June 2, 2021

If Minimalism means Letting go of Joy, then Forget It.

I awoke one Saturday morning with the dreaded feeling of ongoing sadness and depression.

I thought to myself, “I cannot do this, I cannot go there,” when out of nowhere something spoke to me. I don’t know what spoke to me, but indeed it was something or someone who cared for my soul. And what I heard was, “What would make you happiest right now? What is it that you really want to do? Get up and go do that thing!”

My answer to this voice was despairing and a little embarrassing. I said, “I love to go to garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores, but I can’t do that anymore. I am a minimalist. Whatever I bring in the house, I’ll have to take back out. What is the point in that?”

But then, the voice said to me, “Stop thinking about how you will deal with this, and go do what makes you lose track of time, go do what makes you truly happy.”

With full permission from I’m not sure who, I quickly got out of bed, got dressed, and headed out, before I changed my mind.

This felt profound and freeing. That Saturday was the end of my misery as I embarked once again on what brings me joy, regardless of how silly it is.

And I have not stopped.

Treasure hunting brings me joy! I finally admitted it to myself and swallowed the pride I had about the commitment I had made to minimalism.

The back story is that I had been on a minimalist journey for quite some time, ridding the closets and drawers of almost everything in our 4,000 square foot empty nest. It was finally empty of children, but still full of many things. It took about four large declutter missions and countless small ones, to get to a place where I felt like mostly a minimalist.

While I was never a “white wall minimalist,” I cleared a lot of spaces and it took loads of work to get to this point. I had to set many rules to keep myself from bringing stuff back in—that was my strategy.

After some time, I began to notice that my space was teetering on the side of boredom. I no longer bought books—I preferred to kindle or rent them from the library, I no longer had things on my coffee tables—the tables were for setting down a coffee cup, of course, and the guest room closets were near empty. I followed and knew all of the most popular minimalism accounts, I was researching tiny houses, and I even participated in a project of only having 33 items in my closet for a season.

I’m certain that “white wall minimalism” was just around the corner. The feeling and vision of space felt like clarity, but apathy was falling hard and fast upon my soul.

What I learned during minimalism is that I was good at letting go. Letting go is a necessary thing to master in life, as we will all, eventually, let every single thing go.

I used minimalism as some sort of spiritual practice. By being able to let go, I was making room for new beginnings and by not buying new things, I was practicing a strong discipline. However, new beginnings weren’t happening the way I envisioned and I was growing less and less happy.

I had become a disciplined minimalist. During this time, I took a trip out of state with some girlfriends where we shopped for days at antique and junk malls.

I did not bring home one single thing.

Instead, I enjoyed ice cream and popcorn as they joyfully purchased unique things. I may have bought a used book to give a friend. I still recall seeing the joy in their faces of finding that special antique treasure. Smugly, I was beyond needing to buy anything to make me happy. I just didn’t resonate with this lifestyle anymore. I’m ahead of that type of living…so I thought.

At a later time during this period of my life, out-of-town friends stopped by our home, looked around, and asked, “Does anyone live here?” and I was, honestly, quite humiliated for the first time ever about my level of minimalism. I used to express myself through the items I owned—through my belongings and decor I had chosen and arranged. Knowing that my home looked more like a showroom floor at a furniture store and not an expression of my soul was a little hard to face.

Can anyone see me in this space anymore?

I have been on this “joy journey” since that Saturday I received that message in the summer of 2019. I will never forget it. Now, I go often and regularly to visit my favorite thrift stores with zero guilt. I don’t feel complete until I have searched for the Saturday garage sales and lost myself in the hunt.

That, to me, is a perfect weekend.

I have bought and cleaned up treasures, gifted them, used them, and even re-donated some. What I have found to be true, is that we should not own anything we believe to not be useful or enjoyable. I am still the queen of letting go of things that I no longer need or use, but I am also the queen of treasure hunting—my joy.

My home is beautiful again with shelves of used books, estate sale furnishings, well-worn sweaters, and trinkets that glimmer joy. I relish in the feeling of using my $3 like-new estate sale bread maker and baking homemade fresh bread to fill my house with the smell of peace. I enjoy finding fashion dolls to take home to restore their beauty, give to children, or to collect. I cannot bear to think of them ending up in a landfill, and I now have an entire room full that has been lovingly restored. I also enjoy taking loads of things to the donation station when I am done with them so someone else can find use from them. I find joy in giving love to something no longer wanted, and also in letting go of things not needed anymore.

While I have taken some beautiful things away from the minimalist movement, such as letting go and conscious consuming, I also found that in its extreme form, it is not a good fit for most. I can afford to buy new, but I prefer to find it used somewhere out in the wild. I am proud of my curated collections of odd things, antiques, and pieces of history from here and there that grace my home.

I enjoy things that have lived a former life, things that have a story, or have been made with care and appreciation. I lose myself weekly in my pastime. There are far too many things already made in this world that we can use, rather than always searching the big box stores for the same thing in a new version.

Our homes should be havens of treasures that we adore, of history and stories, decisions and memories… or not? But most of all, they should be the place where we express our most honest and truest joys.


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