The idea of living with less to have more joy and meaning in life has inspired many to change their lives.
When people think to start being a minimalist, there can be initial concerns about all the things to get rid of.
The large nicely arranged wardrobe, the recently bought collection items, and many other things that rarely get used.
Some even wonder if pursuing this lifestyle means completely downsizing or practicing some form of extreme minimalism.
Fortunately, we don’t all have to live in tiny houses. Everyone can be a minimalist in their own unique way.
As described in the documentary, The Minimalists: Less is Now, minimalism is the intentional use of things that you own.
For a more detailed explanation, you can check out this article on what is minimalism.
But in general, you decrease the items you don’t use or need much so you can have more time, freedom, and space in your life.
Fewer junk in your garage, fewer clothes in your closet, or even fewer dishes in your kitchen means a lot less cleaning. (Read: Minimalist Kitchen Guide – 4 Helpful Decluttering Ideas)
The lifestyle can make you less busy, less cluttered, and less overwhelmed. Your to-do lists can start shrinking, and you can break your workaholic and shopaholic tendencies.
Overall, it can mean more energy and money to enjoy what you’re passionate about in life.
How to start being a minimalist
In a way, minimalism is a philosophy that’s tailor made for our modern times.
Now that you understand what the lifestyle is all about, here a few steps to get you started on your minimalist journey.
1. Create rules that work for you
As discussed earlier, practicing minimalism can be different for everyone.
There are those who believe in environmentalism and desire to decrease their carbon footprint by living in tiny houses.
Others may simply just want to be more organized. An example would be someone decreasing the amount of clothing they own through adopting a capsule wardrobe.
A minimalist lifestyle is all about defining what makes an intentional and meaningful life for you.
It's determining your needs and desires, such as the type of people you want around, the type of items that bring you joy, and the type of work you’re passionate about doing.
Whether you want to completely downsize or just do a little decluttering of your home, you can practice minimalism in the way that makes you happiest.
To help yourself come up with your version of minimalism, ask yourself these three questions.
- What brings me joy?
- What brings me peace?
- Which items help the most in bringing me joy and peace?
2. Get started
Once you’ve come up with your own rules, just get started. If you think you don’t have the time to do it, tell yourself that you do.
With anything that’s important to us in life, we make time for it, regardless of how busy our schedules are.
Becoming minimalist doesn’t have to happen overnight. There’s no race to beat anyone here.
You can take the time you need to slowly but surely reduce your possessions to the ones that hold value to you.
Even if you just declutter one item a day, that’s a victory in your journey to living a simple life.
Don’t let your mind focus too much on how much stuff you need to go through. That’s a recipe for quickly getting overwhelmed.
Instead, remind yourself that minimalism is a journey that every person travels at their own pace.
As long as you're consistently taking a step forward, no matter how small that step is, you can be proud of yourself.
3. If you don’t use it, lose it
You can truly live out the concept of less is more by adopting the “use it or lose it” mentality. As you start your decluttering, you’ll likely find items you haven’t used in a while.
An old shirt you only wore once or a tool that you only picked up a few times. If you’ve only used something once in the last few months, consider getting rid of it.
Any item that’s seasonal, think about whether you used that item much in the previous season. Makespace can store the items for you and if you need it again, you can get it out of storage.
4. Remove trash
Some of the stuff compiled in our homes or garage are just things we haven’t gotten around to getting rid of.
Junk, if you will. That can be old boxes piled up, torn up clothes you can’t wear anymore, or broken items that never got fixed.
Increase your space by either recycling your trash or throwing it away.
5. Ask hard questions
Sentimental items can be tough to get rid of, but minimalism helps us detach our memories from items.
In the most recent minimalist documentary, Ryan Nicodemus expressed how our memories are always within us, whether we have an item to remember it or not.
If you’re struggling to get rid of something, ask yourself a few questions.
- Does the item bring joy or peace to my life?
- Is there more than one of these items?
- Is it useful?
Feel free to hold on to the item if you answered yes to one of those questions.
If you answer no to all three, be comfortable with letting go
6. List what items and experiences are meaningful to you
People choose to be minimalist in an effort to have more meaning in their life.
If you didn’t watch the minimalism documentary, that was the case for Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus.
