How to Know When Your Minimalism Becomes Excessive

There is no doubt that minimalism changed my life. Rigorous prioritization helped me become more productive, mindful, and determined. Nevertheless, minimalism also has its downsides, and these can ultimately undermine its benefits. That’s why it’s essential to know when your minimalism becomes excessive.  

We all know someone who fell into the trap of over-executing a good idea. 

There is the gym rat who wants to become Arnie in two weeks and breaks his knees. 

Then there is the Wall Street junior who works 16 hours a day for two years and ends up with a burnout. 

And finally, some seek to improve their lives by getting rid of the superfluous, just to become bitter, anti-social, and judgemental. 

These are the dangers of minimalism. 

Executed right and tailored to your specific needs, minimalism can optimize your life. 

Your productivity can skyrocket, your finances can get a boost, and your personal growth can take off. 

However, if you get it wrong, minimalism can also become a burdensome lifestyle, full of compromise and sacrifice. 

5 ways to know when your minimalism becomes excessive 

To find the right balance between a helpful attitude and a detrimental burden, here are 5 ways to know when your minimalism becomes excessive. 

Snow-covered peaks in the Austrian Alps - how to know when your minimalism becomes excessive
Picture by author/print available on FineArtAmerica

1. You get rid of things without questioning their value 

Why did minimalism become popular in the first place? 

Was it because people wanted to keep recycling centers in business? No. Was it because plain black t-shirts were becoming best-sellers? Not quite. Or was it because Netflix needed a new documentary genre? Certainly not. 

Minimalism became a mainstream movement in the aftermath of the 2008 Crisis because people started to question the value of the stuff they owned.  

With finances tight, they started to realize that they might not need five pairs of everything. 

Of course, many people questioned the value of their purchases before, but the global movement really took shape in the early 2010s. 

And that’s where you can start your test. 

Questioning the value of stuff, consuming intentionally, and defining priorities is a simple precept. 

Consequently, if you’re throwing stuff out because you are a minimalist – without questioning the item’s value, your minimalism might have gone a step too far. 

2. You judge other people for being too “consumerist”

I believe that minimalism only works as a personal lifestyle. It’s not social, political, or environmental.

That’s why judging other people’s consumption habits might be a sign of excessive minimalism. 

Once you start to take the idea of prioritization beyond your habits, you are going too far. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with promoting the lifestyle, supporting your friends and family in their prioritization attempts, and building a case for sustainability. 

Nevertheless, there is also a fine line between being helpful and judgemental. 

Ask yourself: would this comment have helped me as an aspiring minimalist? 

Would I like to be called “consumerist” and “anti-green” for driving my dream car? 

And finally, are the people I am judging even interested in becoming more mindful, focused, and intentional? 

3. The idea is more important to you than its practical implications 

Another way to see if your minimalism has become excessive is to measure whether you’re using it as an abstract idea or a practical lifestyle booster. 

As an example, if you judge other people for their supposed lack of sustainable thinking, it might be time to focus on the practical impact of your actions, not other people’s attitudes. 

Always utilize the concrete aspects of minimalism and don’t get hung up on the lifestyle’s philosophical tenets. 

4. You stop seeing clear, positive results 

Once you stop feeling the benefits of minimalism in your everyday life, you might have taken it too far. 

If your minimalist actions result in one step forward and two steps backward, your minimalism might be excessive. 

Losing joy from material things is a classic case in point. 

Donating three of your favorite t-shirts to buy one equivalent sounds reasonable on the surface. After all, you probably have twenty similar shirts lying around. 

However, if that new t-shirt is now the only one you enjoy wearing, you might have overdone it. 

man in a boat with icebergs - how to know when your minimalism becomes excessive
Picture by Mason Jones / Unsplash

5. Your lifestyle hampers your progress 

Minimalism as a lifestyle stops being beneficial when it halts or hinders your progress in life. 

When every single decision has to conform to rigid minimalist rules, you might lose a lot of time and energy. Excessive questioning might destroy your newly-found focus. 

The same goes for never-ending prioritization. If you spend all your time wondering whether project X or project Y is more important, your prioritization could negate its own purpose. 

Final thoughts 

So, how do we stop minimalism from becoming excessive? The magic word is balance

Take a step back and slow your life down every once in a while. Give your minimalist habits a break and enjoy some guilty pleasures. 

Ask yourself whether minimalism is making your life better. Look at the journey you’ve been on and determine how many of your achievements came thanks to minimalism. 

If you can’t sense clear improvements in your life, you might be doing it wrong. 

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