Recently, I’ve seen more and more people mentioning different aspects of a minimalist lifestyle. The pictures that are labeled as minimalism are usually of homes with little furniture, white walls, and little personal possessions. The question is, is this truly a minimalistic lifestyle? And if not then what really is one?
A True Minimalist Lifestyle
Minimalism isn’t a fad. Its not a trend and its not something that should be taken lightly. If you are truly trying to live a minimalist lifestyle there are some beliefs that you’ll need to adopt or to incorporate into your own.
First of all, the reason why those pictures have little furniture and little possessions is because those who follow the lifestyle realize that less is more. Material objects aren’t going to make you happy. Thats why when we go out and spend hundreds of dollars in retail therapy we still go home feeling empty. At the end of the day to be happy we need to be happy in ourselves.
This can look different for everyone though. Just because a traditional minimalist lifestyle is one that involves little material possessions, doesn’t mean that you can’t buy the things that you really need. In fact, for some, like me, I have things that have emotional value but don’t have much beyond that. For others, they can have just as much as others but they could live without the material possessions. They know whats truly important at the end of the day and thats what matters.
A minimalist lifestyle is found in the heart. Its going to be different for everyone. For some it means that everything is replaceable, for others (like me) it means that most things are and that the small objects matter (for instance a rhino figurine my grandmother gave me before I moved across the country).
10 Steps Towards Minimalism
If you feel like you can agree with what I’ve said so far and what to take the steps towards living a minimalist lifestyle, I put together the steps that I took when I decided to take some inventory of my life.
1. Understand that its just material
Everything in your home is a material product. Giving them value and making them irreplaceable can be damaging your abilities to recognize what is truly important in life. The first step to living more minimally is to recognize that these objects really are just objects.
Of course some things will matter more and that’s more than fine! Please keep your favorite books or the knick knack that your mother gave you. Just don’t keep everything because you think that one day you’ll need it. What do you need right now in your life? Does that book or sweater actually make you happy?
With these questions fresh in your mind and with a few extra thoughts as to what your priorities are, start decluttering. Go through every area in your home, every closet, every junk drawer every long forgotten storage space and get rid of everything that you don’t feel that you need.
Question each object. Do you really need this? When was the last time you actually used it? Try not to give into that little voice that will tell you that you will need it again when you know you really don’t.
Just a fun tidbit. Decluttering your area can actually provide you with some health benefits that you wouldn’t think of. It can help you with your concentration by eliminating distractions. It also helps to reduce stress. So not only will you be making someone else happy with your donation and making steps towards living a minimalist lifestyle, you’ll also be casting away some of your own stress and discomfort.
3. Collect experiences, not things
Instead of spending time, money, and energy on getting things that you do not need, spend these resources on going out and doing things that create lasting memories. Buying clothes instead of going out with some friends won’t create a lasting effect. Buying the newest and greatest electronics won’t give you a life of happiness, but going on a weekend getaway with a loved one might.
I am guilty of having possessions that remind me of experiences. But I don’t confuse things as being more important than the experiences. Objects can break or become lost, but memories and relationships last a lifetime.
4. Reduce your electronic use
The rule of thumb that I quickly found most helpful and what you should adopt if you want to adopt a minimalist lifestyle is to limit the amount of time that you spend on electronics. And thats coming from someone who makes their living on their laptop. When I don’t have to be up close and personal with my screens, they are in the other room.
Screen time tends to make us forget about what is truly important. Almost nothing that we are doing on our phones, tablets, or laptop is more important then what is going on around us at any given point in the day. They make it hard to prioritize things and to make the most out of experiences.
Set aside some electronic free time each day so that you can focus on being present (link). It will make it easier to decide what you have that really matters and what doesn’t.
5. Limit your spending
We all know the rule of not to go grocery shopping when we are hungry. Well I have another one for you. Don’t go shopping when you are bored or sad. At the end of the day you will still feel that way and now you’ll be done however much you decided to spend.
Instead of buying something that looks nice, buy the things that matter. Get those things that you’ll be able to reuse time and time again and that in five years you will still be happy that you bought. You don’t need a plethora of things to be happy. There’s no reason why you can’t wear your favorite shirt a couple of times during the week (unless it starts to really smell). Have or get the things that you love and use them.
6. Get rid of negativity
Getting rid of the excess stuff that is residing in your home is a positive, cleansing experience. Once you have started this process, its good to start taking notice of all the areas of your life where the negative resides. Sadly this includes the people in your life.
Take inventory of who is truly there for you and who builds you up. Also take notice of who does the opposite. Is there anybody who is constantly negative and ends up dragging you down in the process? It may be time to let go of these relationships.
7. Know your priorities
While I’ve been hinting at this throughout all the other step that it takes to live a minimalist lifestyle, its time to actually sit down and make a list of your priorities. What do you want to accomplish in life? What are your goals? Do you want to be more happy or to be less stressful? Physically sit down and write out your list. Take time and reflect what truly matters to you in your life. Don’t stop until you feel like you have left nothing unturned.
8. Let go of the guilt
While you were going through your home or thinking about ditching that negative friend, more often then not you are going to be feeling guilty. You spent valuable money on those possessions. Or they were gift (my biggest weakness). Or would it hurt their feelings to begin to distance yourself from them? Well I’m here to say that you are released from this guilt.
You spent money on these objects yes but your happiness is more important. Hanging onto these belongs is only working against that.
The person that gave you that gift probably won’t even remember that they gave it to you. Giving it to someone else as a token of good will would be a better use for it. And your space.
As for the friends, if they notice you are taking a step back, simply explain to them why you’re doing it. You can still be their friend, you simply want to spend more time with your more positive friends. Being honest like this can be hard, but its worth it in the end. Maybe they don’t realize they have been being a debbie downer and need the reminder.
9. Go back through your things
Now that you have taken more notice as to what is important in your life and have let yourself forget about the guilt, its time to go back through what you haven’t gotten rid of. Examine each object again and ask if you truly need it in your life. Does it match your priorities or is your guilt holding you back from getting rid of it? Is the object an extension of yourself or is it merely something of material value that can be replaced at anytime?
10. Be grateful
Now that you have gotten rid of everything that has no value in your life, look at what you do have. Be grateful for these possessions and for the positive people that are in your life. Think about what they mean to you and the current stage of life that you are in. Go through these steps frequently to always keep the things that matter most. Knowing what is important to you is the only way that you can have those things.
Please feel free to ask anything in the comments below. What does a minimalist lifestyle or minimalism mean to you?