They felt that despite their high paying jobs affording them all the things they ever wanted in life, it felt meaningless. It made them unhappy.
Ryan and Josh went on a journey to reduce the things that didn’t add value to their life, increase the things that did, and shared their message with the world.
What adds value to your life? Take out a piece of paper and make a list of the items or experiences in life that you feel give you meaning.
Perhaps you find working on cars meaningful, or maybe you find value in doing makeup.
Sit down and take time to really think about what gives you fulfillment in your day.
7. List your excess items and experiences
I can look around my room right now and easily point out a number of excess things I have. At best, they don’t add value, and at worse, they add stress and decreases my energy.
It might be the same for you when you look around your room or throughout your home.
The thing a lot of us tend to have an excess of is clothes. Perhaps that might be the first thing you put down on your list.
If you have a desk or shelf, you might have a lot of books you don’t read, or folders full of paper that only clutters up your space. You should write those things down too.
Those can be a few experiences you might consider writing down as excesses in your life.
If you’re making these lists together with friends or family members, it’s likely you’ll discover that you have very different ideas of what’s excess and what’s meaningful.
You might see all the clothes you have as meaningful because you’re passionate about fashion and dressing up.
Your family or friends, on the other hand, might see that as excess in their own lives.
As expressed earlier, the beauty of minimalism is there’s no one size fits all. Being a minimalist can mean different things for different people, and that’s okay.
In this age of everyone seeking to embrace their individuality, you can be minimalist in however way you feel best fits you.
8. Create a plan to remove the excess
Now that you have your list of what you consider excess in your life, you can create a plan to remove the excess.
Continuing the theme of individuality, we all have different approaches when it comes to taking care of things in life.
Some of you may desire to take on the big things on your list first. Others of you may want to just take on the little things and work your way up.
Some of you might want to work to get everything removed as soon as possible.
Others of you might want to take your time and map out your removal process over a month.
You know yourself well enough to know which methods feel best for you. Never think that minimalism has to be a race.
Whether you remove the excess quickly or slowly, with each thing you remove, it’s helping you to create more and more meaning in your life.
You can be a minimalist at your own pace.
Beyond just removing items, wherever you can, try to remove experiences that may not add much value and is simply an excess in your life. A big example of this social media.
I used to spend way too much of time looking at the latest tweets on Twitter.
While there was some meaning I got from seeing interesting news or thoughts written, I realized a lot of what I read was negative.
One of the most important things in my life is my mental well-being.
I decided that for the time I spent constantly checking the platform, it didn’t measure up to enough value for me to keep visiting the website.
These can be tough decisions to make sometimes, but they may be better for you in the long run.
Do your best to remove any experiences you spend a lot of time doing, but don’t get enough meaning or value from.
While I chose to completely remove certain social media in my life, it might work better for you to just limit the time to 15 minutes day.
As I’ve stressed in this article, a part of minimalism is just doing what works for you.
9. Start adding what gives you meaning
You can do this tip as you’re removing the excess or after you’ve removed it. Look back at your list of items and experiences that give you meaning
I’ll use myself as an example to help you out. I find meaning in writing. I really do enjoy crafting these articles with just the right words to connect with my readers.
It’s because of that, I purposely try to put more time in my days and weeks to write new articles for this blog. You can do the same for your passions as well.
Perhaps you have a passion for music. Maybe you really like to sing and play the guitar.
Make more time in your life for guitar playing and singing. For you, it might not be an excess to buy 10 different types of guitars you like.
Now that you’ve removed things that were an excess, you have the room to add any large number of items that are meaningful to you.
10. Stop buying stuff on impulse
As your space reflects more of what makes you feel good, it’s important to not fall back into old habits.
That means you need to be careful about not buying things on impulse that may not be meaningful long-term
Here are a few quick tips to not make an impulsive purchase.
- Don’t buy anything when you’re bored or depressed
- Reflect on what you already have
- Avoid ads by using your smartphone less
- Be aware of retail tactics.
- Take care of your body
You can learn more details about these tips and others in my ultimate guide on how to stop buying stuff you need.
How to be minimalist in 30 days
A lot of people enjoy doing 30 day challenges with minimalism. I’ve seen 30 day digital minimalism challenges, 30 day decluttering challenges, and many others.
