What is minimalism? Let’s put it this way. More stuff = more things to worry about, more decisions to make, less time to do what we love with those we love. So it may be time for you to let go of some of the “stuff” holding you back from creating a life you truly love. By practicing minimalism, you’re giving yourself permission to only embrace the things, people, and/or feelings that add value to your life.
To start, it’s not just about physical objects. It’s about decluttering your life in its entirety - your space, your schedule, your habits, your goals, your mind… and most importantly, your life. And understand, this level of “decluttering” is a lifetime process - it takes practice and patience. This ten-step guide will help get you started in the right direction and lead you to a simpler, happier life long-term. *Scroll to the bottom for a bonus list of items it’s time to get rid of immediately!
1. Be honest about your priorities.
We hear it all the time - prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. But are we being really, truly honest with ourselves about what is most important to our well-being? The process of becoming more minimalistic all begins with necessity. And recognizing the differences between necessity, desire, and manipulation. What do you need at this time in your life? Or better yet, what do you NOT need?
Action Item: Make a list of things you absolutely need. What do you use every day? Week? Month? Year? Decide from that list, what is of utmost importance for this moment in your life. If there are things you want to eliminate but not get rid of completely, find a place not easily accessible to store these items. Later on, you can decide if they’re really necessary or if you can move on from them.
2. Stop overcommitting.
We all have that friend (or maybe we are that friend) who always makes plans, to bail on them hours before, and/or making up an excuse as to why they need to “reschedule”... *cough cough* you can’t hide your hangover with the stomach flu after documenting your night on Insta… This is a waste of time and energy, and we sacrifice relationships with others and ourselves in the crossfire. But what does this have to do with minimalism? It comes down to the root of the problem - the “why” of the action. What would happen if you learned to walk away from someone who doesn’t value your time? Or, if you are that friend, consider how that energy could be spent with or doing something you love.
Action Item: Don’t want to do something? Or hang out with that someone? Just say no. No excuses necessary. No one ever said you needed a reason.
3. Live in the moment.
Nothing says minimalism better than letting go of fear, anxiety, and things out of your control. Being present in a moment, and fully embracing everything that comes at that moment (good or bad) is the key to living a life of joy. We often spend much of our lives so worried - about the test we crammed for, the rumor going around about you, the boy who broke your heart, about impressing and pleasing everyone but ourselves. If you eliminated that worry from your life, imagine the possibilities...
Action Item: Practice presence. Strip any distractions - your phone, laptop, alcohol, cravings, the to-do list that will still be there after the moment passes. Be fully in that moment.
4. Save the trees.
Needless to say, we now live in a day and age where we can stop hoarding appliance warranties, credit card contracts, and electronic user-guides. It may come of a shock to some, but most of this lives online now! Save the trees and go paperless.
Action Item: If you shouldn’t be locking it in your safe (aka your birth certificate, passport, recent tax return, etc.), scan it and shred it.
5. Good vibes only.
As you begin living this new lifestyle, you’ll start to look at life a little differently. You’ll start to see things in a new light, especially when it comes to your relationships. Relationships should add value to your life, not additional stress and negativity. First, identify what the relationship is to you and how long this relationship will and has been in your life. Next, consider these questions: Who brings you joy? Who makes you feel good? Is it a mutual feeling? Do they participate in the same activities you enjoy?
Action Item: Make another list. Ask those questions. Are there barriers in the relationship you can mend, or are you simply not adding value to each other’s lives at this moment?
6. Nourish your body.
Your body is a temple (cliche we know, but oh so true girl). And living a minimalistic lifestyle includes the items you ingest. Eliminate any harmful substances (unnecessary/recreational drugs, alcohol, sugars, allergens, etc). Experiment making new recipes that you’ll be excited for (shoot, you could even become a part-time food blogger if all goes well). Make grocery lists, and stick to them. Check to see if there are ingredients or alternative options you already have. Only buy what you need, nothing more.
Action Item: It’s probably been a while since you really cleaned out your pantry and fridge… no shame. Now is the time. Anything outdated or that hasn’t been touched in 6 months to a year definitely needs to go. Not sure, mark it with a sharpie and check back in a couple months.
7. Embrace the “Less is More” mentality.
We’ll just give it to you straight on this one.
Less media, more social.
Less TV, more reading.
Less digital, more human connection.
Less eating out, more cooking.
Less spending, more doing.
Less possessions, more experiences.
Less multitasking, more undivided attention.
Less obligation, more intention.
Action Item: What can you sacrifice for your needs? Or for the needs of someone you love? Try to sacrifice one thing a day, reflect on how it made you feel, and decide if you absolutely need that thing in your life tomorrow.
8. Enjoy natural beauty.
Mother Nature is the QUEEN of minimalism. Fresh air, the sound of the rain, snowflakes on your eyelashes, the sounds of nature. Enjoy the world as it is. Opt-out of modern consumption (money, media, streaming, just to name a few…) and opt into the simplicity of the world around you.
Action Item: Go on a walk. Hike. Swim. Bike. Be outside however your able. For just 10 minutes, be still and observe the beauty in your surroundings.
9. Clear your head.
Tangible things are easy to de-clutter, organize, compartmentalize. But our mind is another story. Controlling our thoughts and our attitude takes serious self-control and practice. But even the simple act of acknowledging what’s going on in our head and heart will accelerate your practice of minimalism. Acknowledge it, write it down, say “I heard you”, appreciate and be grateful for hearing the thought. Then move on.
Action Item: Keep a journal with you at all times. When a thought enters your mind you want to bookmark for later, or maybe a thought you don’t understand creeps in, write it down. Come back to it when you have the time to fully acknowledge and explore it.
10. Be intentional.
What are your intentions? What energies, feelings, or goals are you sending out into the universe? What people do you love spending time with? What places do you enjoy being? What foods make your body feel nourished? What activities make you feel happy and fulfilled? What clothes, make-up or hairstyles make you feel confident and yourself?
Action Item: Remember that list up at #1? Go through it. What on that list is because of intention? What is because of desire or greed? Acknowledge the difference. How much of your list is embodying intentionality?
To close, don’t forget in the process of letting go to be grateful for what you have. Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of everything in your life because you want to declutter your space or free up some time… it’s about filling your life with things that bring you joy. Therefore, beware of the common symptom of gratitude.
BONUS LIST: Taking a step towards a more decluttered life? Bite the bullet and rid your life of these things immediately. But remember, if you’re unsure, find a place to put it away until you are sure. Once you are, always consider consignment or donation.
Old bills and tax returns
Instruction Manuals for appliances
Single pair of lost earrings
Old receipts (snap a pic if you’re worried!)
Scratched CDs - or just ditch the CD’s all together and upload those babies to iTunes!
Outdated phones, electronics, and their accessories (and no… that old broken iPhone is probably not worth anything)
Greeting Cards (if they carry a story or meaning, make them into a scrapbook or put them away in a bin for keepsakes)
Expired beauty products
Beauty product samples - combine all your samples that you will ACTUALLY use into one bag or place and only bring them out when you’ve finished a current product.
Unusable cords/wires (put all the cords you’re unsure about in a bag - store away and check back on a later date)
Old or used batteries
Old notebooks, planners or calendars
Shorted out holiday lights
Puzzles or games with missing pieces
Books you have read or with overly ripped spines/pages
Pens low on ink
Socks with holes or a missing pair
Expired food or has been in the freezer longer than a year
Expired vitamins and medications
Cleaning supplies you don’t use
Dead or dying plants
Old magazines and catalogs
Worn, ripped, and/or stained towels and sheets
Things that just don’t work - watches, electronics, etc.