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Minimalism has changed my life. It has cleared space in my wardrobe, my home, my mind. It has helped me refine my values and live in a way that feels more natural. Minimalism has positively influenced my family, and I’m excited for our baby boy to grow up in a home that embraces the important things in life. We’re not ‘perfect minimalists’ but I think that’s the point – it’s a journey, a philosophy and a continuing evolution of clarity and happiness. I’m passionate about sharing this joy with anyone who is interested!
- 1 Chapter 1: What is Minimalism?
- 2 Chapter 2: The Benefits of Minimalism
- 2.1 More freedom
- 2.2 Clear space
- 2.3 Clear mind/ Happiness
- 2.4 Clear priorities
- 2.5 Good for the Earth
- 3 Chapter 3: How to be a Minimalist
- 3.1 First: Get inspired – envision your life with less
- 3.2 Declutter your physical life
- 3.3 Declutter your digital life
- 3.4 Declutter your time
- 3.5 Share this:
- 3.6 Related
Chapter 1: What is Minimalism?
As someone who began dipping their toe into minimalism just a couple of years ago, I’m by no means an expert. But what I’ve learned is that minimalism can mean different things to different people – at its heart, minimalism is simply a tool to help you refine and live in line with what’s important to you as an individual (or a family).
We live in a time where the idea of ‘success’ is prescribed with few questions asked. If you have a high salary, a big house, a nice car, an active social life and the perfect physique you’re well on the way. But do those things guarantee happiness? In many cases, they don’t. And lots of people are waking up to the scam.
Minimalism provides the guideposts to help you figure out what’s really important to you – which ‘things’, relationships, ideas and – ultimately – values bring you the most fulfilment. A minimalist philosophy helps you strip away the excess in order to reveal what’s most important. Once you’ve revealed your own vision of success and happiness, it’s about developing laser focus to help bring it into reality. It’s about living your best life.
“Minimalism” as a style can be found in fashion, furniture, home decoration, art and more. But in the context of developing your best life, minimalism is more than an aesthetic style. It’s more than a ‘look’.
Minimalism is quality over quantity.
A way of living
Minimalism appears in your everyday life, helping guide your decisions and lifestyle. It’s so much bigger than an aesthetic or a drive to declutter.
If you were to run a search for examples of real individuals and families living a minimalist lifestyle you’d find everything from a father of six living in LA, to a solo entrepreneur traveling the world. This is because minimalism isn’t a prescription – it’s a way of living that can be adapted to your situation.
In my experience, minimalism quietly pervades one area of your life, before starting to influence you in bigger ways until it becomes a philosophy to live by. For example, you might start by doing a serious cull in your wardrobe (as I did). As the positive effects become apparent, you allow it into other areas of your life until you’re decluttering your home, refining your digital life, reviewing your relationships and settling your values.
Minimalism is personal
While minimalism does have a basic definition – refining what’s important and removing that which doesn’t bring value to your life – it is also a fiercely personal thing. Minimalism provides an overall approach but it can be adapted to a wide range of situations.
In the end, it’s all about you. Your values, your relationships, your priorities and your possessions. Minimalism helps guide the way, but do what works for you.
That’s the beauty of the minimalist philosophy – it sets you on the path to find your values and refine what’s really important to you. From there, your confidence grows in making decisions about what to let go with less resistance than you ever thought possible.
Minimalism is Freedom
One of the drawcards of minimalism is that, in many ways, it promotes a kind of freedom.
Freedom from physical clutter, freedom from debt, freedom from social norms, freedom from things in life that aren’t serving you.
Imagine a life with fewer physical things (and only those that provide joy or value), fewer demands on your time, lower debt because of a focus on conscious spending, and a life clear in purpose. That’s the kind of freedom minimalism reveals. It’s a sense of beautiful space – space that doesn’t need to be filled, but that you can furnish with your favourite things, if you like.
When you ‘spend less’, you can use your resources for what’s really important. Spend less money, invest in things you love. Waste less time, find yourself taking time doing things you love. Curate your relationships, deepen those that are really special.
Once you clarify what’s important to you, you can free yourself from generic expectations and from keeping up with the Joneses. Minimalism – or living a minimalist life – gives you the freedom to create a life you love.
