I have always been drawn to minimalist living since I can remember.
What is minimalism?
Minimalism is a way of living where you intentionally choose to own things that matter to you and get rid of everything that is in excess.
Minimalism doesn’t mean you get rid of all your belongings just to say you lead a minimalist life.
But each item you own means something for you. You live your life with intention rather than being addicted to the consumer culture in which you feel the “need” to buy stuff.
There are no rules to minimalism like “you can only own 50 items” at a time.
We do not want to lead a minimalist lifestyle to prove a point or to show others. We should choose minimalism because we want to focus on things that make us intrinsically happy.
Signs that you should choose a minimalist lifestyle
The following are some signs to look for to see if you are cut out for minimalism.
- Clutter makes you feel overwhelmed and stressful
- You love giving away the stuff you don’t use anymore
- You feel happy and free when you give away the items you don’t use anymore
- You feel you can be happier with fewer options for clothing, technology, and other belongings
- You like to be frugal, not because you don’t have money, but because you like to spend carefully
- You don’t like hoarding
You might be already living a minimalist lifestyle without recognizing it. If it comes naturally to you, then that’s great! Declaring this will help you further because now you can practice minimalism with intention.
How to get started with minimalism?
Define your own values about what you want in life. And make a decision to spend your money and energy on those first.
For me, what I value the most in my life is family, work, books, and travel. Occasionally I like to spend on food too because I enjoy eating good food. So that’s where most of my time, money and energy will go. Because for me, these are the things that matter most in life.
Once I decide on this, I can turn down offers related to anything else like shopping and other entertainment (I don’t like going to parties or movies). I also don’t like going out much if I don’t have a specific reason. Instead, I choose to spend time on my blogs. But I do love traveling and I am looking forward to visiting many dream places in the upcoming years.
So a minimalist lifestyle also helps me to save for my big dreams rather than spending it on unnecessary needs.
Roaming around in malls for no reason just adds to my expenses and I have more chances of doing impulsive shopping. So when I define my priorities, I know what should come first in my daily life. And that way I can set boundaries.
But what if you are not a minimalist, but would like to become one because of the benefits? Read the next sections.
Why should you become a minimalist?
Becoming a minimalist has many benefits. Here are some.
1. Less clutter at home and in your mind
You know what you want in life and what your priorities are. Therefore, you make purchase decisions based on only that. You don’t give in to impulsive shopping decisions. This leads to less clutter in your living space.
It also helps to remove clutter from your mind. Because you don’t have to worry about the next Black Friday sale and feel the need to buy something because everyone else is buying something.
So, it means less mental energy spent and you can use that saved energy for things that matter.
2. Less time required for cleaning and maintenance
When you have less of everything – clothes, furniture, kitchen tools, toys – you need to spend less time cleaning and decluttering.
3. You gain more time
Less stuff means more time for yourself. You can pamper yourself by doing what you love instead of spending every minute for cleaning another area of your house.
It also means more time to spend to build your dream career, more time with family and more time for hobbies.
4. You are more grateful
How can you live on less when you are bombarded with retail offers every day?
Gratitude helps us to open our eyes to what we already have. It’s when we forget to become grateful that we become addicted to the ‘more, more, more’ mentality.
When you are grateful, you are satisfied with what you have and you learn to live with less.
5. You appreciate your relationships more
A minimalist believes that materialism cannot bring true happiness. They try to devote more time to what really matters in life. And for most people, their family is one of the priorities.
6. You gain more freedom
Have you ever wondered why people buy so many clothes? Or always get the latest iPhone the next day it is released in the market?
Is it for themselves? Or to impress others?
Sometimes people estimate their worth based on the value of things they own. Or else why would we be afraid of repeating the same clothes over and over again at work? Would we care if we were living alone and no one was there to see what we were wearing?
I don’t mean that you should walk around by wearing the same dirty clothes again and again.
When getting new stuff, always check with yourself if you are satisfying a need or a want.
Minimalist people know how much of an item they need, so they don’t buy exceeding a limit. To realize that you don’t have to impress anyone else other than yourself is freedom.
You free yourself from the negative thoughts of “what others will think”, and live to satisfy yourself.
You can let go of so many unnecessary purchases and stress when you start living to please only yourself and the people who love you the most.
7. You become more confident
When you stop competing with other people, you know that you have nothing to lose. You start loving yourself minus all the stuff. You learn to love yourself for who you are and not based on what you have.
The latest iPhone in the market doesn’t define your worth. But how well you love yourself determines it.
Being a minimalist has so many benefits that I can write another full post about it. That is for another day.
So, does minimalism guarantee happiness?
Nothing can make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind that you constantly have to bring about by choosing gratitude.
Yes, sometimes it takes effort to be in a happy state of mind. Because we are humans and we can get bogged down by the sad and tragic events in life.
Sometimes we forget to be happy because we tend to be in a complaining mode. That’s one reason I choose not to spend time with toxic people and participate in gossip chats anymore. It makes you look at what other people lack. Thus, this mindset creates an ungrateful heart. And then you look at yourself with this mentality and you believe you need “something else” to feel worthy.
In short, nothing can make you happy unless you choose to feel happy.
Minimalism helps you to be grateful for what you have even though it’s less and “that” can lead to happiness.
You can achieve happiness when you have more stuff too. If you are blessed with a luxury home, car and all the other amenities, you can be grateful for them and feel happy.
It’s not the stuff, but the contentment that you feel that brings happiness.
