A common misconception about minimalist living is that it means living in a bare house and owning just a couple of outfits.
But that simply isn’t true. Even if you have 20 pairs of shoes and walls filled with pictures, you can still practice minimalism. At its core, minimalism is about living intentionally with clarity and purpose. Those shoes and pictures on your wall might bring you a sense of fulfillment even if they seem unnecessary to other people.
But to effectively practice minimalism, you’ll likely still need to get rid of some stuff. But where do you start? The simplest answer is to start wherever you feel overwhelmed. That can be your closet, your wallet, or even your social media habits.
Although it seems complicated, it’s easier than you think to start practicing minimalist living.
What Are the Benefits of Living a Minimalist Lifestyle?
Joshua Becker from BecomingMinimalist.com defined minimalism this way: “At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality.”
In other words, minimalism involves intentionally spending your resources such as time and money on the things we enjoy rather than the things we don’t.
American culture often values more over less, which becomes exhausting and expensive.
The self-storage industry is just one example of how costly it is to own too many possessions. The average monthly cost of a storage unit per person in 2018 was $91, which adds up to more than $1,000 annually. Instead of using that money to store your things, you could use it to pay down debt, start an emergency fund, or go on vacation.
Beyond saving money, eliminating what’s not important to you has other benefits. Many have explored the idea that living a minimalist lifestyle can also help you:
- Eliminate stress caused by clutter and too many commitments
- Enjoy improved health, sleep, and overall wellness
- Create deeper and more meaningful relationships
- Be more environmentally conscious
- Improve your financial health
- Increase productivity
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A 2017 study found that when evaluating the work habits of business owners and their key executives, that time-wasting, low-value, and no-value activities accounted for more than 30% of their workweeks!! When totaled up, that comes out to 21.8 hours!! Almost half of the work week wasted on non important emails, social media, and things that don’t matter to the business. So with this, challenge yourself to be aware of time wasting behavior at work! Think about how you can instead use that time to benefit the business!
The benefits of minimalist living are worth giving it a try, but it can seem overwhelming to start. Rather than getting bogged down with the details, or trying to do everything at once, pick one minimalist habit to try for a few weeks. If it works for you, build on that and continue until you’ve designed your ideal minimalist lifestyle.
10 Ways to Live a More Minimalist Lifestyle
It’s not as difficult as it seems to incorporate minimalist living into your routine. Focus on one area you’d like to change and apply some of the minimalist principles to that. Change is hard so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it “right” the first time. Keep practicing and adjusting as needed until you find the right combination.
1. Simplify your finances.
Deciding to try living with less can not only lead to having more money in the bank, but it’s a chance to consolidate and simplify your finances, making it easier to manage your money. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Consolidate accounts. If you have multiple checking and saving accounts with different banks, try consolidating them. Having all of your money at one bank makes it easier to do transfers and institute overdraft protection. You may even save on fees. If you have multiple 401(k)s or IRAs, consider consolidating those as well.
- Use one credit card. Rather than having multiple credit cards with varying rewards programs to track, pick the card that has the best interest rate and rewards program for you. Not only is it easier to track expenses and make paying the bill quicker (and you’ll have less due dates to remember), it eliminates the potential for underutilizing your earned rewards. If you’re concerned about your credit score, don’t close the cards you’re not using. Simply take them out of your wallet and put them in a drawer so you’re not tempted to use them. To prevent the unused cards from being canceled, set up a small, recurring bill like your Netflix subscription to be paid automatically with that card. Just don’t forget to set a reminder to pay it off each month.
- Eliminate paperwork. When possible, opt for paperless options or autopay for your bills. It’s more environmentally-friendly and reduces the amount of paper clutter in your home. If you’re mailed important paperwork, like contracts or tax forms, create a filing system to hold all of the documents. You can do this with a manilla folder you keep on your desk. If you’re worried about losing the documents, you can scan them with your phone, and upload it into the Cloud.
- Pay down debt. One of the best ways to simplify your finances is to pay down your debt. Unlike some of the other strategies, paying down debt helps more with your mental and emotional clutter. Debt is time-consuming and stressful. When you no longer have to worry about it, it frees up that energy for other things. Paying off debt can take years, even if you embrace frugality. This is not a quick-fix, but the long-term benefits make it worth pursuing.
2. Turn decluttering into a challenge.
Chores and responsibilities become more fun when they become a game. And minimalist living is no different. Break the process down into smaller chunks and make it enjoyable by turning it into a challenge.
Let’s say you want to get rid of items in your house but you don’t know where to start. An easy place to begin is by getting rid of the number of items that correspond to the day of the month. So on May 1, you’ll get rid of one item, May 2, you’ll get rid of two, and so on. In one month, you’ll have removed 496 items from your home while doing it in a way that’s manageable. It’s easier to pick two items to remove than 100.
You can get your friends to do this challenge, share it on social media, or hold a yard sale when you’re done to make extra money from your clutter.
Related: 26 Best Selling Apps to Sell Stuff Online (and Locally)
3. Do a social media detox.
Studies have shown that the average person spends three hours per day just on social media. If you choose to share your progress on social media, consider how social media impacts your mood and mental health. When you open up a platform like Facebook or Instagram, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it to alleviate boredom or check for likes on your latest picture? Do you find yourself falling into a comparison trap the longer you spend on the platform?