Minimalism is Internal
You may have a vision of what it might look like to have a minimalist physical space. But minimalist living is about an internal sense of peace as much as it is about clear benchtops!
Minimalist living is internal, as well as physical. It’s a sound belief in yourself, based on the confidence of knowing what’s important to you. It helps promote an internal clarity about what you really want in your life.
Chapter 2: The Benefits of Minimalism
This chapter explores some of the big benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle.
One of the big benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle is “more freedom”. I touched on this earlier, but what does it really mean?
How can minimalist philosophy help you create more free time? This has been a bit of a mystery to me too, but as I’ve grown into the minimalist journey it’s become clearer.
When you own less stuff, and have less clutter in your physical space, you spend less time tidying it up! It really is that simple.
For our family a good example is baby toys. While we’re passionate about engaging our son, we’ve been mindful about not allowing too many toys enter our home in his first year. We haven’t bought many toys – most of what we have is either second hand, or gifts. Each day I select a few toys for him to play with (which also keeps his interest higher!) At the end of the day we clear them away, leaving a tidy space for my husband and I to enjoy after bub has gone to bed! With just a few things to tidy, it doesn’t take much time or cause any stress – freeing up time to enjoy the clean space.
When you have fewer things, you also spend less time worrying about organising things or clearing the clutter. If you’ve thought about decluttering, you may have spent time researching the best way to ‘declutter my closet’ or ‘how to tidy my kitchen’. By living a minimalist lifestyle all the time, you don’t have to spend time periodically working out how to declutter.
Minimalism can help create freedom with money as well.
The general idea is that you will buy fewer things that last longer! Put a little extra time and effort into your next purchase decision and, even if you spend a little more up front, you’ll probably spend less in the long run.
By having fewer things, some minimalists are also able to downsize their home. By focusing on having fewer things, items that carry multiple purposes, and good quality items, you need less space. Start dreaming about what that could mean for your lifestyle and your expenses, because it’s truly possible for those who embrace minimalism!
Minimalism allows freedom of expression. How? By tuning into your own values and what’s important to you, you become confident in your own creativity and find yourself not comparing with others.
Know yourself more intimately, and express it more freely. What a beautiful way to live.
When you spend less money, you rely less on the income you generate. By getting off the treadmill of “need more, spend more, get more” you free yourself from the requirement to make more and more money.
Reduce the demand on yourself to make a huge income, and free yourself to consider doing work you love.
Minimalism often brings to mind images of white space and sparse furnishings. While this cliche isn’t always an accurate reflection of a minimalist life, enjoying a beautiful, clear space usually is.
Many people come to minimalism through decluttering their wardrobe as a starting point, as in my case. “A closet full of clothes with nothing to wear” is a common problem and one that inspires decluttering.
A minimalist wardrobe is one that has just the right amount of clothes. The items are of good quality and the style perfectly reflects that of the owner. Each piece is known and appreciated.
Even if this isn’t the first step in your minimalism journey, you can expect to enjoy a streamlined wardrobe as part of a minimalist lifestyle. Why? Minimalism helps you refine your style and value fewer items.
When you embrace minimalism, you’ll surround yourself with fewer things. You’ll feel less pressure to hold onto items ‘just because’ it’s expected in one way or another, and instead surround yourself with things you truly love or that provide value. Fewer things means more space.
The things you do keep have greater meaning. Your home begins to look more like a true reflection of you/ your family, a genuine representation of your style and values.
Fewer things also leads to more organised spaces.
And usually (though this depends on your style!), fewer things, items that bring you joy and more organised spaces will lead to what you consider to be a more beautiful home.
Clear mind/ Happiness
When you deal with the physical stuff in your life, there’s a good chance you’ll also feel more equipped to deal with the non-physical stuff that perhaps you’ve been avoiding or that provide added challenge. All this processing leads to a clearer mind, and a happier life.
Let go of the past
One of the biggest impacts of minimalism in my life has been a growing ability to deal with sentimental items. I’ve always been a sentimentalist and, as someone who lost their mum at 15, I tend to hesitate before letting anything go which could represent sentimental value.
Minimalism has taught me that “our memories are not in our things” and, while sometimes it’s valuable to hold onto something physical in order to trigger a memory, most of the time the more enriching path is to acknowledge its past value and let it go.
Are you holding onto physical things for their sentimental value, but hold a niggling feeling they’re filling space that would be better cleared? I understand the conflict, but in my experience the act of processing an item’s role in my life as in the past and letting it go has been one of the most rewarding and revealing lessons I’ve learned.
Perhaps one of the unexpected benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle is the confidence it inspires. If you think about it, it makes sense – minimalism encourages you to whittle away that which is superfluous, until you uncover things and values that really hold meaning for you. This process of establishing your own values and rules – and living by them – naturally results in greater self-confidence. When you know yourself and are living what you believe is your best life, you care less about what others think and instead enjoy a quiet confidence every day.
When you have fewer things (physical and otherwise) you use and experience them more frequently. You tend to value every single thing more clearly – and you are thankful for what you do have.
When you know what’s important to you, it’s easier to devote time to it. Minimalism can help you prioritise.
In pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, the aim is to remove that which doesn’t provide value or bring joy, so you can focus on that which does. This applies not only to physical possessions but relationships as well.
Are there relationships in your life that no longer bring you joy? Minimalism encourages us to review our relationships, spending time with the truly special people and allowing us to let go when it’s appropriate. This doesn’t mean it’s easy to do – but it’s a call to be mindful of the way we spend our time.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, minimalism helps to clarify and define your values. We all have values, but many of us don’t often think intentionally about what they are and whether our life is a reflection of what we believe. By spending time thinking about what we value, we know ourselves more clearly and are better able to live in line with our values.
A life aligned with our values is a more fulfilling, meaningful life.
Though it may not be immediately obvious, there are health benefits of minimalism. More time and less debt can result in greater happiness and lower stress, meaning a healthier mind and body.
In my experience, the psychological benefits of minimalism are also very real. If you’ve ever conducted a mini declutter and experienced that sense of lightness and relief, you have a sense of the mental benefits of clearing space. Extrapolate that feeling through broader areas of life and it quickly becomes obvious that there are some very real health benefits of minimalism.
When you clear up your schedule to focus on the things you value most, you will make time to do things you love. Ever dreamed of taking up crochet? Find a class and schedule it in! Wanted to learn how to cook better meals for your family? Stop daydreaming and use your newly prioritised time to make it happen.
When you are clear on your priorities and have the determination to give them space, your ideal life will begin to reveal itself.
Good for the Earth
Minimalism is not only good for the individual, it has positive effects for our planet.
Even if your reason for pursuing a minimalist lifestyle isn’t to benefit the earth, your actions will reduce your footprint and leave less impact on the world.
By reducing your need for ‘stuff’, you buy less and therefore use fewer of our earth’s resources.
When you value your physical things more, you’ll naturally look for better quality items, and tend to keep them for longer. Again this lightens the impact on the earth.
And naturally by thinking more clearly about what you value, being clear on priorities you will place greater value not only on your things, but on the world that surrounds you.
Chapter 3: How to be a Minimalist
When you know all about the benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle and are starting to dream of the possibilities, you’ll naturally start looking at how to be a minimalist! This may happen slowly or with a sudden rush! For our family it’s taken a couple of years to really move down this path.
First: Get inspired – envision your life with less
Becoming minimalist is a process, beginning with small steps. Like any big project, you’re more likely to succeed if you begin with the end in mind. Have a clear picture of what you’re aiming for, and you’ll find deeper motivation to continue working towards it.
Start with Why
I always find the best way to make progress on a project – particularly when things get tough or you lose motivation – is to start with a clear view of why you want to achieve it. Minimalism is no different – if you truly want to pursue a minimalist lifestyle, you’ll face obstacles along the way. Get clear on why you want it and you’re more likely to get through them.
As we’ve seen, minimalism centres around you and your values. What do you really value in life? What physical things bring you joy? Which relationships bring you fulfilment? In which ways can you spend your time to bring a sense of accomplishment and happiness?
When you’re clear on your values, they become central to ‘why’ you want to be minimalist.
It’s about identifying and focusing on what’s most important to you.
Identify your vision of success
What does ‘success’ look like to you?
