I was talking with a friend about my respect for the minimalist lifestyle, and as we chatted, she asked a question that resonated with me:
“Isn’t it restrictive to live that way? I mean, if you get rid of a bunch of your clothes, don’t you feel constrained by your lack of options? Or what if you want to re-read one of your books, but you can’t because you donated it?”
I can absolutely understand this perspective, and I also appreciate that minimalism is not for everyone. For me, however, this lifestyle is the exact opposite of restrictive.
For me, minimalism represents freedom.
You are free of unnecessary clutter, you are free from the consumerist impulse to buy-buy-buy, and you are free to enjoy the most important things in your life.
Today I want to share with you the three cornerstones of minimalist living. (In the coming weeks, I will dig further into these categories with tips on how to adopt a minimalist lifestyle that works for you.)
1. Break free of clutter
I am willing to bet that when most people think about minimalism, it is the “de-clutter” category that comes to mind. Perhaps images of sparsely adorned living rooms with modern, trendy furniture pop into your mind – oh, and everything is in a pristine white. Am I close here?
Now this classic image of the minimalist home is not wrong, but it’s also not the only option.
Rather, the bare-bones idea behind de-cluttering your home is simply that. Get rid of things you don’t need.
Though the concept is simple, however, carrying out the task of often much more difficult. I think our modern society – myself included – has a hard time of letting things go. And I’m not talking about things with special sentimental value here. I mean the everyday stuff that you keep around because you might need it later on. You know, “just in case.”
The thing is, most of the time you won’t need it “just in case.“ How many times have you been so cold that you wore all 10 hooded sweatshirts in your closet at once? How many times did you simultaneously require all 8 cake/pie plates stacked up in the back of your kitchen cabinet? Honestly, how many pancakes are you making at once that you need 6 different spatulas?
I think you get my point.
De-cluttering is simply the process of going through your things, deciding what you truly need or value, and donating the rest. So as you go through your closets, your kitchen cabinets, your *shudder* basement, ask yourself whether you really need each item or not.
I recommend starting the process with duplicate items, as it is usually easier to get rid of something when you already have another. Once you’ve weeded out the duplicates, look through your things and start asking yourself: “Have I used this item in the last year?” “Do I really need it?” “Can I make due without it?” and finally, “Does this item bring me joy?”
Believe me, I get it, there are some things in my house that I absolutely do not need. Nevertheless, they have special sentimental value and I can’t part with them. That’s okay! The idea of minimizing is getting rid of things that you do not need in your life.
If that stuffed animal from your childhood just sits in your closet, but it nevertheless brings you true joy when you hold it in your arms, by all means – keep it! All we are doing here is parting with the things that create clutter and – often times – unnecessary stress.
Forewarning, this process might take several rounds. I am still pulling out the things I don’t need. But if you keep at it, I think you’ll be amazed at the sense of freedom that accompanies open space and less stuff.
2. Ditch the consumerist mentality
I’m not going to lie – this step can be a challenge. Our society has been programed from a very young age that we always need the newest, flashiest, and most technically advanced “toys” in our lives. What’s more, we need them now.
Here is a little secret – it’s not true.
Re-wiring your brain to believe this fact is very difficult, however, especially now that online shopping is so darn convenient. If you want a mini muffin tin, an individual brownie maker, and a 5-blade herb scissors, you can have it delivered directly to your door at the click of a button. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home!
With constant advertisements on the television, in you email, flooding your Facebook stream, and announced through Spotify and youtube, it is literally impossible to avoid it all. But here’s the good news – it is possible to ignore it.
If you can see the man behind the curtain, and acknowledge the advertisements without getting sucked in, you’re well on your way to breaking through this excessive consumer-driven lifestyle.
(Side note – I am not saying consumerism is bad – we all buy things, and that’s fine! It’s the excessive, non-stop buying of unnecessary stuff that’s the problem)
There is another type of consumer as well. This is a consumer who gets sucked into the buy-buy-buy mentality for a different reason, and often times this reason it is due to personal struggle in some shape or form.
Perhaps you’re unhappy in your job, or you’re butting heads with your teenage daughter. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one, or you’re struggling to find your purpose. Sometimes when we undergo these big challenges, we also experience a feeling of emptiness – an emptiness that we try to fill with cutting edge toys.
Perhaps some of you have experienced that rush of excitement or flash of joy when you when you make a new purchase, and for a moment, that sense of unbalance seems to fade. There is a reason people talk about “retail therapy.” It’s a real thing.
Unfortunately, it’s not very affective; eventually that same hole returns, and the search for what you really need continues. I don’t care what advertisements tell you, new toys will never fill that emptiness.
So rather than buying new things, take some time to reflect on the real problem. As yourself, “What is the true cause of my struggle? What has me feeling this way?” Once you figure this out, you will be able to fill that hole with the love, self esteem, self care, or family relationships that you really need. As that hole gets smaller, your need to buy will, too.
Open up your schedule
In my post from last Wednesday, I wrote about five easy ways to simplify your life. My first – and most important – tip to simplification was highlighting the five most important things in your life and making them your top priority. These are the things on which you need to focus.
Often times we fill our calendars with back-to-back activities or meetings that don’t necessarily enhance those five objectives. Instead, they suck us of our energy and leave us feeling drained. This is not the right way to go!
Instead, try saving your energy for what matters to you.
When I say “minimize your schedule,” I mean clear out all of the unnecessary stuff that is cluttering those valuable hours each day. By doing so, you’re making time to enjoy what matters to you.
So next time that you’re asked to join another committee, take on an extra work assignment, or bake 6 dozen cookies for you neighborhood bake sale, stop and ask yourself, “Will this strengthen one of my top five priorities?” “Do I actually want to do this?” If the answer is no, politely decline and do what’s important to you.
You only have one life. Fill it with the things you love. Minimize the rest.
There you have it – the minimalist guide to minimalism. In the coming weeks I will explore how this lifestyle can help you achieve your goals by prioritizing the important things and minimizing unnecessary distractions; be sure to check back or subscribe to my free weekly newsletter for the latest tips.
What do you think about the minimalist lifestyle? Do you have trouble getting rid of stuff? What is your favorite organization for donating goods? Let me know below!