If so, consider taking a break from social media. Delete any unnecessary apps for a period of time, whether it’s a weekend, week, or month, and when the time frame is over, assess how you feel without them. Ask yourself:
- Has your mood improved?
- How much time did you get back in your day?
- Did you miss using the apps?
- Can you be more intentional with your usage?
How you answer those questions should govern your social media usage going forward. You don’t have to give up social media entirely, but incorporating digital minimalism is an effective way to use it intentionally.
If you struggle with limiting yourself or permanently deleting your social media apps isn’t an option, consider using external controls like setting time limits through the screen time feature on iPhones or apps like Offtime or BreakFree.
4. Eliminate toxic relationships.
Friends who make you feel bad, are constantly negative, or bring too much drama can be mentally and physically draining. Relationships are never easy, but toxic friends can be hurtful and cause constant stress. If you’re working on a more minimalist lifestyle, it’s time to consider letting go of those toxic relationships.
In many cases, especially if the toxic person is a family member, this is easier said than done. But if you’ve tried to discuss your concerns, establish boundaries, and limit your time and exposure to that person, and they’re still causing you stress, it might be time to sever ties. It will likely hurt, but your mental and emotional health (and financial health) are worth it.
5. Choose quality over quantity.
One of the basic tenets of minimalist living is having only what you need and use regularly. It doesn’t mean that you never buy anything. When considering purchasing a new item, it’s important not only that it serves a function and purpose, but that you choose quality over quantity. Buying a quality item will be more expensive in the short term, but will mean spending less over time.
Quality items last longer than cheap items so you’ll save money in the long run. For example, a quality pair of shoes will be more comfortable and will last longer than a cheaper pair. If you take good care of your quality belongings, they’ll remain usable for a long time – saving you money and reducing waste.
6. Buy one, give two.
A simple method for limiting clutter and maintaining a minimalist lifestyle is to get rid of two items for every new one you buy or bring in. For example, if you see a shirt you absolutely love and want to have, buy it and commit to selling or donating two you already own. Selling unwanted items will bring in some extra income, but there’s no harm in giving things away either.
The buy one, give two rule not only helps reduce the amount of stuff inside your home, but it also means you need to be pickier about what you buy and what you keep.
Related: 8 Best Sites to Sell Clothes Online
7. Simplify your wardrobe.
One way to ensure that you stick to the buy one, give two rule is to create a minimalist wardrobe, sometimes known as a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe means you own a curated and limited selection of clothing, usually between 30 and 40 items, that fit well, easily mix together, and that you love wearing.
If you live in a climate with four seasons, you can create four capsule wardrobes with seasonally appropriate clothing. Stephanie Samuel, blogger at Simple by Stephanie and minimalism expert, uses a year-round capsule wardrobe that accommodates all the seasons.
Another way to simplify your wardrobe is to wear mostly neutrals, like black, white, gray, navy, and tan, and less busy patterns (like stripes). Wearing a neutral palette means that all items can be worn together and you don’t have to spend time figuring which items match.
Having a capsule wardrobe is an effective way to reduce the amount of clothing you own, save money, and eliminate decision fatigue when you look in your closet. You know everything matches, fits, and you can get dressed quickly and stress-free. This also makes packing for trips much easier.
8. Consume less media.
When you consume less media, whether it’s podcasts, social media, or television, you limit your exposure to advertising. The advertising industry spends billions of dollars a year promoting gadgets, food, clothes, and everything else, so it’s almost impossible to escape product advertising. It’s everywhere.
This can be overwhelming and tempt even the most budget-conscious person to spend money and stray from minimalism. To combat this, turn off the TV, log out of social media, and close your browser. People who have a true overspending problem can try a browser extension like StayFocused, which will block particularly problematic websites.
9. Limit gift giving (and receiving).
Gift giving is a controversial topic among minimalists, especially around the holidays. About 56% of people report receiving unwanted gifts during the holidays, many of which are thrown away or donated. Limiting gift giving and receiving reduces unnecessary and unwanted junk and helps save money.
Make a pact with loved ones to stop exchanging gifts. Focus instead on doing fun activities or sharing a meal. If your family is resistant to this idea, suggest switching to experience gifts instead of physical ones. Instead of buying your dad a golf club, take him to play a round of golf at a nearby club. Or instead of giving your sister a gift card, take her to a spa for a massage.
Experience gifts allow you to still give and receive presents but without the burden of extra clutter.
10. Do the spending vs. value test.
Minimalist living is not just about getting rid of stuff. It’s also about getting the most value from life and focusing on what’s important.
Do a spending vs. value test to figure out what matters the most. Make a list of the ten most expensive items that you own. This can include your house, car, jewelry, TV, etc. Then make another list with the things that add the most value to your life. This could include playing with your kids at the park, traveling, or enjoying new cuisines.
When you’re done, compare the two lists and see where there’s overlap. If there isn’t any, think if you can get rid of some items from the “stuff” list to pay for or make room for the “value” list. This list may also show what you should stop buying to make more room in your budget for your values.
Shift Your Mindset
Minimalist living is more than just purging old college T-shirts and paperback books. It requires a complete mindset shift.
It means focusing on what you value the most and scaling back the rest. It means changing the way you think about your possessions, your money, your time, and being more intentional with how you use all of them.
And when you’re intentional with your resources, you can reduce stress, save money, and have more freedom to enjoy what’s the most meaningful to you.