Most of us grow up with a predefined measure of ‘success’. Minimalism challenges the ‘traditional’ ideals of success – career, house, car, possessions, a full social calendar. These things may be important to you, and even be your genuine measures of success – the point is that you question them, and be sure those things will truly bring you happiness.
Fulfilment is a true measure of success. What things will really bring you fulfilment?
You may find instead you long for a simple life filled with few physical things that bring you joy, and focus on your relationships and spending time on hobbies that make you laugh. You may decide that travelling brings you most joy. Or that you want to move to a new city and experience every restaurant on offer. Whatever it is, simply think about what will bring a sense of fulfilment.
The experience of exploring what brings you joy can be a joy in itself!
Then, decide not to compare yourself to others. Your own version of success is your very own – you don’t need to strive for others’ visions of success.
Minimalism is about finding and emphasizing the things that are most important to you, and removing the rest.
After starting with why, and envisioning your own levels of success, it’s important to take a step back and be realistic. By all means be inspired, but also think about where you are now so you can take small steps towards what you’re imagining.
You’ll need to part with things you’ve been keeping ‘just in case’. This can be a difficult change in the way you think – but it’s just a habit! The Minimalists suggest the 20/20 rule – if it’s something you can replace for $20 or less and within 20 minutes, you can part with it now.
When it comes to becoming minimalist, it’s also important to keep in mind that everyone’s version is different. You may decide to keep 5 books or 50 books – there’s no right answer other than what’s right for you. This is why it’s important to establish your values, and your vision of success, before you start.
Declutter your physical life
Many people find it’s easiest to start with decluttering their physical life, before tackling other areas. Start with physical possessions and move forward from there.
Determine how to identify value in your possessions/ Decide your criteria
Before you start ‘decluttering’ or removing physical things from your life you’ll need to work out how you’re going to decide which things go and which stay. By having rules or criteria established first, you’ll find it easier to part with things. Marie Kondo suggests asking yourself whether the item sparks joy. (To be honest this method is the reason I started pursuing minimalism in the first place – but it won’t work for everyone)
Think about what rules you want to have, to help you decide whether or not to keep something. When you remove emotion from the decision it’s easier to follow through (though sometimes easier said than done!)
The Minimalists suggest the ‘90/90 rule’ – if you haven’t used it in the last 90 days and are unlikely to use it in the next 90, you have permission to let it go. You could change the number of days to suit you, but you get the idea.
It’s best to decide on one simple rule, to get you through your decluttering.
Decide your approach
Once you’ve decided to declutter, and how you’re going to decide what goes and what stays, think about how you want to approach the process.
Do you want to go fast or slow? Personally, I started with gusto a couple of years ago and have been on a journey since then. I’m fine with that – but perhaps you’d like to speed through and get to your ideal number of ‘things’ quickly. One half of The Minimalists (Ryan Nicodemus) achieved this in just 3 weeks, through a ‘packing party’ – he packed everything he owned into boxes (as though he was moving) and after 3 weeks, donated or sold everything that remained in the boxes.
One thing I’d say is to have compassion for yourself – once you’ve started you may find things don’t go as smoothly as you’d like. Don’t be too self-critical – it’s a process, and a learning journey. In reality I believe it can take years – it’s truly a life-changing process.
Rewrite your standards
If you’re to maintain a minimalist lifestyle, it’s likely you need to rethink some of your standard approaches.
Borrow things rather than buy them. Not only does this save time and money, but it helps build relationships within your community.
Look for quality and spend time researching when you do decide to buy. You’ll keep your items for longer. And you’ll appreciate them more.
Think about whether you can get items that serve multiple purposes (thereby taking up less space). I’ve been enjoying thinking about this in the kitchen. We’ve been going a little old-school, using pots and pans rather than a microwave!
Consume experiences rather than things
One of the key characteristics of minimalism is the reduction of physical clutter. The removal of things from your home and your life leaves space – free time not cleaning, more money because you’re not buying as much. It makes way for consumption of a new, more beautiful kind – the consumption of experiences.
Create memories with loved ones, and you’ll be enriched with more fulfilment and deeper relationships – another key aspect of minimalism.
Declutter your digital life
Decluttering your physical environment can be a challenge, but often takes precedence over other areas simply because you can see your progress more immediately! But in our busy online lives, we also need to declutter our digital things.
