy Nancy

    Hi Lorilee I am not a minimalist but your thoughts here about change are very interesting. The way I see it… In order to make lasting change in life a person must first change their mind…. Make a conscious choice about what they believe and value. You are a living example that a person can change their values and belief system. Determination for change grows out of dissatisfaction with the way things are, but our thoughts keep taking us back to past beliefs. And yes it does take time and it creates tension in our minds. Some call this “The Great Controversy”. What we chose to focus on and the values we choose will eventually shape us. The result is turmoil or contentment . In my experience, finding truth with contentment, is real growth and great gain in peace and satisfaction. I see the goal in change as challenging my current belief system and choosing to link myself with what is true and trustworthy.
    Our external lives will then reflect our beliefs and values. It is not the things we own or don’t own… The things that happen or don’t happen to us that make us happy or unhappy. It is our belief system and how we think.

  6. I loved the topic of this post, as I have been feeling the same way. I started reducing my possessions around 4 years ago, and reduce them again and again almost twice a year…but I still feel like I have too many for my liking. However, I do think back and congratulate myself on how far I have come and how much simpler I have made my life. It takes time and I guess the last step – when we really get down to the bare essentials – is the hardest!

  7. Rebekah Rebekah

    Loved, LOVED this post.
    I have been observing my mind change!
    It’s amazing.
    I used to love looking at Christmas décor in stores and now, honestly, it looks like junk. I can envision those things jumbled in a clearance bin two months from now.
    I am so grateful; I think Jesus is beginning to awaken me to reality and truth, and it’s not a life of deprivation He gives, it’s an abundant life, a life invested in what really truly does matter.
    Thank you for being part of this process in my life.
    – Rebekah

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