© 2019 by julia dawn olson

Why I Can't Do Extreme Minimalism and What I Do Instead



I get why minimalism has become so popular. We live in a highly saturated world full of endless options, noise, and chaos. It's no wonder why many of us have had to pull back in many areas of our lives. It's all just TOO MUCH!


The shift started happening for me after I was diagnosed with Graves disease over 15 years ago. I remember sobbing as I literally crawled up the stairs of our 1950's red brick cape-cod house in a suburb of Chicago, realizing I could no longer keep up with the constant revolving door of excessive hustling, creating, shopping, and consumption. I physically could not do it anymore.


Before that time, I never really thought I had a problem. I figured I was just engaging in a joyful process of creation. It wasn't until I got sick that I could truly see that my habits were excessive. It was time to make a change.


We sold our house, many of our belongings, and set out to create a new space that was more minimal, organized, and thoughtful.


I let go of the major DIY projects that took up every square inch of our garage and made a promise that I would only do simple projects that could be completed in under an hour and donate any unused supplies I no longer needed.


We simplified our interior design style and cut back on our excessive spending.


I spent months creating systems and habits that fostered a more gentle approach to life.


In time, I learned to accept the quieter pace. My body and mind were thankful.


But I'm still ME.


I still love creative projects and evolving interior design.


I still love to rotate my blouses, hats, and jewelry.


I still like to create beautiful, magical moments that matter to me.


So I've had to find what works for ME.


I've had to find a way that honors my desire for peace and simplicity, while still capturing the magic and spark that comes with creative expression.


I'm not going to lie and say it's always easy to figure out what works for me. It's not. Sometimes I crave more color and creativity and sometimes I crave more simplicity and stillness. But I'm learning to accept that it's an ever-changing process.


The key for me has been what I call my "Middle-Way Approach to Intentional Living".


Here's a diagram to explain it.




In my mind I picture EXTREME MINIMALISM on the left, which would be like wearing the same black shirt for 365 days straight and only owning one plate that you have to wash every time you eat. (By the way, I'm not judging people who do this, it's just not for me.)


On the right, I picture EXTREME CHAOS, which looks a little bit like Whoville at Christmastime. (Or in my case, this would be my Chicago house.)


I try to avoid the extremes and allow my SWEET SPOT to ebb and flow with life's changes.


I try to accept that there will be times when the SWEET SPOT moves a little to the right (like December for me)




but then moves gently back toward the left (like January for me).



I find that if I continue to stay mindful about it all, then I'm able to stay in a place that feels good to me.


I also like to keep a list to remind me of the things that feel extreme to me. These are the things I try to avoid.


How about you? Where would you fit on a diagram like this? What are some of the things that don't feel good to you on one end or the other? How has your SWEET SPOT moved as life changes for you?