Let’s talk about minimalism! It’s a bit of a hot topic these days, with challenges and books popping up everywhere. One of the best-selling books last year was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
How did such a simple – and dare I say, minimalist – concept rise to the top? By and large, we are a culture of collection and clutter, and unless presented with a counterargument, we don’t come up with any reason to downsize.
In fact, we’re much more inclined to go big or go home. Make more money. Buy a bigger house. Fill it with more things. Logical, right?
It’s no longer news that things don’t make us happy. The line between want and need is one that is easily muddled, if not entirely ignored. In the day and age of keeping things forever, impulse buys and aggressive marketing, it’s hard to always make a rational decision.
This week, we want you to go on a spending freeze (besides necessities), and take the next seven days to instead start cutting back. Who knows? You might get addicted!
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Elimination versus organisation
The more space we have, the more room there is to create organizational devices in our homes. Even the most organized people can afford to declutter.
If you open your closet door to a lack of empty space – even if it’s all neatly labelled and packed away – you have to think about how often you’re reaching into those places. Just because you know where something is does not mean you’ll need it.
Minimalism looks different for everyone. There is no one, tried and true perfect way of freeing up space in your life. At the core, though, elimination is ubiquitous. You’re going to want to take some inventory.
Questions to ask yourself
When I first began paring down and trying to understand how to turn minimalism into a style that works for me – and not only in the moment – I found myself coming back to a few questions over and over.
These are the inquiries I make while assessing my needs, before I purchase something and before I get rid of something:
- Does this improve the quality of my life? This is something you should always consider. It helps to honestly assess what you need in the moment. It’s especially good for impulse buys. You also have to consider that this question begs you to think not just about the quality of your life now, but it offers you the opportunity to think about whether it will continue to serve you over time.
- Do I already have this item? We are a culture that doesn’t find it so strange to own one, two, three or more of any one item. I personally began to notice this with workout clothes. I had a huge variety of black yoga pants (who else?), but I only ended up wearing two or three pairs that fit well, breathe well and compress well. It’s quality over quantity… and doing your laundry regularly. If you have one, chances are you don’t need another.
- Can I wait until later to buy this? This is the ultimate diversion technique to minimalism. One of my habits is making wishlists when I’m feeling like I need to buy something. The most common outcome? I don’t purchase anything on them. I let them sit for a week, and I tend to forget about them. If you don’t forget about it, you might actually benefit from having that item (i.e. you will notice its absence). Try to give yourself more time to weigh your options.
- What else can I do with this money? Minimalism is a fantastic way to buckle down on your budget. This question especially comes in handy during moments of weakness a.k.a. impulse buying. Think about the monetary value of that item and draw some quick comparisons. Multiply it by twelve and see how much it adds to savings over one year. Think about items you’ve had on your wishlist for a long time that you might need or still be thinking about.
7 days to a more minimal you
The minimalist mindset might not be fully achieved in a week, and you might just get through the bare minimum stuff, but starting is the hardest part! These steps are great for someone who just doesn’t know where to start, or someone who needs a little structure in order to create the momentum.
After all, that’s what we’re after here! Minimalism is a sustained practice, and it takes time to establish a sustainable way of keeping it well and alive in your world.
Spoiler alert: not all steps include the physical act of getting rid of your possessions – don’t worry! Getting started requires taking inventory, honest assessment and some mindset exercises, too.
Day 1. Start with inventory
Remember that thing about having more than one of any given item? Yeah, that’s a good place to begin with your inventory. Take an hour or two to give your home a walk-through, and simply write down items you have duplicates of.
If you’re feeling extra motivated, you could tote a box around and toss the duplicate items into it. Remember – you don’t have a commitment to discard these items just yet.
This is number one on the list, because these should realistically be the easiest items to part ways with.
Now you have a list or a box, and you can honestly decide what comes next. Presumably, you’ve also been able to decide which duplicate item means less to you or that you use less often.
If you can wrap your head around the notion that you only need one of most things, sort things out. Donate excess items to friends or charity shops. The main takeaway is not to store these things in case you need them later!
If the item seldom needs replaced, there is no need to store it.
Commonly overlooked places: the spice cabinet and pantry! If you don’t regularly do a clean sweep, you probably have loads of duplicate items that you can compress.
Day 2. Streamline your wardrobe
The wardrobe has more potential than most places to collect unnecessary items. It’s fairly common to purchase clothes for specific events that don’t get consistent wear and to keep clothes “just in case,” whether it means a similar event in the future or fitting into those jeans down the road, or simply having the luxury of enough closet space to never really clean up.