If you’re like me, you tend to save digital files (in fact I think I have more digital files after pursuing minimalism, because I scan paper instead of keeping it!) So it becomes important to keep these assets clear as well. Digital things hang over our heads and subconscious as much as physical things do.
This is something I’m still working on. I’m fairly good at keeping digital files organised (I love structure and process) but it’s the deleting I find a challenge. My Google Storage plan has recently been upgraded – and I don’t see it going backwards in the near future!
If it’s not tax-related, and not something I’ve used in the past 5 years or plan to use in the next 12 months, it should be fine to let go. I say “should” – I’m a work in progress.
This is another area in which a lot of people struggle – myself included. We take so many photos on our devices, but do we ever really look at them? I bet it’s a small fraction we ever really revisit and enjoy.
The Minimalists suggest another game. Delete 1000 photos in 11 days by deleting one photo today, two tomorrow etc.
One practice I try to keep is deleting duplicates fairly soon after I’ve taken them (same day, at least). At least that way you’re minimising the damage! Try to edit photos on the same day as well – don’t let them sit there thinking you’ll edit and delete them ‘one day’ – it doesn’t come. Before you know it you have a pile of digital photos too high to tackle. Address them as soon as you can after taking them.
Declutter your time
Once you’ve become accustomed to simplifying some of the physical areas of life, you’ll feel more comfortable addressing other areas – such as simplifying and re-prioritising how you spend your time.
In our hyper-connected world, it’s far too easy to tell ourselves we have solid relationships. In reality we’re lonelier than ever. We might have hundreds of ‘friends’ on social media, but if our interactions are shallow and brief, this is not a recipe for meaningful relationships. Social media isn’t the enemy though – used in a mindful way, it can play a positive role in healthy connections.
As minimalism becomes part of how you view the world, you will see glimpses of how your relationships might take on more meaning. Consider how you’re spending time with the people you love, and whether you might invest more time one-on-one. You might have lunch together, join a sporting team for regular facetime, go for a walk, or take up a hobby you can do together.
Strong relationships are crucial for our overall health. Minimalism can help us break through the superficial layer to create deep, meaningful bonds.
Our time is a reflection of how we spend our moment to moment. Any routines we have are obviously a big part of how our time plays out.
Take a moment to think about any routines you have. From the moment you wake up until the time you go to bed, your routines may consist of:
- How you spend the first 15 minutes after waking up
- Getting ready to leave the house
- Meal times
- Commuting or transit times
- Getting home from work and dinner time
- Getting ready for bed
When you think about it, there are probably areas in which you do the same thing every day. Are there any ways in which you could be more mindful? More deliberate about how you’re spending your time, and therefore how you’re spending your life?
Perhaps you reach for your phone first thing in the morning. We’ve all heard this one: put your phone in another room so it isn’t an automatic action in the morning, before your brain has had time to wake up.
Do you watch TV during moments at which you really don’t need or even want to? Those habits can prevent your brainpower from firing in a more powerful way.
Do you scroll social media whenever you find yourself with an empty moment? Try noticing the urge, and resisting it. You might get bored. Your boredom might lead to something creative or more meaningful. These little moments can become sliding doors into new and beautiful chapters in life.
Do you try to consume or do a greater volume of things, believing that more is better? What if you simplified, focusing on quality rather than quantity. I’ve been guilty of reading several books at the same time, trying to finish them all. In 2019 I’ve challenged myself to read just one book at a time! Are there areas in your life where you could pull back on quantity and amp up the quality? That’s minimalism in action.
This one speaks for itself. And again this is one that constantly challenges me. I often find my mind skipping around before I’ve finished what’s in front of me. But when we focus on one thing at a time, we can be more productive and more involved in one thing, helping us feel enriched and satisfied.
Begin to notice when you’re multitasking. When you realise, trying picking just one thing on which to focus your energy and either stick with it until it’s complete, or for a designated period of time.
Are you texting a friend whilst your child tells you about their day?
Making dinner and listening to a podcast?
Watching TV and scrolling Facebook?
It may seem as though you’re being productive – in fact the opposite is true. Start with noticing when you’re multitasking. When possible, try moving to focusing on just one thing at a time.
To be notified of future chapters, email me >> hello (at) TheLifeConscious (dot) com