So you’ve heard about this thing called minimalism and you’ve decided you want to become a minimalist. I’ve got good news for you. I can teach you how to become a minimalist. But first, we need to discuss what minimalism really means. Second, you need to ask yourself if you really want to be a minimalist.
4 Ways To Work Toward Minimalism
- Use your mind: Too often we buy stuff without thinking. Our advertising industry has programmed us to buy based on our wants rather than our needs. The first step to becoming a minimalist is to reverse this mindset. You have to consciously consider what you truly need. This takes thought. Use your mind.
- Stick to necessities: We’ve been tricked. We think we need so much more than we really do. If you’re honest with yourself, the basic necessities of life, even modern life, are not really much at all. A roof, food, water, transportation and communication are the essentials. Start there. Begin to consider your absolute base-level needs for a comfortable existence.
- Limit your spending: Stop buying crap you don’t really need. Begin to evaluate every purchase you make. Ask yourself if the item you’re buying is really needed. Is it essential for your existence? Is it valuable to your work life or to your family? Make a point to only buy things that add some kind of value to your life.
- Give freely: Part of becoming a minimalist includes getting rid of stuff. Here’s my rule of thumb: if you haven’t used an item in more than 6 months, let it go. Give your old stuff to charity. But don’t just give stuff. Minimalists also discover the value of time. Having less stuff creates more time. Give freely of your time, too.
Are You Ready?
So what do you think? Are you ready to become a minimalist? Remember, minimalism as a lifestyle, is not something you should jump into too fast. It’s a lifestyle that takes thought, commitment, and discipline. It’s not always easy. But in the end, you’ll be doing both yourself and the world a favor. So now that you know how to become a minimalist, will you get started?
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1. Minimalism is really just a label.
What is a minimalist anyway? I don’t even know and frankly I don’t care that much. For a topic that I’ve been obsessing about for over a year now, you’d think I’d have a concrete answer to what it even means. But the truth is, I always had these ideas of what my space would look like when I got rid of the clutter – but I wasn’t thinking about what it could feel like.
I believe now, that the term ‘minimalist’ is more of a label, and that becoming a minimalist is about the process, and how you FEEL about it. (of course, I would say this, as I’m an ENFP, according to the Myers Briggs psychology test. The F standing for Feeling vs Thinking…) But even still, I used to believe that there was an official aesthetic that would mean I’d achieved minimalism. Perhaps a certain number of items in my home would indicate I was part of the club… But as I pared down my possessions, I noticed my space didn’t magically look like a well-curated Pinterest board. (crazy right?!) It still looked like my home, but it started to feel better — like I was breathing new life into it.
So if you find that your space still looks relatively the same, even after purging box after box, don’t despair. Instead, consider how you FEEL, and know that you are making progress.
3. Permanent changes don’t happen over night.
Captain Obvious over here, but it’s something I had to learn. (and I learned it pretty quick)! I could declutter for 15 hours straight and my space would look more messy than it did to start with!
This is because I never realized the time and mental effort it would take to dig through old boxes or junk drawers. I call it the Decluttering Rule of Thirds. Unlike the photography Rule of Thirds, which is visual – the Decluttering Rule of Thirds has to do with time. It’s simple: If you think a task is going to take an hour, then triple it. Seldom has a project gotten done ahead of schedule – at least for me.
TO HELP YOU DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN A TRUE WANT AND NEED I WANT YOU TO ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS BEFORE EACH SIGNIFICANT PURCHASE:
1 What will happen if you don’t make this purchase?
2 Do you already have something similar at home?
3 Will you be using this item more than a few times?
4 If not, could a similar item be borrowed from someone else?
5 What do you predict is the lifespan of this item?
6 What value will this item hold in a year’s time?
7 Have you actually got room for this item in your home?
Now don’t be so sad about saying goodbye to things.
My new mantra-like question is this:
WAS I PLANNING TO TAKE THAT ITEM WITH ME TO THE GRAVE?
IS IT SOMETHING I HOPED TO BE BURIED WITH IT?
Most people will admit (push come to shove) that if a particular item got destroyed in a fire, they wouldn’t be shedding tears over it.
My wedding dress, sure, absolutely I would be devastated.
That summer dress that doesn’t fit me anymore, nay, not so much.
I mean, seriously, at what point was I planning to get rid of it?
And that my friend, is the real joy of living a minimalist life because you know deep down, everything of value is inside of you. So let’s keep things simple rather than over-complicating everything and drowning ourselves in STUFF.
It’s Not Only About Material Possessions
We all have certain things, that we have never used and probably never will use.
The t-shirt at the back of your closet that you only keep because it might fit one day or you might need it at some point? The fidget spinner you needed to have, but only used it a couple of times? That super fancy kitchen ware you used exactly once because it’s too heavy and hard to clean?
