A Beginner’s Guide To Minimalism
The average American household contains over 300,000 items. Let that sink in. How’s that possible, where do we find the space to put it? “I don’t even use more than 10 items a day!” you might be exclaiming. And you wouldn’t be alone. More people are asking these questions by the day and most of them find their all-encompassing answer in minimalism.
Sweet, simple minimalism.
Minimalism is a word that’s been swirling around a lot lately. You’ve probably seen it plastered across blogs, mentioned in documentaries, and even used in tempting click-bait titles.
Perhaps you’ve just heard it pitted against zero waste in a battle of the environmentalists.
Where you’ve probably heard most about it, however, is from the trendsetters in your life. You know the type, the ones that are always first to try the latest lifestyle and will let you know loud and clear whether it’s worth it or not. Well, as you’ve probably been told –
Minimalism is worth it.
And it’s here to stay.
Why? Why does minimalism beat out every other lifestyle fad or good-living movement that pops up every two years or so?
Because it works and it’s universal. Simple as.
Minimalism has been around since the dawn of time – working towards creating a peaceful and simplistic living space for people so that they can in turn be at peace within their own minds.
It has been tied to whole religions, cultures, myths, as it has presented itself in different ways throughout history. However, though the packaging has changed, minimalism still remains the same as always.
So, it’s not really a trend. It’s just people returning to a well-known and well-trodden way of living as they search for mindfulness and simplicity in an age of fast-living alongside over-consumption.
In fact, 10% of American’s consider themselves fully-fledged minimalists, while 14% are actively working towards a more minimalistic lifestyle. This means that 1 in 4 US adults are involved in minimalism in some way.
Despite all this, you still might be asking:
Why should I become a minimalist?
Why should I deprive myself of all the things I want in exchange for an empty house?
It can easy to think that way if you haven’t heard the endless benefits of cutting down on consumption and limiting your possessions. So, why don’t we scratch the surface of minimalism and discover the incredible layers of benefits that it contains inside?
You see, when you become a beginner minimalist you stop focusing on your possessions and can turn your attention towards the world around you – including the world within yourself.
Here are just some of the benefits that can come from setting your sights on decluttering your entire life:
- Closer connection to the earth
- Strengthened family bonds
- Improve relationships
- More time
- fewer worries – clearer head
- Less cleaning
- Live moment by moment
- Focus on healthy living
- Discovering your true calling
- Eliminating discontent or worry
- Benefit the environment
It’s incredible how something as simple as ridding yourself of life’s excesses can help you to focus on what’s really important.
So much so, that your mental health can even feel the benefits.
Minimalism guides you towards creating your own fulfillment from within rather than searching for it in possessions.
This can help you to realize that happiness is found in those around you and within yourself.
And yes, that does sound as incredibly cheesy as you think it does but sometimes the truth is cheesy!
You don’t have to give up everything
Another truth of minimalism is that it can help to save the world by being extremely eco-friendly and waste-adverse at its very core. You see, the fundamental principles of the zero waste movement and minimalism align almost perfectly.
The only difference is that with minimalism you can do your bit without having to exactly give up your dreams of a big house and a nice car.
So, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from becoming a beginner minimalist. And those around you (including the environment) have everything to gain as well.
When the pros outweigh the cons to this extent, the next step of action becomes a no-brainer.
And since you’re probably ready to take the bounding step, let’s get started!
Some actionable steps you can take as a beginner minimalist
Listen, it’s not going to be easy, but I can promise you that it will be fun. By following these introductory steps you can easily create a solid base for yourself that will help you throughout the entirety of your minimalistic adventure. So, to be very particular about it, let’s start at the very first step:
Find out why you want to become a minimalist.
Nothing is as easy as just getting started. When it comes to a change of lifestyle, it’s going to take dedication, perseverance, and constant reminders of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Creating these reminders can be as easy as listing out your top motivations for being a minimalist and leaving it somewhere you can see it every day. You could even set reminders on your laptop or phone that will give you your daily dose of minimalist inspiration.
