Three Things I’m Glad I Got Wrong About Minimalism

Nope, I don’t have 200 shoes again. Although if you’re not familiar with my journey, that’s where I started. I was raised by a nana who took her shoes seriously (she picked up pennies, too!), and I followed in her footsteps…a little too well!

After my closet reached a literal breaking point, I realized that I needed to simplify my life and dial back on the impulse purchases. Treating shopping as a competitive sport just wasn’t sustainable.

I’ve flirted with the idea of minimalism for years. I don’t keep it any secret that I think Thoreau was a chump and the suitcase sellers aren’t far off.

But I do think we are all better off when we own less, living and spending more intentionally.

After practicing this for years and years, I finally…got three things wrong and have never been happier.

We bought a shoe cabinet

I used to firmly subscribe to the notion that if you got good enough at minimalize, you don’t to buy any organizers or storage solutions.

Organized clutter is still clutter.

I still believe that. But I also believe that I’ve never loved my house more than I do now that we have a shoe organizer in our main hallway.

As a Midwesterner, it really never occurs to us to enter our home through the front door. That’s what our garage is for. Especially when it’s muddy and wet outside, which it is approximately half the year.

We take off our shoes once we enter the house–toddler included!–and we then proceed to trip over said shoes for the remainder of the evening. Even if we did use our front door like a normal family, there isn’t more space there to stash our shoes. Our house isn’t exactly big. Or particularly well designed.

So we contemplated stashing our shoes in the teeny tiny hall closet (it’s so small, we had to custom order a door for it!) that already serves as a winter coat corral, pantry, diaper bag receptacle, and so much more. As you can probably guess, this wasn’t terribly efficient.

We also thought about storing our shoes in our garage. But I don’t love the idea of taking a few cold sock-footed steps in and out of the garage multiple times a day, especially when it’s a balmy 0 degrees in the morning like it was the day I wrote this post.

So for years, I just convinced myself that we should be better homeowners. Maybe we could bring our shoes to our respective bedrooms each and every time we wore them. Possibly we should just declutter more.

But finally, I ordered a shoe cabinet from Wayfair, and I’ve never loved my house more.

Now, if we could just do something about the never-ending winter and all these snow boots.

My son got a new closet

Years ago, we took the doors off my son’s closet. Originally, his closet had two hollow accordion doors. Think builder grade but cheaper. All he did was pinch his fingers in them. So we took them down one day…and never put them back up.

I had originally envisioned reframing the closet for French doors or possibly even doing a slider. But then we realized closet doors don’t serve a terribly important purpose. So the doors stayed off.

As HP grew–and collected more things–his room started to get a bit cluttered. He had a pile of toys he played with in a bin and then four or five more bins that held his more beloved books. We just kind of accepted the fact that one corner of his room would have a bit of organized clutter.

Until it dawned on me that we could buy a closet organizer. We do a terrific job of editing both our kids’ clothes. Our Buy Nothing group is a passion (fine, obsession) of mine. So I love to rehome clothes that they either don’t wear or outgrow. That’s why it never occurred to me that we could use his closet space better.

But now that we have, I can’t imagine living any other way. His books are all still perfectly within reach. As an added bonus, he can also get to all of his favorite puzzles. That means that when he wakes up at 5:30 am, he can entertain himself before waking us up. At 5:37.

Still, I’ll take an extra 7 minutes of sleep!

Our kids reclaim their stuff

We know that having less stuff is better for our kids. It makes them more creative, and it allows them to engage in play more fully. It also greatly reduces my stress level.

So we’ve learned to be pretty ruthless with culling the crap that they no longer use.

But we also let them reclaim items that they realize they want.

This felt like the biggest minimalism sin, but we want them to feel like they have autonomy, too. Just like an adult might realize they aren’t quite ready to part with something, we give our kids that chance too.

Rather than immediately posting something in our Buy Nothing group (or tossing it or donating it!), we set things aside. As our kids get older, we enlist their help with this more and more. If the kids ask for the items after we’ve set them aside, we have a frank conversation about what it means to actually “play with” toys.

And if they really intend to use the item and follow through with it, we’re happy to keep it. We rotate items between our family room and basement to keep things fresh anyway. So it’s not too disruptive to add something back into the toy rotation.

Final Thoughts on Getting Minimalism Wrong

I’m not a minimalist, I don’t think. But I love to declutter and I believe strongly in living a simple life. I think many tenants of minimalism can serve us well, offering both salve for and solution to capitalism’s push for overconsumption.

But I also think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to get everything right when it comes to minimalism to benefit from it.

Just ask my shoes.

So Tell Me…How do you feel about decluttering and minimalism? Are there any “rules” you break that serve you well?


  1. We are not minimalists. Largely because we have so many active hobbies we pursue in our wilderness state. Hiking, fishing, bushwhacking, running, walking, off roading, cycling, backpacking, camping all are equipment intensive. Especially when you do some of these at an advanced level. And then there are the sports we play, tennis and pickleball. Also a lot of gear needed. We don’t spend much on anything else but each of these hobbies goes through an amazing amount of balls, strings, expensive shoes and boots that wear out quickly, cold and hot weather gear, rain gear, etc. We probably spend nearly $1,000 a year just getting tennis racquets restrung after breaking and nearly $400 on tennis balls a year. And fishing runs through a lot of rods, reels and boat equipment. So while we are frugal in a lot of areas we aren’t interested in curbing any of our extracurricular activities just to reduce the cost or amount of stuff we own. We only spend about half of what we could easily afford so there isn’t much financial incentive.

  2. I’d like to be a minimalist but can’t get there. I don’t buy much (believe me if you saw my house you’d see why). I want to purge but it is a slow process as I can’t bear to throw away perfectly functional items that can’t even be given away.

    For example: I had a ton of plastic cutlery in a drawer accumulated from take-out food etc. I moved them to a picnic basket figuring I could use them on picnics. The alternative was to toss them which just seems so wasteful.

    • I take excess plasticware from takeout (even when we request no cutlery they often give it to us) into work and leave it in a cupboard in the room with the refrigerator and microwaves. It usually disappears really quickly.

  3. Jane H

    I very much enjoyed this post. In addition, I appreciated that you referenced your post about Thoreau, because I had missed it when initially published, and the points you made were spot on! You address the misconceptions regarding what minimalism means that are broadcasts by other experts (you address them in the Thoreau post) as living in austerity. I do notice, however, that several comments on this post seem to indicate that people can have a very negative reaction to the concept by stating – “I am NOT a minimalist” – as though it is something to avoid like a disease. Keep writing; you give a voice to the benefits, and the realities, of not succumbing to the pull of desire.

  4. Kiddo’s room needs majo rhelp but I do not have the bandwidth to tackle that project!!! Good on you for finding a smart solution.

    One anti minimalist thing I’m doing is I want to start actually buying some books to OWN, and need to get bookshelves (love the look of floating ones tho wonder about the practicality)

    Shoe wise – gosh. We have an ugly rack/cabinet thing outside the door on the covered step. Mix of family shoes. Inside, a basket full of kid shoes. In my closet, additional (mostly nicer pairs I wear for work or special occasions) shoes on shoe holder racks on the floor.

    I will say a coat rack is one of the best purchases I ever made!

  5. While the granddaughter was at school I got rid of some of her toys she had outgrown. She has never missed them. I did buy a few things to organize the kitchen better this year …it really helped.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.