When I embraced a minimalist lifestyle, centered around simple and intentional living, to the people around me it seemed that I became a different person. Thinking about it, that’s not entirely untrue. I am a different person than I was a year ago for sure, but what is life if not a constant chance to grow and learn.
What is minimalism?
Minimalism means different things to different people. To some, it means being able to fit all their 50 possessions into one suitcase. To others, it means having the material possessions that bring them joy, but not living in excess and not succumbing to pressures of consumerism. I tend to think I am the latter.
Those who follow the lifestyle understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with material things, but that the error we have made is in attaching value to these things, and giving them a place of importance in our lives, over and above relationships, social contribution, hobbies and opportunities for self growth.
Minimalism strives to perpetuate the notion that having less ‘stuff’ frees up the time that we have to actually live our lives and open our eyes to all that is going on around us.
Why I believe in and follow the minimalist lifestyle
Decluttering and embracing a simpler lifestyle has given me more time to understand that my most real self was hiding under layers of what society was telling me I had to be. I had to have all the latest fashion releases, I had to buy all the products the Instagrammers were promoting, I had to be this and do that in order to be happy.
Clearing my physical space means that I have more time in the morning to do yoga and meditate because I’m not spending my time stressing about what to wear. I have around 20 items of clothing (per season) that I love and can easily pick one based on what I have going on that day.
Decluttering has meant that I don’t have lots of stuff to clean and maintain, which means I have more time to write, go to the park or spend with friends. Not being obsessed with the latest brand releases means that I have more time to listen to podcasts and read books.
Not feeling obliged to spend on anything and everything means I can make savings towards trips I dream of taking in the future.
All of this also transcended to creating more room in my mental space as well. I suffer from anxiety and I’m highly sensitive so simple living allowed to me to focus on the things that would allow me to nurture my mental health which include journaling, meditating and creating a stress free space. I have more time to prioritize the things that make me happy and the relationships that bring me joy.
It freed up my mind to be better able to stick to healthier routines and to manifest my days as I envisioned. I don’t feel guilty saying no to people if it means protecting my time and prioritizing the experiences and connections that I want to nurture.
It’s not about not buying things at all. By all means, if you need something, buy it. If it’s something that will enhance your hobby, knowledge or experience of the world, then, by all means, invest in it. But pick those things carefully, based on need, not greed and always based on quality over quantity.
How can you start your journey?
Minimalism is not the key to happiness. Happiness is subjective but if you’re feeling flustered, overwhelmed, suffocated by all your stuff with no time for anyone or anything you enjoy, then maybe a little decluttering is the first step on finding it.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself using a few simple steps that I’ve learned from my journey.
A word of caution, when you read these steps they may seem simple, to the point and almost rather harsh but there is no guarantee that they’ll be easy to do. They weren’t easy for me at first either. There are the physical steps that I’ve listed below that will get you started but it cannot be forgotten that decluttering and minimizing comes with a lot of emotional and sentimental baggage.
That’s because we live in a society that makes us attach tremendous value to material possessions, which makes parting with them very difficult. You shouldn’t try to do everything all in one day because like any fad diet, you’ll rush in too fast and won’t reap the benefits long term. Take your time and do the mental self-analysis and subconscious unpacking that comes with minimizing, knowing that when you come out on the other side, there’s a whole new perspective waiting to be lived.
Simple Steps to Simplifying
A. Start with things around your home: Do an inventory of the things you own, going room by room.
1. Does it add real value to your life? Value is subjective but is based on asking yourself some of the following questions
2. Is it useful in that it enhances your experience of your home, hobbies or life? If yes, keep it
3. Is it broken or very old? If yes, it needs to either be fixed or thrown away OR fixed and donated
4. Does it take up too much space? If yes then it doesn’t belong there and could do with a new home
5. Is there too many of one thing? If yes, you don’t need that many, give some of them away or sell them
6. Does it take too much time and energy to maintain? If yes then is it worth the energy? If no then give it away
7. When was it last used or seen? If the answer is you have no idea then either give it away, sell it or refer to section C (1)
8. Is it a trendy new gadget (in your kitchen or living room) that you bought because everyone else was buying it but you never use or don’t know how to use? If yes, you’ll probably never use it, give it to someone who will.
9. Old papers lying in random piles? Sort through them. Keep the important originals in folders. Scan the rest, save them on a hard drive and recycle the papers
10. Shelves overflowing with books? Will you or anyone in your house ever read them again? Consider donating or selling them to people to will
11. Broken toys or gadgets, unused trinkets, unrecognizable souvenirs, random items. Do you have any idea where they come from and why you have them? If no, throw them away, sell them or donate them
B. Your wardrobe and clothes:
1. Lay out all of your clothes where you can see them. Make sure you have some spare time to concentrate on this exercise.
2. Does it still fit and will it really fit in the next 6 months? If no, then set aside to donate
3. Is it flattering, do you feel fantastic in it? If no, then set it aside to donate
4. Are there several very similar looking items? eg 5 little black dresses, 6 red crop tops, 8 pairs of high heels that hurt your feet after 10 minutes of wearing them? If yes you don’t need all of them, set some aside to donate
5. Does it still have the price tag on after having sat there for several months? If yes, you’ve never had the opportunity to wear it and realistically will not because you have other things you could wear, set it aside to sell or donate
6.Was it a gift you got, never really wanted but feel obliged to keep? If yes, don’t feel obliged to keep anything that doesnt add value, set it aside to donate
7.Do you have a realistic occasion when you can see yourself wearing it? If not then set aside to donate. ‘One day when/if x happens’ is no reason to hold onto things
1. Set up the 20/20 rule, for ‘just in case’ items. If you can replace it in under 20 minutes for under 20 pounds/dollars/etc then you don’t have to keep it ‘just in case’
2. Listen to some minimalist podcasts to hear it from those who have been doing it for years. Some of my favourites include The Minimalists, The Sustainable Minimalist Podcast and An Uncluttered Life.
3. Find your nearest charity shop or donation point before you begin the process. This will make it easier to separate everything and take them to their new home.
4. Invest in some storage boxes. For your kitchen, closet or bathroom, the best way to keep your things organized is by using storage boxes. Have a look at the Maria Kondo Method of Tidying up.
5. Make lists. Making lists of all the things that need cleaning, fixing, replacing, buying or tidying in your house, will help you realize that there is an overwhelming amount to do. This is your first indicator that you have too many things.
6. Prioritize your hobbies. Whether it’s painting or drawing, taking a dance class, contributing or volunteering, reading, meditating or whatever it is, you are not living your best life if you cannot carve out an hour of your day to nurture your soul.
7. Understand your budget. We all have the ability to save and budget our finances. How much money are you spending on clothes every month? How many little black designer handbags do you need? Are you spending too much on alcohol every weekend?
Simplifying is a process, so be kind to yourself and remember that ultimately there is no right or wrong. What has been your experience with simplifying and minimalism? Let me know in the comments!
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next!