This approach works best for the person that wants to take baby steps, but still challenge themselves. Try removing one item of excess a day in each room of your home.
By 30 days, you might not have all of it removed, but you’ll have a lot more room for the meaningful items you’ll eventually add to your space.
How to be minimalist with a family
As the old saying goes, the more the merrier. I know that’s a little bit ironic to say in this article but keep following with me.
You won’t just be stuck with having a minimalist life only in your room. You’ll be able to enjoy it all throughout your home as well.
When you start a minimalist with journey your family, it can help your minimalism experience be a little bit better.
First, you should explain what minimalism is about to your family. You can even show them the minimalist documentary.
Once they understand, ask if they would be open to trying it, and if they are, move from there.
You should be mindful that being minimalist as a family will take a little bit of compromise.
As we’re all individuals, some of us may consider different things in the home excessive.
In shared spaces such as kitchens and living rooms, come to an agreement on what feels excessive that can be reduced, and what can be added that makes everyone in the family happy.
In some cases, you may be able to remove certain items, but still be able to enjoy them at the same time.
One example is DVDs. You may feel there are too many of them in the living room, while another family member may like having all of them.
A compromise could be to digitize all the DVDs on to your laptop, that way they can still be accessed anytime, while also being removed from the living room.
When it comes to rooms, each person in your family should be allowed to have a large number of items they feel add value to their lives.
Even if those items feel excessive to you, since you don’t have to stay in their room, as long as it makes your relative happy, you can be happy.
It may get challenging with siblings who have to share a room, and of course sharing room with your spouse.
If you’re a parent and married, you can set the example to your children with how you and your spouse compromise.
How to be minimalist overnight
Some people immediately feel a strong connection to the idea of minimalism. If that’s you, you might just want to dive right into things and be a minimalist overnight.
While I’m not one for impulsive approaches myself, if you feel comfortable, just take a whole day to put every item you feel is an excess in a pile.
These things could be certain clothes you no longer wear, tools you never use, and anything that you haven’t touched in months or years.
Once you have it all in a pile, you don’t necessarily have to throw it all away that day. In fact, I’d recommend that you didn’t.
You may feel good about removing those things now, but you might think later that one or two of those things should have been kept.
Instead of throwing the whole pile away, you can store it somewhere in your garage, shed, or rent a storage space.
In addition to the items, you can stop visiting social media sites, browsing the internet, and being on your phone for the day.
Just take time to reflect on what matters to you.
You can start the next day spending more time on what’s meaningful to you. Begin deciding on any valuable items you’ll add more of in your space.
How long does it take to start minimalism?
According to recent research, forming a new habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days.
As we're all different, some of us may get into a good routine with the lifestyle faster than others.
Though beyond forming the habit of minimalist living, I would suggest that we become minimalist the moment we begin applying the practices in our life.
Whether you're a consistent minimalist is another story.
Examples of how to be minimalist
The great thing about the minimalist lifestyle is all the variety of ways people choose to live it. The documentary highlighted some of the different choices that people made.
There’s one man who chose to live a life of backpacking around the world. Another couple chose to live in a tiny house.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was a family that lived in an average sized home.
They arranged their space in a way that felt minimalist and right for them.
Hopefully these variety of examples can inspire you to live minimalism in your own way.
Today, it's easier than ever to become minimalist
When you think about it, as I noted in my introduction, minimalism really is tailor made for our modern age.
Our technology has evolved at a quick pace to make everything we do simpler.
If you have a smartphone, you no longer need a car to get around anymore with Uber and Lyft.
You can have your groceries or dinner delivered to you at the press of a button.
There’s so much we can do with little effort that it seems like there’s no better time than now to start minimalism.
We can find most of the resources and knowledge we want at the click of a mouse.
Beyond technology making things simpler, we also have more freedom to decide how we want to live than ever before.
By no means is that the case everywhere, but specifically in western society, individuality has become more praised than it used to be.
While of course some will still judge your minimalist choices in life, there’s a whole community of others you can connect with to feel encouraged to in your minimalist journey.
If you decide to start being a minimalist today or in the future, remember this one thing.
Minimalism is less of a journey about decluttering all of the things in your life, and more of a journey about discovering all of the things that matter to you.