3 Key Steps to a Minimalist Life: The Minimalist’s Guide to Minimalism

3 Simple Steps to Minimalist Living

I was recently talking with a friend about my respect for minimalist living, 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.

Have I piqued your interest? Excellent!

Then keep reading, because today I’m excited to share the three cornerstones of minimalist living.

3 Simple Steps to Minimalist Living

How to Live a Minimalist Life

1. Break free of clutter

I am willing to bet that when most people think of 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 pristinely white.

Am I close here?

Now, this classic image of a minimalist home is not wrong, but it’s also not the only option.

You see, the basic idea behind de-cluttering your home is quite simple; get rid of things you don’t need.

Done.

Though the concept is basic, however, carrying out the task is often much more difficult.

I think our modern society – myself included – has a hard time 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 think 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.

Be honest, 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.

Minimalist Living

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 do without it?” and finally – to borrow the brilliant question from Marie Kondo – “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. That’s okay! Just keep at it; I think you’ll be amazed at the sense of freedom that accompanies open space and less stuff.

Minimalist Living

2. Ditch the consumerist mentality

I’m not going to lie, this step can be a challenge. Our society has been programmed 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 your email, flooding your Facebook feed, 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.)

3 Simple Steps to Minimalist Living

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 is due to one’s 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 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 effective; 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.

Ask 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.

3 key steps to minimalist living. Start living simply today.

Open up your schedule

Several months ago, I wrote about five easy ways to simplify your life. My first 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. Needless to say, this is not the 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 make 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 your 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.

You only have one life. Fill it with the things you love. Minimize the rest. #minimalist #minimalism #simplify Click To Tweet

Need tips to say no with grace? Be sure to snag my free ebook here!

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Question:

What do you think about minimalist living? Do you have trouble getting rid of stuff? What is your favorite organization for donating goods? Let me know below!

97 thoughts on “3 Key Steps to a Minimalist Life: The Minimalist’s Guide to Minimalism”

  1. I’ve been a minimalist for years now and I stand behind these tips 100%. These are such excellent tips for anyone getting started living a simpler life! I go through and do a declutter process fairly regularly. I’m actually doing a round this week!

    1. That’s awesome! I love decluttering – in fact, ever since I did the first big round, I find myself doing it increasingly often.

  2. I love the idea of this, but I find it hard to find the time to do it. It is definitely something for me to aspire to do!

  3. A decluttering plan is huge for me right now. We have an impending move and I’m looking forward, though a bit overwhelmed, to eliminating unnecessary items so that our new home has a minimalistic feel.

  4. After Kon Marie-ing our home once before I need to keep going because I realize it’s a process that I need to refine over time. So easy to fall back into old habits if I’m not mindful of new ones. I totally agree with you – minimalism does represent freedom! 🙂

  5. Eliminating the consumerism mentality has been a game changer for me. And when I get sucked into adding things to my cart online, I ALWAYS wait 24 hours before deciding whether or not I’m going to purchase. It allows the impulse to disappear and I get to decide if it’s really something I NEED, or just want. 🙂 I love these tips for adding more minimalism!

  6. Brittany Limberakis

    I definitely need to be better about number 2. I’m a shopaholic! I see something on Instagram I like? I order it! Not a great habit.

    1. It’s easy to fall into that habit, isn’t it? One of my readers suggested using a 24-hour rule for her online shopping; maybe that could be helpful 🙂

  7. Great post! I have embraced minimalism and love the freedom that comes with it. After the initial declutter, I am now working on bringing it into my life (thoughts, activities, friendships). Once you start living in a more mindful way it is difficult to get sucked into mindless spending and life.

  8. I’ve been trying to be more of a minamalist… but the consumerist mentality is hard for me to shake! I Marie Kondo-ed my way through all my things back in January. I love that I’d be able to find all my personal belongings in one haul of my car. It does feel like freedom! I still have a long ways to go though. I love posts like these!

  9. I never really thought of opening up your schedule as a part of minimalism. Interesting thought

  10. Wonderful tips on how to keep life simple! I am always trying to be mindful of my space and I will be using some of these tips to help with that.

  11. I love the idea of minimalism but it is SO DIFFICULT to put into practice. Consumerism is a hard habit to break. I keep doing mini-challenges to slowly change my mindset.

  12. We don’t really “NEED” everything we buy. So I think it’s important to consider only buying what we actually NEED. Imagine how much more money (and space) we’d all have?

  13. I struggle with minimalism, especially with books because shelves piled with books make me happy. We just started the Marie Kondo method on our house though and getting rid of the things that don’t spark joy definitely has made me feel so much more free!

