If you are wondering whether living a minimalist lifestyle could benefit you and how to begin, then you have arrived at a very exciting point in your life. As an ex-hoarder and messy minimalist on the path to clutter-free nirvana, I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I know what I know – and I know that even stepping one foot on this path can be life-changing. Welcome friend, and let’s explore this strange new realm together:
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What is minimalism?
Minimalism is a lifestyle that celebrates living a richer, more meaningful life through owning fewer possessions.
There is the tendency among many to imagine minimalists as a stark bunch, who live in plain white boxes with sparse furniture, no personal effects and a handful of identical outfits which they wear on rotation.
But at its heart, minimalism is not about removing everything of meaning from your life – rather the opposite – it is about removing that which means nothing, so you can focus on what you love.
Why is minimalism so popular now?
We have become so consumed by stuff. Most people don’t need or use all that they have and yet, they keep on buying more.
Constantly urged by society that we need to have this or that in order to thrive or be seen as successful in the eyes of our peers, we buy all the newest gadgets, all the latest fashions – but does it actually make us happy?
In recent years, minimalism has seen a boom in popularity as more and more people have started to question what matters and put passions before possessions.
By carefully curating a collection of belongings you either use or love, you are left with an honest reflection of who you are as a person. And for many, that is exactly what is needed in these times.
It also naturally follows that if you buy less, you save more. So, although it is rare for people to come to minimalism solely as a money-saving exercise, it often comes as a nice bonus 🙂
Are minimalists happier?
Admittedly, minimalism isn’t for everyone. For some, the very notion of ridding themselves of a lifetime of collected clutter is enough to send them running, but it is certainly true that many, many minimalists have found true joy through casting off what no longer serves them.
I used to be an avid collector and clutter junkie – believe me, nobody is more surprised by the direction my life has taken in this respect than I am, but I can say hand on heart, that reducing the amount of stuff I own has been transformative and I personally, am much happier for it.
It is a liberating experience and something of a journey. You learn so much about yourself by choosing to look with fresh eyes at your belongings and question why you have held onto something.
What does a minimalist lifestyle actually look like?
As people, we like to have a visual to guide us and for many, it’s easier to get an idea of whether or not minimalism is a lifestyle that might suit them if they can picture how their life is going to look.
Minimalism has something of an aesthetic stereotype, but the truth is, minimalism doesn’t ‘look’ any one way. It is as diverse as its practitioners.
Some might favour the earthy tones and warm comforts of a hygge/Scandi look, while another minimalist home might be bursting with bright colours and texture.
Living minimally doesn’t mean you can’t add your own flair to things. It isn’t so much a set of hard rules as a lifestyle which promotes focusing on what matters to you.
If you love something, you keep it. Simple. Stop thinking about what a minimalist lifestyle should look like, and ask yourself what your minimalism would look like?
How do I start living a minimalist lifestyle?
Simply start by taking a look at your possessions. Chances are there is a lot to process.
Don’t rush yourself. You aren’t going to be able to tackle this overnight! Start small. Maybe commit to getting rid of one item you don’t need, use regularly or love every day for a month.
You might also like to read my post on decluttering, which you can access by clicking here but for now, I’ll offer some quick tips regarding some of the key areas:
Set yourself a challenge
I saw someone do a similar monthly challenge online a while back, where they would add an item each day, so one item on the first of the month, two items on the second, three on the third etc… if you are feeling ambitious, this could be a fun challenge to build momentum, but bear in mind it won’t be long before you are having to ditch 20+ things every day, and that can be tough!
I prefer challenges which give you an area to focus on, so for example, day one tackle drawers, day two your wardrobe etc.
Pick one room in your home and go through it slowly and thoroughly over a predetermined period of time. Try and do it all in a day and you’ll become overwhelmed (unless it’s a small room perhaps). Don’t set yourself a deadline and you won’t finish it.
Pick the room and then decide how long it will take by dividing it into areas… so, drawers/cupboards/storage baskets etc. Allocate a day to each area and then from there work out how long realistically it will take you to go through the whole room, bearing in mind your day to day commitments.
Setting yourself a challenge can be a good way to get the ball rolling. Decluttering can get quite addictive, so the idea is if you just begin, you’ll build the momentum to carry on.
Look in your wardrobe. If you are honest, of all the items of clothing you own, you probably only wear a handful over and over. Work out what those items are and keep them.
For everything else, keep a few key items that you might need for fancier occasions, maybe a dress or two if you are usually a jeans and tee’s kinda person, you don’t need 100’s.
If you have a friend the same size as you all the better. Arrange swap parties, where you all take along the clothes you aren’t wearing currently and switch things around. Or borrow items if you need them.
Recognise that if you love something and that something is a collection, you can still keep it.
Minimalism doesn’t mean getting rid of everything you own.
We are a family of avid readers and musicians. Still got books and instruments all over the place. And we live in a caravan.
Related reading: Minimalism with Children
We did scale it down – this in itself was great – we used to buy books obsessively everywhere we went, and so when we moved here we did need to get rid of some, but that meant the books that got to stay have pride of place now and we actually read them, you can see which one you want and get it without having to dig through 3 layers deep.
Instruments were whittled down a little too, keeping the ones we get the most enjoyment out of. Music is what we do. It would have made no sense to get rid of them all.
Holding onto things if they make you happy is fine. Doesn’t mean you’ve failed minimalism 101.
Enjoy the process
I like the Marie Kondo concept of keeping items that spark joy. Apply this to items as you go through your home. If something sparks joy, it gets to stay.
This is great for personal items, but less use it must be said, for more functional things. That said, just because something is functional, doesn’t mean it can’t be lovely too…
One of the big bonuses, as I see it, is that if you are going to be radically reducing the amount of things you own, you should be allowed to maybe splash out a bit on nicer versions of the dull things, switching your collection of tatty old wooden spoons for a couple of nice new olive wood ones instead for example.
That said, although making these swaps can be a great way of helping you create a home full of objects you love, the idea really isn’t to be buying more things… so try to resist the urge to replace everything!
A few small upgrades can be fun and keep you motivated, but be mindful of what you are getting rid of, which lead me nicely onto my next point, and the elephant in the room when it comes to the first steps on the road to minimalism:
Decluttering and environmentalism
In the long term, minimalism lends itself well to living a low waste lifestyle. Minimalists naturally aren’t buying a lot of new things, and therefore aren’t creating much waste day-to-day. Often opting for a simpler, less hurried lifestyle, they are often more in tune with the world around them and care deeply about the environment.
But there is no getting around the fact that when you are first stepping on the path of minimalism, you are likely to be ditching a LOT of stuff.
It’s important to be mindful of what we are getting rid of and how. Personally, it goes very much against my grain to just sling it all out or even take it to charity shops. Lots of them also throw items away – always check with charity shops to see what they need before donating to avoid unnecessary waste.
Be conscientious about discarding your possessions. See if friends or family members could benefit from any of the things you have chosen to no longer keep.
Sell items on eBay ar at a good ol’ car boot or yard sale. Something you don’t love could be treasure for someone else.
Freecycle, Craigslist, Gumtree, eBay, and Scrap stores are great places to start.
Minimalism is your choice
Minimalism is about removing the distractions so you can appreciate the items you have selectively chosen to keep.
If everything you own you love or use a lot, that is minimalism. There is no magic number of items that qualifies you.
It’s an intentional curation of possessions. You get to decide what adds value and remove the rest.
So ask yourself:
What do you value most?
And then, begin.