As we move through our lives we are constantly craving more: more room, more money, more time. What if you could create more for yourself and your family by doing the opposite and using less?
This is the basic premise to the popular movement toward minimalism. Minimalism is a life philosophy based on the understanding that anything unnecessary should be eliminated. Instead of focusing on “stuff” — possessions and tasks, for example — a minimalist strives for a simpler life.
Life can be hectic. Owning a large home with tons of stuff can mean tons of bills and a time- and energy-consuming job to support it all. The cleaning and organization responsibilities that come with a big lifestyle become a job in itself. It can be an exhausting cycle.
Living simpler removes some of this stress. That’s what makes minimalism attractive — avoiding the chase for “more.”
But do you have to give up all your possessions to live a simpler lifestyle? Not necessarily–and minimalists would agree. That you have to throw away all belongings to truly be free and happy is a common misconception of minimalism. Living minimally is actually much easier than that.
Today we’re diving into the real meaning of minimalism to show you how easy it can be once you’ve defined a personal approach to it. We’ll share small ways you can declutter your home and live more minimally without taking any extreme actions akin to extreme minimalism.
Want to know how to live minimally without fully committing to a minimalist lifestyle? Read on.
What Does it Mean to Be a Minimalist?
A minimalist is a person who upholds the philosophy of minimalism. So what is minimalism? Minimalism started as a style of art known for removing unnecessary elements to allow the important elements to stand out. Minimalism as a life philosophy does the same. By getting rid of the things that matter little in life, we are left with the things that matter most.
Here’s how Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits, defines minimalism: “It’s simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly.”
A Minimalist Approach to Home Organization
It is a common notion when you move into a new house or apartment that you need to fill it with stuff in order to make that house a home. We add as many trinkets and belongings as possible to create a living space that welcomes us.
Do you realize, though, that whenever you have more of something, there is a need to declutter and organize it? Not only your space but your mind and your calendar require decluttering now and then. When you live minimally, these things will require less frequent decluttering because you are already living simply. The concept of minimalism will make your home easier to clean, your time easier to manage and essentially your life easier to live.
How do I make my house minimalist? Remember: the theory of minimalism is not that you are living without; you are living with better.
Small Steps to a Simplified Home
1. Choose quality over quantity.
As you create the home you want, do not think about filling every room right away. Instead, find key pieces for your space that will make a statement. Don’t go out and spend a lot of money furnishing a whole room in a style or fashion that may not stand the test of time. Invest in furniture, wait for vintage finds or collect unique pieces that will stay in your home for a long time.
2. Decorate with items that bring you joy.
While you wait for all of those special furniture items–which, we’ll admit, may take a while to curate, depending on your budget–create a space that will give a sense of Hygge. Hygge is a Danish word that describes the fuzzy feeling you get when you take genuine pleasure from your surroundings, no matter how basics or every day they may be. The Hygge-effect is the difference between useless knick-knacks that clutter your shelves and a beloved collection. If you have a collection that you love, put it on display! But don’t clutter your shelves with meaningless trinkets that just give you more dusting to do.
Don’t be afraid to include items such as books, candles and throws. Those kinds of items can sometimes seem useless and against the minimalist approach, but they can play a major role in cozying up a space.
Fill your home with plants and simple decor items to bring life into your space. However, the less, the better. Less stuff on the shelves will mean less stuff to clean.
3. Build up a capsule wardrobe.
Take the second-guessing out of what to wear by creating a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe follows the same idea of quality over quantity. Basically what you do is downsize your wardrobe to the pieces that you really love and the staples.
Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist blog suggests playing the “game” of 12-12-12 to help you downsize. Select 12 items to donate, 12 items to throw away and 12 items to properly store (which tend to be seasonal items). With the rest of your wardrobe pick a color palette, make sure you have the staples and make sure that you can create plenty of outfits from them.
After paring down your pieces, that number of clothing items you have now is your capsule. No more clothes can come into the closet unless something else is going out. When your wardrobe consists of less you can invest in better items. And since you’ve carefully curated quality clothes of a similar color pallet, everything goes together which means you’ll spend less time wondering what you’re going to wear!
Here’s a guide we like that shows you how to start a capsule wardrobe if you’re still blurry on the concept.
4. Get comfortable with purging.
Whenever you take to a new organization project around your home, begin with a trash bag. Take the time to evaluate which items no longer make you happy. Get rid of them! Haven’t used it for six months? Purge it! Coming up to the end of a season? Take note of what you didn’t use and toss it! Purge regularly and don’t be scared to fill the trash bag. It is much easier to clear clutter when there is less of it. And on the days when you need a little encouragement letting go, read this: 3 Ways Having Less Will Make You Happier.
5. Have a “one in, one out” mindset.
Whether it’s clothing, kitchen appliances or toys, encourage yourself and family members that when something new comes into your house, something else must go out. This is especially helpful for children’s toys. When someone asks for a new doll it may be time to collect unused toys and give them to a boy or girl who will use them. Help create a minimalist mindset for yourself as well as your kids. Before the holidays or a birthday, get that trash bag and fill it with items to donate. Having fewer toys will create more time for sharing and communication. It will also equal less stress about cleaning up after playtime.
6. Plan a digital/social media freeze.
For one month, week or even just 24 hours, distance yourself from the social apps on your phone. Even consider deleting some. The comparison game can make you feel like you need to be doing more and spending more which will pull you away from your goal to live minimally. Make a conscious effort to be present in your every day and re-evaluate: is this really stuff you need or are you adding social and tangible clutter to your life? If you haven’t already, maybe also “cut the cord” (i.e., get rid of cable). Stop the cycle of needing to be entertained 24/7 by ceasing the channel surfing. Try streaming your favorite programs, often without commercials and advertisements to save you some time. Who likes commercials anyway?
7. Go paperless.
Most of the paper clutter that comes in the mail you do not need or even want! Create a system for your mail that involves going through it right away and throwing out/shredding unneeded papers. Unsubscribe from mailing lists, magazines and catalogs you don’t actually read. Try not to provide your address to companies who want to send you mail. Pay all your bills online and opt out of paper billing. All of these ideas will help you cut down on the paper coming in which should save some sanity, plus you’ll never have a bill lost in the mail.
8. Unsubscribe from emails.
Unneeded email newsletters are digital clutter. They take time to read through and delete and can pull your attention into time-sucking places. And the worst part is that your email is always at your fingertips. Limit all those emails about sales and coupons from their source–unsubscribe or avoid signing up at all if they provide no real benefit to you. You may think to yourself, “I shop at this store occasionally and staying on their list will help me know when there are sales.” But these email newsletters are just more reminders of things you do not need.
9. Don’t let money run your life.
Budgeting isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but monitoring your spending will give you an idea of what you really need to survive and how much excess you have. Only allow you and your family to treat yourselves on special occasions. Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you should spend it on useless souvenirs. Purchase experiences rather than things and take the time to budget and save for them. You’ll appreciate what you spend your money on much more that way.
10. Don’t try to go minimal all at once!
Break it down and start small. You can begin by donating those items and organizing one space at a time. Make goals but don’t be defined by them. After all, this process is supposed to be getting rid of your extra stress. Don’t add to it by thinking you have to get rid of everything in your home.
Learning how to live minimally could start by simply using the word no: no I’m not going to buy another shirt today or no, I am not adding another commitment to my calendar. No matter where you choose to start, decluttering your life and taking some tips from the minimalism movement will help lead you to that simpler, less cluttered lifestyle.