But that’s the easy part, finding out what you should remind yourself of is the hard part. Here are some possible ideas:
- I’m incredibly stressed and keeping possessions to a minimum helps to reduce this
- I feel like I’m losing track of my life and want to get a hold on it again
- I move so often that I can’t keep packing everything up
- I like the minimalistic aesthetic and it brings me joy.
- I want to cut out any distractions in my way of reaching my goals and achieving a fulfilling life.
- I no longer want to take part in our rife consumption culture that facilitates the destruction of the earth.
- I can’t afford to keep living at my current means
So, when is enough; enough?
All in all, it’s still up to you. You must look deep into yourself to find what’s calling you towards a lifestyle of less – no one can do it for you.
These reminders serve to keep you on track and to help you create a solid foundation from which to build your minimalist life off.
Envision your dream minimalistic life and go after it!
Take a look at what you own
Now to get down to the nitty-gritty. Don’t worry, it’s not quite time to throw out everything yet, but it is worth considering why you bought everything you own (or why you’ve kept it.)
- That surfboard you bought? You might have needed it for your once-off beachside getaway but you’ve been living inland for the last 5 years.
- The 10 blankets in different colors you snapped up to suit your moods?
- And what that steadily growing pile of books that you keep buying but never reading? (we all do it!)
They’re taking up space. And that’s all they’re doing.
Did you know that the United States alone has upward of 48,500 FULL storage facilities? So, on top of the 300,000 items in every home, it’s likely that every family has more stuff elsewhere.
This exercise in self-reflection will give you insight into your buying patterns and open your eyes to how much you own.
How many clothes do you have? How many cups do you have? What about the medicine cabinet or your makeup bag? Pretty much anywhere you look in your house will have something occupying it.
Now let’s get real, do you really need it all? Every last bit of it?
The likelihood is that you could do with owning a lot less.
Downsize your possessions
Now that you’ve gotten a better look at all of your treasure, it’s time to decide what you can live without. You’re going to have to have an honest conversation with yourself about this.
A little bit of soul-searching never hurt anyone.
I know, I know, it can almost feel like choosing between your own children! But it has to happen. Think about it, do you really need 10 pairs of jeans? What about that old jacket that’s been hanging in your hall for longer than you can remember. It’s probably getting lonely by now!
Let it move on.
Since this is never easy, we’ll get you started with some tips & tricks: Here’s a declutter formula to suit even the most dedicated hoarder!
- Develop an action plan – write it out and stick to it
- Schedule a decluttering weekend (or two)
- Clean up first – makes the process smoother and more enjoyable
- Enlist help. If you don’t think you can brace the decluttering challenge yourself, why not get a friend or family member to help you? They won’t have the same attachment to your items as you do and will be able to bring a valuable objective viewpoint to the situation.
- Start small and work your way up – never throw out the big things first, that’s just far too overwhelming and risks bringing you to a complete standstill.
- Get the stuff you’re looking to recycle out of your house ASAP. The longer it’s there, the more you’ll be tempted to keep it.
All that there’s left to do now is forget about it. Don’t listen to those nagging voices in the back of your head telling you to replace everything. You don’t need to.
Don’t celebrate your decluttering achievement by splurging on materialistic possessions, rather something you can enjoy.
Where to put your stuff
Ouch! The binning process is never easy to get started with. And speaking of binning, it’s actually best that none of it ever goes in the bin.
I mean, what good is it there? These are your delightful possessions and someone else will get good use of them. Bringing them to a charity shop or thrift store is always a good idea. You could even make yourself a buck or two by selling your things on. Be sure to check with your local charity or thrift shops on their donation policies before dropping your stuff off. Some places will only take clothes, bedsheets, and other basics while some shops will even take your old electronics.
Either way, it’s best to recycle your possessions. Otherwise, they’ll end up completely useless and lying in a landfill.
What a nightmare!
There are 9,800 recycling facilities across the US that can help you recycle or dispose of even the trickiest material. So, no excuses!