Yes, these are very obvious things that can easily eliminated. But becoming a minimalist isn’t only about material possessions. It’s way more than that. It’s also about actions and habits.
1. Bad Habits
The minimalist lifestyle is also about reducing bad habits. When you try to focus on what’s important in your life, these habits distract you. They are contributing to an unhealthy way of living. They pull you down. That can be habits like smoking, drinking, eating fast food, binge watching Netflix or whatever you have.
In terms of material weight, they might not have a big impact. But what happens, when you suddenly need to stop smoking? Or can’t watch the season finals of your favorite shows anymore? Are you free to leave that behind without any difficulties?
2. Bad Food Choices
Never underestimate the impact of food on your physical and mental well-being! I don’t say that minimalists only eat super healthy vegan food and never have any bad days. But focusing on real food can definitely be part of a minimalist lifestyle.
Options like vegetables, fruits, rice, or potatoes can be bought almost everywhere in the world and for little money. Cutting out on processed and multiple packed food, is not only environmentally friendly, but also healthier for your body and mind.
3. Information Surplus
Something that many people do on a daily basis: Read the newspaper, listen to the news on the radio or on TV and constantly check their Facebook newsfeed. The question is, do you really need to know everything? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of constant education, learning and growing.
But what do you do with the fact that your old classmate’s wife bought a new mowing machine for her dad? Or that it’s going to be some lovely sunny days somewhere in Alabama next weekend when you are in Italy?
Tim Ferris, the guy who became famous with his “The 4-Hour Workweek” book, is not much of a fan of information overflow either. He never reads or listen to the news, but only asks friends every once in a while what’s new in the world to get a short update.
4. Routine Reduction
Becoming a minimalist is often attended by reducing routines. This is particularly true, when you are a long-term traveler or digital nomad. When you move from one place to another and constantly live in different situations, it’s hard to keep all of your daily routines. But that can be a good thing.
Try to keep fewer routines, but more efficient ones. Focus on routines that significantly increase your well-being or productivity.
Many digital nomads have a certain morning routine to start their day right. That can be drinking lemon juice every morning, going for a morning run or doing a yoga and meditation session. These are also typical minimalist activities because they can easily be done anywhere and anytime without much equipment.
5. Experience Embracement
Most people have a certain budget to live on. Let’s say you have a couple of hundred dollars available. Do you buy that fancy Gucci bag you saw in that magazine the other day or do you take the money and go on an epic weekend road trip with your best friend?
We all know the saying:
Collect moments, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.
And it’s true. Although, it’s very tempting sometimes, but the joy of material possessions is often only of short duration. Experiences on the other hand, can last your entire live.
Minimalism & Being a Digital Nomad
Many long-term travelers and digital nomads live a minimalist lifestyle. That makes sense considering that fact that they often don’t have a home base but carry their belongings with them. So focusing on the most important items and packing wisely is essential.
There are people out there, who take this idea very serious. To travel as lightly as possible, they only pack as little luggage as possible. Take Raam Dev as an example. He managed to travel around Southeast Asia for months and months with only 25 items in his backpack. Pretty impressive!
But as already mentioned, becoming a minimalist is not only about material belongings. When you are on the road a lot, you can’t and don’t want to keep up too many routines. Every day can be different.
You’re naturally more focused on experiences because that’s a reason while you travel, right? You try to reduce your bad habits because there is no time and sometimes no opportunity for them.
Moreover, you focus more on essential and healthy food because often you won’t have too many options and you realize how important nutrition is to keep you physically and mentally fit.
And you won’t be able to soak up unnecessary information anymore since you might not constantly have internet access or time to.
How To Become a Minimalist
Many people like the idea of becoming a minimalist, but struggle with the implementation. In most cases it is nothing that happens overnight. It is a change of your mindset that takes much discipline and will power.
1. Before you start your new minimalist lifestyle, write down your goals. Why do you want to live like that? Do you want to save money? Become mentally free of certain things? Be able to travel the world more comfortably?
2. The hardest part is often to give up on material possessions. Clean out your closets. If you can’t throw away the things you don’t need at once, take your time. Start with the items that you can get rid of easily.
3. Put the items, that you feel more attached to, aside and leave them there for a while. See how you feel about them later. If you still don’t want to get rid of them after a few days or weeks, keep them. If you are going to give up your home base, store them at a friend’s place or rent a storage room.
4. When you feel the urge of impulsive shopping, make a deal with yourself. Wait a few days and if you still feel like you need to have that particular item, buy it. Make sure you don’t buy it because of an exciting ad, but because you need it and it really makes you happy.
