7 Excuses that Keep People from Owning Less and How to Overcome Them
Fifteen years ago, on a Saturday morning in Vermont, my neighbor introduced me to a truth that would change my life: Owning less can revolutionize our daily existence.
Oh, I’m not sure she meant all that when she told me her daughter was a minimalist. But after working all morning to clean out my garage, the connection was immediately made in my mind between owning less and having more freedom.
Despite having plenty of available excuses that could have held me back—not making enough money, having two young kids, working 50 hours a week, and a scarcity of resources on minimalism available in the world—I was motivated by the promise of a simpler life. I wanted more time, more resources, more freedom, less stress, and more opportunity to focus on what matters most in life.
My journey, like many others, was filled with internal debates and justifications, but the vision of a clutter-free, intentional life was compelling enough to push past them.
Since that day, and the start of this blog that same weekend, I have met many people who desire to own less, but for some reason believe it is just not possible for them.
Oftentimes, it seems to me, we find ourselves crafting excuses that hinder our journey towards minimalism. They seem justifiable—a shield against the hard work, the unknown, or discomfort of change. But when we peel back the layers, we uncover a path to a life of more freedom, peace, and fulfillment.
Let me address some of the common excuses I hear and how to move beyond them by both shifting our mindset and taking practical steps:
1. “I Don’t Have Enough Time”
The world is a busy place and many are living at breakneck speed. Finding time to minimize the possessions in a home is simply not possible, we believe.
Mindset Shift: Think of decluttering as an investment. Every minute you spend decluttering results in an extra hour of time on the back-end. Minimizing is not adding something to your schedule, it is a step of beginning to clear out and open your schedule.
Practical Step: Think of one commitment or hobby that you can remove temporarily. Your decluttering will have an endpoint and anything you suspend today can be added back plus more. But you are right, if you can’t find 10-15 minutes/day to begin the process, you will need to make a minor adjustment to keep owning less a priority until those time dividends begin paying off (which will be sooner than you think).
2. “I Have Kids at Home”
Minimalism with kids is definitely more difficult than if you were living alone, but having kids in the home makes minimalism more important because they are watching and learning about the role of possessions in your home and life.
Mindset Shift: Introducing your children to a lifestyle of less is a gift that keeps on giving. It teaches them about value, appreciation, and living intentionally.
Practical Step: Your first step toward owning less should not be making your kids get rid of their things first—no matter how tempting that might be. Begin by decluttering your stuff first, and explaining to them along the way why you are doing what you are doing. If they offer to help, awesome! If they don’t, even after you have completed your personal work, teach your kids how to own less based on all the lessons you have learned.
3. “I’m Just a Messy Person”
The language we speak to ourselves matters quite a bit. If you have spent a lifetime telling yourself that you are always going to be a messy, disorganized person, there’s no wonder why your home reflects that fact. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Mindset Shift: Your predisposition doesn’t have to be your future, and past behavior isn’t necessarily, your destiny. Every day is an opportunity to foster new, healthier habits.
Practical Step: Start by minimizing one area in your home that you use every day and then maintaining it daily. You’ll find that the less you own, the easier it is to be organized. And this small win can be a powerful motivator for bigger changes.
4. “This Is Just What I Learned Growing Up”
When I speak on the topic of minimalism and have opportunity, I encourage people to consider how their family of origin affected their view of possessions. It is a powerful determinant, sometimes good and sometimes bad, in how we view and consider physical possessions today. There is no doubt you may have learned some unhelpful lessons while growing up.
Mindset Shift: The lessons that were learned in past seasons of life may not be serving you well in your current season. You have the power to craft a new legacy, different from what you learned growing up.
Practical Step: Sit down quietly with yourself and ask, “How did my family of origin affect my current view of possessions?” Identify one attitude or habit from your upbringing you want to change, and then commit to a 29-day experiment of intentionally breaking free from it.
5. “I’m Too Overwhelmed to Know Where to Start”
We live in a period of time that is very unique—never before in human history have human beings owned as much stuff as we do today. So the process can appear overwhelming. But others have made the change in their home, and so can you.
Mindset Shift: Overwhelm is a natural part of any change. Overwhelm occurs most often when we consider the entire project all at once rather than breaking up the work into smaller pieces. Remind yourself that you didn’t collect all your possessions overnight and you don’t have to remove them all at once. But with small steps, any journey is possible.
Practical Step: Break down your decluttering project into manageable tasks and start with the easiest one. The most effective method to decluttering your entire home is to work through your home, room-by-room, starting with the easiest, most lived-in spaces.
6. “My Spouse Would Never Go for It”
You are right, you may have discovered minimalism before your spouse or partner. And they may seem hesitant to get started. But I have learned that there is much progress that you can make by just removing your own personal unneeded possessions first, and allowing your example to win him or her over.
Mindset Shift: Remind yourself that it is always easier to see everyone else’s clutter than it is to see our own. My spouse may never fully come onboard to the degree that I have, but that is okay. There is freedom that I can bring to this home by simply removing the possessions I can control. In the long run, the benefits of owning less always outweigh the pursuit and accumulation of unnecessary things.
Practical Step: Always lead with love, patience, faithfulness, and humility. Remind yourself that minimalism is the good that you can bring to this relationship. And while you can not fully control your partner, you can still make significant progress by decluttering your own belongings and sharing the positive impact it has on your life with your spouse.
7. “I Live in Four Seasons, So I Need a Lot of Clothes”
I discovered minimalism in Vermont and shortly after decluttered my clothes closet from over 150 things to 33 things. Years later, I moved to Arizona. I agree that living in four seasons requires more thoughtfulness in picking out the clothes that will live in your closet. But it is entirely possible and people do it all the time.
Mindset Shift: Seasonal changes don’t necessitate excess. And there are no perfect places on earth where the temptation to overaccumulate doesn’t persist. Your specific practice of minimalism might look different from someone living in a more temperate climate, but that doesn’t make it any less possible. No matter where you live, minimalism is about making smart, versatile choices.
Practical Step: Try out a Project 333 Experiment. The experiment lasts just three months—so no matter your climate, you can find a season of year to learn from it.
Before I end, there are two main thoughts that motivate me whenever I feel an excuse keeping me from success:
Finding Motivation in Others’ Successes
I am motivated greatly by the success I see in others. If someone is busy, but still finds time for their family, I realize I can do the same. If someone earns less than me, but is still generous with their money, I realize I can do the same. If someone lives a busy life, but still finds the time to declutter their home, then why can’t I?
Remember, countless individuals in circumstances similar to yours have successfully embraced a minimalist lifestyle. They, too, had careers, children, and busy lives. Their success is proof that you can do it too—use that as a source of inspiration. If they can do it, so can you.
Always Focus on the Positives
Our mindset plays a crucial role in overcoming excuses.
If we only think of the reasons we can’t accomplish a step in our lives, we’ll forever be held back by them. If, on the other hand, we look for the reasons why we can accomplish the change, we’ll find the pathway to success.
Negativity and doubt can be self-fulfilling prophecies. But so can positivity, optimism, and hope. Focus not just on the joy, peace, and freedom that await on the other side of decluttering. Focus on all the good things you have in your life to help you accomplish that task—like this website and helpful article 🙂
Minimalism will bless your life with positive results you haven’t even considered. But owning less is better than reading about owning less.
So overcome any excuse keeping you from it!