    1. I love to hear that, Leigh! Marie Kondo is definitely sweeping the nation! She inspired my household, too 🙂

  14. Since moving into the RV we have been minimizing as much as possible! I need to do another sweep through, because even with downsizing a ton we still have so much we don’t use! It’s such a freeing feeling!

  15. I love everything about this post! I recently started working on creating a more minimalist lifestyle and though it’s been tough it is SO SO worth it! Being free from clutter just makes life easier. Less to clean, less to take care of.. and the things to DO need taking care of now have my full attention.

  16. i love to declutter. periodically i make sure to go through everything and clear ourselves of the things we dont need. it is so much nicer to do than to compile a bunch of things we dont need.

  17. Great tips here! I recently started going through one drawer/room in my house a day and reorganizing and decluttering and I can’t tell ya how much better it feels to just get rid of stuff!

  18. The older I get, the more I want to just not have as much stuff. I have purged quite a bit of stuff and it is just so much simpler.

  19. I resonate with this so much! A few years ago, my husband’s military career took us to South Korea, and we downsized to a tiny, 900 square foot apartment. I’ve never felt so free and we had so much extra time and money without the clutter and stuff, that we went on so many adventures! Now we are in an 1,800 square foot home and I’d love to go back to our old minimalism way of life!

  20. Great tips! I’ve been working to live a more minimalist life and it really does provide an unexpected sense of freedom.

  21. Ashley | www.thefirstbelle.com

    My husband and I have been living this way for a while, not really on purpose just going through things and ridding the house of unnecessary things. We actually said the other day that there is nothing we “need” that we don’t already have. It’s such a gratifying and freeing feeling. Love this!

  22. I’m just starting to dip my toe into minimalism. So this is really helpful to have a few key things that I can focus on to get started. Otherwise, it can seem very overwhelming!

    1. That’s great! Yes, it can definitely be overwhelming; just start small and go from there. I’m glad this helps 🙂

  23. Glitter On A Dime

    I really want to work toward this! When we moved last year, we decluttered so much and it felt so good. Somehow over that time we have accumulated so much stuff. It really is an ongoing process. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Yes! It is totally an ongoing process. It’s so easy for stuff to accumulate. The rule I use for myself now, is if I buy something new, I have to get rid of/donate something as well. New shirt? Time to get rid of a different one! It has helped me keep “stuff” down 🙂

  24. I’m working towards minimalism and I am glad to say that the consumerist mindset is gone. I only purchase when there is a need. And I am moving soon so I am purging a ton of stuff. It’s exciting.

  25. This is a great article! My husband and I cannot stand clutter! We’ve been slowly eliminating it.

  26. This is a goal for me this year too. I keep wanting to do a capsule wardrobe. I have saved so many ideas to Pinterest, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I would love to just have a small group of outfits to choose from that I love instead of closet full of trends that I hate.

    1. YES! That is how I decided what to keep in my closet, too. My rule is that I have to LOVE the outfit. I don’t keep any shirts that are “eh, it’s fine,” or clothes that don’t make me feel great. That way, every time I reach into my closet, I know I will be happy with what I put on. I used to worry that people would notice that I am wearing the same cycle of outfits ever week or so. Turns out – no one pays attention or cares that much 😉

  27. babiestobookworms

    I have the hardest time with the getting rid of things I might need “just in case”. Go figure, once I do, that’s when it turns out I really did need it! It’s happened once or twice and now I always think it when I go to declutter.

    1. Isn’t that the worst? Admittedly, it has happened to me, too. It forces me to be creative and find another way to make it work – ha!

  28. I really want to work on decluttering more! When I think of clutter, I normally think of things that don’t have a place. I don’t think about it like duplicates of things! That just opened my eyes!

  29. Great plan for de-cluttering one round at a time! I know thing I’m really interested in implementing this Christmas with my husband is to gift “experiences” rather than “things.” This will help cut down on both clutter and consumerism, while also boost general life enjoyment and memory-making. Can’t wait!

  30. I’m in the process of decluttering my home office. Tell me, what can I do with tons of cookbooks, coffee table type books, and novels? I don’t have time for a sale, and honestly I’ve had trouble selling books like that in the past. Help!

    1. That’s great! Are you hooked on selling them? If not, have you checked with your local library? My library accepts used books and then they have quarterly “book sale” for the city.

  31. I certainly think this is a great reminder of how to live a little more minimalistic. I try to declutter at least every couple of months and its a huge weight off my shoulders when I do.

    1. Thanks! And I like how you phrased that – “how to live a little more minimalistic.” Everyone has a different understanding of what it means to be a minimalist, which means we can all take steps toward those three main cornerstones in different ways. I always feel much “lighter” after I declutter as well 🙂

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