“A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
For many of us, when we think of the word “minimalism,” we think of decluttering our homes of useless dust-catchers and tchotchkes. We see images of impossibly stark, barren living spaces, devoid of any humanity, and the mind rebels. “That’s not for me, certainly,” we think. No one wants to live in a cold museum-like tomb.
The benefits of streamlining your life are many:
- Peace of mind
- Improved health
- Greater flexibility & freedom
- Less stress
- More free time
- Better self-confidence
- Sense of purpose
- Extra cash
Living a more minimal lifestyle isn’t just about getting rid of things, and it’s not about copying other people’s ideas of what minimalism looks like. Minimalism, at its core, is about deliberately promoting that which we most value and removing that which distracts us from that value. It’s about doing more with less in all facets of life such as these:
Meals— Eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch, and rotate three or four different options for dinner. You’ll save a ton of time and money not having to plan, shop for and prepare complicated, unique meal plans three times a day, seven days a week.
Finances— Living within your income, no matter how small, is an amazingly freeing feeling. Pay off those credit cards every month to avoid interest payments. Then set aside a savings account for unexpected emergencies, which always come up. Also, open an IRA and put something into it every paycheck, even if it’s only five dollars. Pay off your car and then set aside what you’d have paid every month to save for your next one — and pay cash instead of financing it.
Wardrobe— They say if you haven’t worn it in six months, give it to Goodwill. That may be a bit extreme — what about seasonal clothing? I’m not throwing out my tank tops just because it’s still March. Make it a year, and by then you’ll be sure whether or not you really need that exotic dress you never have any place to wear. Or try out Project 333, in which your wardrobe consists of only 33 items (that includes clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories). Thousands of people blog that it’s actually made their lives simpler rather than more challenging.
Relationships— Stop trying to impress people you don’t even care about with fancy things. Your true friends don’t care what car you drive or the number of square feet in your home. Your most important relationships (after family, of course) come first. That may be just one or two special people in your life. Peripheral relationships like co-workers and social media “friends” should come last. Don’t forsake those you care for most in favor of trying to engage with everyone.
Exercise— Have a treadmill or Stairmaster in your home, gathering dust and serving as a winter coat hanger? Donate it to charity. Paying good money for a gym membership you barely use? Cancel it. There are plenty of ways to get exercise without any of that: walking, running, push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, gymnastics and stretching. Try out some aerobic exercise videos on YouTube. Let nature be your gym! Get out to the park, walk on the beach, hike in the mountains. Walk the dog. Climb a tree. Garden.
Travel— When I travel, I never check baggage. Everything I need goes into a carry-on bag, which forces me to pack very lightly, using items that can be mixed and matched for several interchangeable outfits. There’s nothing better than breezing right past all those poor folks waiting endlessly around the baggage claim carousel or, even worse, finding that their luggage has been lost.
Stress— When you’ve found the peace of mind that comes from not trying so hard, you’ll find more time, money and energy for relaxation or creative pursuits. Having eliminated all the superfluous distractions from the really important stuff in life, you’ll get more sleep. Inner life reflects outer life.
Tips for Getting Started:
- Start slowly. Experiment with one thing at a time instead of jumping in with both feet. Your chances of success will be better if you don’t overwhelm yourself.
- Write down goals. Make a list of the things you want to achieve by living more simply. Seeing your motivation on paper will encourage you to make changes.
- Neatness counts. Can’t throw away your clutter? Then get some nice storage containers and tuck away about 90% of your knickknacks. After six months, if you can’t remember what’s inside the box, donate them.
- Don’t get discouraged. Living with fewer things and cultivating less drama and obligation takes time and patience. Everyone’s journey is different. Remember not to take yourself too seriously.
Want to learn more? Check out these resources: