The Shame I Felt About Living Simply as a Minimalist Family


My mom was entering the last part of her journey in this life. The cancer had returned and she fought hard, but this time, her battle would end. Hospice sent a nurse to meet with me at my apartment and I am ashamed to say that even in the midst of this agonizing time, I cared about what the nurse might think of our simple lifestyle. I exaggerated, maybe even lied, saying we just moved into the apartment. In reality, we moved in months ago. But if she believed that we had just moved in, maybe she would think it was normal that we don’t own a sofa or recliners or a dining table. Maybe she would think we were good people. Normal types. I was ashamed of how we choose to live. Now, I'm ashamed that I even cared.

Shame is such a hard emotion. I recently read Mirror's story of feeling shame when a guest commented on how simply she lived. She tells her story with intensely raw honesty. I highly recommend reading it, especially if you’re a sensitive soul living a simple or minimalist lifestyle. Mirror’s experiences touched such a place of understanding in my soul that I had to create this post. I hope that in sharing our stories, those who choose to live simply will feel empowered by their choices, even when mainstream society does not approve. 

I’ve been judged for my lifestyle. My decision to school my children outside of public education has been met with rudeness and the not-so-helpful remark here and there. It is sometimes assumed that my children have no social life or that I am somehow holding them away from public school against their will. It goes similarly with our decisions to consume mindfully and live with less than some people choose to have. But the real issue wasn’t about other people. While people can be rude or hurtful, these judgments are not the real source of my having been ashamed of our simple lifestyle. The real person with an issue in that situation was me

Sometimes people react to our decisions about simple living with fascination, saying how cool it is. Sometimes people seem genuinely interested. The reactions are far from totally negative. So then, I have to ask myself, what within me is wounded. Because there must be a wounded part of me to be so worried about being misjudged at a time when my mom was about to die.

Today, I recognize that I sometimes seek approval to fill empty spaces within. To answer a need to be loved by more people. To avoid a fear of ending up alone. Somewhere inside, I held on to a belief that having lots of things equals proof that I provide for my children, and therefore am a good mom. I believed that purposeful lack of some common material things implied lack of caring for my family, and lack of success or hard work. I did not want to be perceived as a failure or lazy. I cared about this, maybe especially at the time my mom was dying, because I was afraid people would think me unlovable or unworthy of respect, if they knew we meant to live with less. These were the same fears that drove the former me to “need” a Lexus, to buy a house so large we required an intercom system and to measure my worth, in part, by the size of my bank account. That version of my self lay awake at night wondering how to keep running on the wheel I’d created for myself. She was stressed, angry and afraid. 

In this quiet morning, as my children sleep, I sit with this understanding. I witness my need for love and I acknowledge the pain of rejection I’ve felt in the past. 

I also acknowledge that I have a choice. I can choose to bury my light under the weight of shame or I can choose to own my decision to live simply and own less. And if I don’t choose the latter then why bother with owning less at all? Because part of the decision to live with less was based on the weightlessness of getting out from under exorbitant bills and material things we didn’t really need or want. We have a nice place. It’s comfortable. We like sleeping in close proximity and feeling cozy. We like togetherness. Why would I hide any of that?

The next time someone comes to our place, I don’t plan on making an excuse for lack of “stuff”. I choose to own my decision. Simplicity is beautiful. 

2-Minute Takeaway (Journal Prompt): When I fear the judgements of others, what I'm really afraid of is ______________________________.