If you like the idea of simple living and are drawn towards the peacefulness that simplicity brings, you can be a happy minimalist.
Related: 15 powerful habits of happy people
So, how can you lead a minimalist life?
Is there anything you must do to be called a minimalist?
Everyone’s life is different. Everyone’s tastes are different. The life of one minimalist can look very different from another minimalist’s life. What I value in life may not be valuable for you. So you may not own the same items that I do.
And it’s okay. As long as we stay true to our own definition of minimalism, it is perfect.
If you have decided that simple living is for you and that minimalism will make you happier, read the next section. You can get started with minimalism with the following steps.
1. State why you want to be a minimalist
You will have your own reasons for becoming a minimalist. Some of the common reasons are-
- To reduce clutter and create more space
- To save money
- To save time and energy
- To travel more
When you know you why it’s easier to stay on the right path. And when you know what you truly want, your future purchases can be intentional.
For example, if you decide you want to embrace minimalism because you want to travel more, you can cut down on buying clothes. You know that you will be on the road most of the time, and you can carry only so much at a time.
Another example. If you want to reduce the clutter at home because you feel most of the things you buy are not always used anyway, you make the decision to stop attending every sale out there.
When you know what you want, it is easier to close your mind to things that don’t matter.
As exciting as downsizing may seem for a minimalist, it is an emotional process too, because you might have kept a lot of items safely because of the sentimental value attached to them.
Instead of refusing to touch them, go through those items again. What I have found is I don’t feel the same way about certain items after many years. Meaning, I feel I am now ready to give some stuff away. We are human beings and we change all the time. So, some items don’t seem as valuable as they used to be.
And the items that remind you of your past relationships can only help bring pain to your current life. Ask yourself if it’s really worth the pain.
As Marie Kondo says, “Keep only the items that spark joy”.
While decluttering, it’s a good idea to declutter the sentimental items last. And if you struggle to give away something but also don’t have the space to store it in your house, take a photograph of it and give it away. So, you still have the memory with you.
Some other points to remember while decluttering.
- Go through each item and ask yourself whether you have used it in the past 12 months. If not, you most probably wouldn’t use it again. You can either donate it to people who will have value for it or sell it if it’s a valuable item. I am sure most of us have many unused kitchen appliances we bought on a whim.
- Get rid of duplicates. We don’t need 10 coffee cups and 5 dinner sets if we rarely use them. The same holds true for clothing items too. Do we really need so many shoes and belts?
- Invest in quality versus quantity. So instead of having 5 different jackets, invest in two quality ones and use them for the long term.
3. Make a list
I hope by now you want to know why you want to be a minimalist. Now, make a list of items that are truly valuable and that you need to align with the lifestyle you want to pursue.
One reason why we like buying stuff is the joy they bring when it’s brand new. Think about how happy you felt when you bought a new phone, or a new car, or even a new shirt.
You felt happy at the moment and maybe you were happy about it for a few days, but after that, the excitement wears down and you feel normal. Now you may feel attracted to buy new stuff again when you are out in the mall because your brain knows the feeling of that rush, that joy, and you want to experience it again.
But once you know your priorities and have a general list of things you want in life, you can control this urge. Because ultimately, what stuff do is bring temporary happiness and permanent clutter.
4. Value memories more than things
When you seek temporary happiness, you buy things.
But when you understand the void you are trying to fill, you can stop buying things that do not add any value to your life.
When you want lasting happiness, you create memories. When you want to create memories you have to live the experiences to create memories.
When you think about a loved one who passed or is not living with you anymore, what comes to your mind is the memories, never the material things. So, if you want to have good memories with your loved ones tomorrow, get out there to deliberately create experiences and stories today.
Instead of wasting time scrolling on your mobile phones, plan your days in a way that your life is lived intentionally.
The activities you plan need not be expensive. Get creative about how you can spend time with your loved ones meaningfully by staying within your budget. Remember you are not gonna reminisce about the time you shopped till you dropped. But you will definitely smile thinking about the days you laughed a lot.
5. Create new purchase habits
Once you have decluttered your living space, you have to develop new purchase habits to decrease the flow of incoming stuff.
Technology has advanced so much that we don’t need to go out to buy something we need. So make use of the local grocery delivery services, Amazon, etc, to get what you want. It will help to prevent impulse buying.
Thus you can minimize distractions and reduce your bill and prevent clutter by eliminating bad purchase decisions. If you need to go out to purchase something, think about your motivation behind buying an item.
- Is it because you broke something and need to replace it?
- Will it add value to your life?
- Are you buying it for the excitement of getting a shiny new object?
- If I wait for a few more days, would I still want to get this item?
There are some questions you can ask to assess a purchase. Only you know your values, so make decisions accordingly.
6. stop comparing
Now that you have decided to become a minimalist, don’t start comparing yourself with other minimalists. Don’t get competitive and sell stuff that you need because they are living with fewer things than you.
Isn’t the same competitiveness and comparisons that sometimes make you get more stuff? We don’t need that again.
Your values, your way of living, and the sources of happiness are completely different from other people. So, go easy about it and make your own rules.
No one can say that you own an iPhone and a Mac and therefore you are not a minimalist.
Minimalism is not about living with nothing. Own the items you absolutely need for your convenience and to be happy. Minimalism is more about “not getting” more than you really need and being happy with what you already have.
And the best motto a minimalist can have?
Less is more.
I hope you got an idea of what minimalism is and how to get started from this post. Let me know about your minimalism journey in the comments below.
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