Think about it this way: are you even going to miss these things? Probably not. In all likelihood, you won’t notice their absence. If you do later down the road, it will offer you perspective on what your ideal closet contains.
Give your closet a flip through, and toss anything to donate that you haven’t worn in more than six months to begin. It’s also good to part ways with ill-fitting clothes. Another good way to keep you motivated is to ask, “If I had to pack just one suitcase full of clothes, what clothes would I take?”
As someone who has actually faced this decision, it is an incredibly effective way of making smart and functional wardrobe choices.
Day 3. Make a designated minimalist space
This might seem like a rather demanding task, but hear me out. It doesn’t need to be a full room, because naturally, not everyone has the space to make that happen.
Moreover, it might take you more than a week to achieve your final vision. Whether it’s a tiny corner, a closet or your desk, dedicate yourself to removing the clutter entirely.
Don’t cut corners. Don’t just organize. Take inventory, toss a few things and watch it come together.
Clean spaces are good for more than that minimalist aesthetic appeal; they promote peace of mind by clearing up some of that mental clutter, too.
Having a place to go with minimal distraction and nothing begging for your attention is a good tool for productivity as well. Common cluttered spaces include kitchen tables, foyer tables, “junk drawers,” desks and utility closets.
Pick one and give it a makeover.
Day 4. Spend your time more wisely
Minimalism is obviously about things, but more than that, it’s about letting that mentality bleed into all of your habits. One of the best ways to downsize a bit is to really appraise your time investments.
Like maximizing space and money, maximizing time is important. We’re not just talking for productivity’s sake either; free time dwindles away in front of screens and other time sucks more than we realize only to leave us with “no time” for anything else.
Think of your time as an object, and ask yourself the questions I mentioned above. You can simply take inventory of where your time is going initially, and then reevaluate.
For example, if you’re spending three hours per day watching television, you can address that first by deciding to cut back the rest of the week or ditch the TV altogether if you’re really dedicated.
Once you’ve eliminated one meaningless activity, you can work on eliminating further bad habits. This will force you to add in activities that increase fulfillment such as reading, exercise, cooking and socialization – all more ‘tangible than technology’ hobbies.
Day 5. Clean up your online clutter
Your email inbox, your Facebook friend list, the people you follow on Instagram… it all makes a difference. It’s not physical clutter, and it borders on brain clutter a little, but the point is that you can afford to go minimalist here.
The internet is built on excess, but we also have a lot of control over the content we consume and our overall habits.
A few steps that I’ve found helpful in eliminating digital clutter include always keeping my inbox at zero, hiding or unfriending people on Facebook or Instagram who either share negative thoughts or content that makes me feel stressed and eliminating the ‘FOMO’ or comparison, so unfollowing people who make me think that my life is inferior (spoiler: it isn’t!).
Another step I’ve taken is to delete apps on my phone for things like Facebook, so I’m only inclined to check on my computer. Finally, it’s good to just do a full-on digital detox… even if just for a day.
Digital clutter can be invasive in very subtle ways and difficult to recognize. Today, just take a stab at scaling back on your exposure.
Day 6. Replace something low-quality
In my opinion, most things come down to quality over quantity. Minimalism is one of those things. While it is a budget-savvy way of living, it’s also pushed me to purchase far more big ticket items than I ever would have imagined.
By asking myself the questions I do, I can often come to the conclusion that I’d prefer to opt for something that serves multiple purposes and/or lasts a long time. Low-quality items don’t serve us for the long-term, and we end up with multiples or just having to replace them.
Minimalism is a form of investment. Less is more. If you’ve been looking to upgrade something whether it’s a worn down pair of shoes or your skillet set, do it!
If you think about it in terms of money, spending extra now pays for itself later. I do my research prior to purchasing, and I choose items that I need (first and foremost), that increase the quality of my life now and later and that could potentially be a “buy it for life” purchase.
Look for reputable brands that offer lifetime warranties if you really want to get smart. See – it’s not all about getting rid of things!
Day 7. Practise gratitude
On your final day, it’s good to do some reflection. This will help you see how far you’ve come and take new inventory, plus it will help you plan where you’d like to go.
Maybe you can even set up a game plan for next week to continue down the minimalist path. Gratitude is essential to minimalism, because it helps you to recognize and highlight what you do have, rather than focusing on what you don’t.
A gratitude journal can help you stay focused as you continue your efforts to declutter and resort. Simply write down three or four things per day that you feel thankful for.
You might be surprised to find out that many of these gratitudes won’t be things at all.
Are you ready to take on the challenge? Let us know how it goes. If you’re looking for some accountability, share this with a friend to scale back with.
We’re so passionate about this topic that we dedicated a whole week in our 30-day program to decluttering!
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