5. Also think of other parts of your life that you want to change. Do you want to let go of relationships? Focus on real and healthy food? Get rid of bad habits? Make a list and also note all of your reasons. When you feel like you fall back into old habits, look at the list and remind yourself, why you wanted to change it.
6. Do a revision a while after you started your new lifestyle. What has changed and how do you feel now? Thinking consciously about the benefits and how you have profit from it, helps you keep going. Maybe you will find out, that you live too minimalistic and are not happy with it. In that case: adjust accordingly!
The minimalist lifestyle is a great way to clean up your life. Get rid of unnecessary clothing, electronics, habits, relationships, thoughts, or everything that pulls you down. Focus on what’s important in your life; the things that make you truly happy.
If you are a long-term traveler or digital nomad, you most certainly don’t have to live like that. But becoming a minimalist is a great way to travel lighter in any imaginable aspect.
Find out what works best for you and decide on your own if this is the kind of lifestyle you feel comfortable with.
Do you have any experience with living a minimalist lifestyle? Let me know in the comments below!
Check out one of my last articles: How To Become A Digital Nomad: Complete Guide For Beginners
There are no rules in minimalism
Slowly I started to realize, there weren’t actually rules to minimalism. So why did I feel like creating them? There would never be a point in downsizing or minimizing where I would know I had officially “made it.” Minimalism is meant to be a way of life. Living with more purpose and intention.
There were a few things I personally had to remind myself:
- It’s okay to own things.
- Liking clothes is ok.
- Some items will enhance joy.
- Stuff isn’t bad — the love of stuff is bad.
- Everyone’s journey is different.
Even while reminding myself of all of this, I couldn’t help but think maybe there were guidelines that would help me keep myself on track. I didn’t want to fall back into the giant consumer, credit card debt pit I had been stuck in before.
So I decided to get intentional.
The golden rule: out before in.
Before I bring anything new into our home, I make sure to make room by clearing out old clutter. Around Christmas time I get some garbage bags ready and the kids and I go through their rooms and toy area together to get rid of un-used toys. This makes Christmas a lot less stressful of a time and encourages the kids to find joy in the new things they’ve been given. Here are some major areas to keep an eye on:
- Toys – Like I said, if Christmas or a birthday party are coming up, clear out the old toys before the new ones make their way in. Did you know places like Decluttr will even pay you for old toys, like Legos?
- Clothes – If I know I need to update my wardrobe, or if I get some clothes from friends, before I hang anything else up, I clear out some of the old, less worn things.
- Food – Yes, food! Before we go grocery shopping we make sure to go through our fridge and clear away or finish up any leftovers that we have. I also try to keep in mind ingredients we have left in the pantry, I come up with meal ideas based off those items so I don’t end up purchasing too much at the store. If you aren’t great at meal planning, try out the $5 Meal Plan and have someone else do the dirty work for you! –I also make sure to shop with my savings apps to get the most money back as possible.
- Paperwork – This is probably one of the things that drives me the craziest! I hate when paperwork clutters the counter tops! As soon as we bring in the mail, I am quick to sort the “junk” mail right into the recycling. You can also cut them off at the source by removing yourself from their mailing list. The best way to do away with paper clutter all together is by going full on digital. Get all the info here.
Buy only the best of the best
I make sure to clear things out before anything new makes it in and I also make sure what comes in is only the top quality of items. When I’m shopping, if I don’t absolutely love the shirt I try on, I won’t get it. It doesn’t matter if it’s on sale or not. I would rather buy a $60 dress that I LOVE and will wear constantly than a dress that’s $5 that I have luke warm feelings for.
Here are a few questions to consider before bringing a new item into your home:
- Do I need this?
- Have I thought about it? –Avoid snap purchases, by giving yourself a week to think about it
- Does this enhance my life?
- Is there something else I could use? –If I wanted a dress for an upcoming wedding, I might consider my current dresses, or consider borrowing from a friend.
There is no deadline
If you decide the minimalist way of life is for you, and you love the idea of a tiny house, it doesn’t mean you have to go from a 5,000 square foot home into a 900 square foot trailer to be successful at it. We downsized our house over a year ago and have repeatedly had to re-downsize. Then, like I said, with my wardrobe, I up-sized again. Well, I didn’t really up-size, I just didn’t force myself to downsize where I wasn’t ready to.
Who knows, maybe someday I will end up living in a portable tiny home. –Please God let it be after the kids move out, because heaven knows Mama can’t take that kind of smothering.
I do know it doesn’t have to be today or even in the next 10 years. What I do know is that minimalism has cleared my mind and my house. I wake up happier and for today, it works for me where I’m at. So give yourself patience and grace and know that this doesn’t have to be one drastic life change.