Take your time!
Phew, it’s time to take a step back, we’ve dived right in at the beginner deep end. It’s time to remember what minimalism is really about – simplicity, peace, and wellbeing.
You can’t rush any of these things.
It’s going to be a long journey of self-reflection with plenty of obstacles and rewards along the way. So, take your time.
Most experienced minimalists have a disastrous story about how they thought they could become a minimalist overnight. It always ends in them giving up and having to restart all over again.
Don’t. Let. This. Happen.
Laying down reliable and water-tight foundations from which to build your minimalistic lifestyle is invaluable. Even better is that it’s easy!
As the iconic song goes “only fools rush in.” And you’re no fool.
Simplify your routine
When people picture minimalism they don’t tend to think of morning, day, or night routines.
No matter what our routines, we tend to use a lot of products throughout them. Products that we end up buying again every week or so while trashing the empty plastic container. Needless rubbish!
Hair gels, makeup, bath bombs, body wash, shampoos, and essential oils. Our shelves tend to be packed full of them. And I’m sure if we looked more closely, we’d see that we haven’t used half of them for over a year.
Those ones can go directly in the bin.
But think about the ones that you still use. Do you truly need them all? Are they just serving as an eyesore in your bathroom?
Does cleaning your house take hours because you use so many cleaning products?
Whatever your typical routines, it’s worth simplifying it. Generally speaking, minimizing your possessions will naturally lead to a shorter and less-complex routine.
There are many methods to crafting the perfect minimalist routine, all you have to do is find the one that’s the right fit for you.
So, you might even save some time!
Use this time wisely
Is there anything you do regularly that doesn’t bring you joy? Is it eating into time that you could use for something better?
Are you doing what you really want to be doing?
Part of being a minimalist is cutting out things you don’t need or want – and this stands for every aspect of your life.
Do you clean the dog needlessly three times a week just because you’ve gotten in the habit?
Perhaps you’re still attending those art classes that are doing nothing for you.
It’s time for a change. It’s time to focus on what your heart desires and to fill your spare time with activities that benefit you.
As we grow, our wants and interests change.
And since your minimalism has gifted you with more time – make use of it.
So learn a language, get into theatre, volunteer, whatever it is that makes you tick, you’ve got more time to do it now.
Minimalism isn’t all about the materialistic side of life, use it to cut out anything that is needless in your life.
Plan to be uncomfortable
This may sound ridiculous but it’s necessary during a lifestyle change, especially a counter-culture lifestyle change that goes against consumerist society.
As a minimalist, you’re going to have some challenges thrown your way. By people and fate alike. This is inevitable and no amount of perfecting your routines or mindset is going to change it.
So, prepare yourself mentally. Give yourself the best chance of sticking to minimalism by expecting the hurdles, by learning what you’ll face, and by preparing for some discomfort.
Don’t allow a few hurdles along the way get you down or discourage you from living a minimalistic lifestyle. Just look back to the reasons why you choose this path – remind yourself that it’s right for you.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons a minimalist must learn is that everything they own has worth. Even the smallest and cheapest item was crafted from the earth’s natural resources and thus contains the inherent value.
Plus, did you know that you can show gratitude through gifts without breaking the bank or ruining your minimalist lifestyle? Zero-waste gifts may have zero waste in the name but they can still be minimalist.
Once you’ve internalized this idea and made it second-nature, you’ll find yourself becoming more thankful for the little things in life. A good minimalist knows that they’re not entitled to anything and that they therefore must be thankful for what they have.
This, in turn, should also manifest itself in communication. So you can improve your bonds with those around you by expressing gratitude for what they bring into your life.
And to keep it somewhat short and dare I say it … minimalistic – we’ll end it here. However, you could go on for days learning different ways to declutter your life and clear your head. There’s no shortage of information online that’ll help you become a pro-minimalist! However, by following the steps outlined above, you can start creating your new ‘less is more’ lifestyle.
There’s no better time to start than now.