When Are You Allowed to Call Yourself a Minimalist?

When Are You Allowed to Call Yourself a Minimalist?

Have you ever decided to make a huge change in your life only to realize that a ton of other people arrived at your epiphany waaaay before you did?

That’s pretty much the story of how I stumbled backwards into minimalism. Yeah, I’m embarrassingly late to the game and I thought my epiphany was super nuanced and original…and then I realized there was already a name for my new life philosophy, minimalism, and a shit ton of Pinterest boards dedicated to it. So, it turns out I wasn’t the first one to “discover” this way of life and, thanks to my late arrival, I’ve got a lot of learning and catching up to do.

In one of the posts from when we were nearing the end of our summer in the van, I wrote about how living in the van taught me how freeing it was to live with less. Sure, I had a whole storage unit full of stuff, but I missed exactly none of it. The stuff we had with us in the van was the perfect amount.

Before this summer, if someone had told me that I could survive with only the amount of stuff that I could fit in a vehicle, I would say that it couldn’t be done – or at the very least that it would be really hard. But what I learned this summer was actually the opposite – life gets so much easier when there’s just less.

When it was just me, my husband, my dogs, and the stuff we needed to eat, sleep, and live in the van, I had a lightness and a freedom that I had never before experienced. And when I crash landed back into “the real world,” that freedom was the thing I found myself missing and longing for the most.

Enter my epiphany.

Unaware of the whole already existing concept of minimalism, I began thinking about how I could apply the principles of simplicity that I had learned from living in the van to my “real life” so that I could continue feeling as light and free as I did this summer.

The main ways that I came up with to do this were to:

  • Reduce the amount of stuff I owned
  • Keep only what I loved and needed
  • Focus less on the material possessions around me and more on my husband and our pups
  • Entertain myself with new experiences instead of new things
  • Get my ass off the computer/phone and outside more often
  • Make room and time for the things that really matter to me

And as it turns out, I basically backwards engineered minimalism.

Or at least, I backwards engineered my interpretation of what minimalism is.

When I discovered that my epiphany already had a name and that a ton of people have been existing for years as real, card carrying minimalists, I got a little intimidated. Like…I discovered all of this completely on accident. Am I doing it right?

Short answer: probably not, but that’s okay.

I’m sure most of us have been where I’m at now – struggling with labels. When I first started this blog, I wondered when I was allowed to call myself a writer. When I started exploring trails with my dogs, I wondered when I was allowed to call myself a hiker. And now that I’ve decided to start living without all of this unnecessary stuff, I’m wondering when I’m allowed to call myself a minimalist.

However, as with “minimalist,” “entrepreneur,” “writer,” and every other label we might seek to assign ourselves, it’s important to remember that labels don’t really matter. You don’t need to own an expensive camera to call yourself a photographer, you just have to go out and strive to take better photos every day. You don’t need to make a living writing a blog or publishing novels to be a writer, you just have to constantly strive to improve your writing and be dedicated to your craft.

So I think as long as the intention and the desire to work towards our goals is there, we can call ourselves minimalists – or whatever else it is we are striving to be.

My house doesn’t look like a minimalist home yet. I still have way too much stuff and getting rid of things is still a daunting task – but I work at it every day.

If you’re in a similar place and you’re wondering when you’re allowed to call yourself what you are striving to be, think about 6 months, a year, or five years from now. Think about how unrealistic it is that one day, you’ll wake up and be like, “yes. Today is the day that I feel like a successful ________.” We’ll always be a work in progress which means the intention and the dedication is the important part.

I may be a struggling, newbie minimalist, fumbling my way through this new way of living, but I’m still dedicated to being intentional about the things I own. It will get easier, I’m sure, but the important thing is just being motivated enough to start knowing that I’m in it for the long haul.

Hopefully my journey into minimalism will help you if you’re struggling with your own labels.

Honestly, you’re allowed to call yourself whatever you want. But at the end of the day, the label doesn’t matter as much as the intention and work ethic behind it.

What are you striving to be? Do you ever struggle with what to call yourself along the way?