What Is Minimalism? How to Become a Minimalist
Why I Became a Minimalist
Minimalism isn't about depriving oneself of life's pleasures. It's actually about reducing clutter, creating space, and being present. In the United States, we are a society driven by consumerism and commercialism. We learn that wellbeing is reflected in the material—what we own and the value of a dollar.
Hoarding Is a Result of Our Attachments
Many people learn to accumulate things to fill a void. They are either accumulating things out of:
- attachment: fear of parting with an object
- trauma: e.g. grew up with little and hold onto it now
- loss: lost a loved one and consequently started hoarding
- insecurity: not feeling good enough in their own skin
Your Belongings Weigh You Down
We are so consumed with ownership, property, and accumulation that we even pay to store our stuff in storage units, garages, storage bins, etc. We pay others to help us organize or clean our things. Our things accumulate dust, sit there, and become houses for spiders and silverfish. They get in the way of our movement, impede our daylight (blocking our window), and even prevent some of us from relocating (too expensive to move it all).
What Is the Minimalist Lifestyle?
As a minimalist, you still have possessions, it's just these items have been carefully curated based on quality (not quantity) and function. It may look something like this:
- Cohesive capstone wardrobe (quality materials, thematic structure)
- Capitalize on digital storage (photos, books, movies are converted to digital platforms to avoid physical clutter)
- Organized cabinets and drawers (baskets and containers are utilized)
- Cosmetics are necessary (no expired content, often natural or DIY products are preferred)
- Food is plant-based (avoid plastic wrappers, buy in bulk, meal prep for the week)
- Social life is balanced with self-care (socialization is offset with "me" time)
- Current tech (your technology is current and up-to-date unless intentionally antique or vintage)
- Your belongings don't define you (your belongings serve you)
- Saving money (spend less on unnecessary things).
It's About Being Present
Minimalism isn't about deprivation. It's about being present in the moment. When we simplify our lives, we open up space for being in the now.
What If You Could Pick Up and Go?
Our belongings keep us rooted in one place. While some of us like the creature comfort of dwelling, our attachments can create major suffering. Imagine people who have undergone traumatic losses from natural disasters—much of the things they have come to value in their lives are completely gone. Where would you be without your identity being interwoven into your belongings?
Imagine a life with far less. You could pick up and go.
What Is the Purpose of Minimalism?
Minimalism will help you achieve the following:
- More Time: You will gain more free time when you no longer have to be muddling through objects and belongings.
- Peace of Mind: Your environment directly influences your mental state. If you can wake up and have the essentials in front of you, your day will flow more easily.
- More Efficiency: Everyone knows what it's like to lose something, rush, try to find the right outfit, etc. Minimalism allows you to have everything mapped out in front of you—by reducing your environment to the necessities, your day will flow.
- Present Moments: When you embrace minimalism, you become more present in the moment. There is less weighing your mind, body, and spirit down.
- Less Suffering: Attachment creates suffering. Ever seen a child cry because their friend snatched their toy? We adults become attached to our things as well. When they break, get stolen, or lost, we feel sorrow.
- Value: The things you do own are quality and of value. They serve a distinct purpose.
Material Is Immaterial
You don't take what you own with you to the grave. That is, in this window of life, everything you own becomes immaterial when you transition.
Tips for Becoming a Minimalist (Over Time)
Becoming a minimalist takes time. I do not recommend you doing this abruptly. It takes time to separate from things and the experience can be emotional. Here's how to reduce your items:
- Sell: Sell things of value that are replaceable or not sentimental. If it has sat unused for over a year and you will never use it, it's time to say goodbye. (Consignment stores, Craigslist, Ebay, Nextdoor, book and DVD buyback stores, and resale clothing shops like Buffalo Exchange).
- Donate: Donate things that hold little monetary value but that someone can get use out of—clothing you never wear, bedding that is acceptable, household items (dishes, mugs, containers), etc. You can write donate items off on your taxes, or just simply donate those items! There are many collection bins around town that are collecting shoes, books, and clothes.
- Gift: If you have something really nice, even sentimental, but you have no purpose for it, consider gifting it to a friend. Don't wrap it up and send it as a birthday gift, send it as a surprise gift or hand it to them in person. Tell them you are reducing your belongings and you thought of them. Also, tell them they can pass it on and they are in no way obligated to keep it.
How to Become a Minimalist
Evaluate Your Living Space: Take a look at your living space. What areas have stale energy? What type of space do you need to live in? Do you do yoga and do you need floor space for this? Clear out those boxes of college books and create space now. Do you like to cook but you have papers covering your table? Time to sift through them, scan, and shred.
Declutter: This includes objects that we keep because we feel guilty. If you have accumulated gifts from people you most certainly won't use, chances are they have forgotten they even gave them to you (unless they come over to your house all the time). Pass an object on for someone else to appreciate. Books and DVDs? If they aren't valuable (rare, expensive), it's time to part with them. We can find many of these things online now. 10 pairs of running shoes? Keep your two best and donate the rest.
Be a smart shopper: Buy only what you need and what is quality. Sure, we all find discounted items, bargain items, and get suckered into sales—but this is the purpose of sales! Stores are trying to get rid of their junk! Sales are great if you are finding quality items, but be careful. Only buy what you need. A sale for a pair of much-needed running shoes is worth it. I sale for decorative and discounted lawn ornaments is not. You will save money too!
Go for quality over quantity: This is a hard one because minimalists like to be thrifty. You really want to go for quality. When you are a looking to make a purchase (e.g. that one winter coat for the season), take a look at the tags and materials . . . even do some product research if you can. Read about the construction of the item you are looking to buy. If you see that the object has been cheaply and mass-produced or comes with poor customer service, you may want to pass. Buy things that will last a lifetime and have value. If it doesn't make you feel GREAT when you wear it, pass on it.
Appreciate what you have: The beauty of reducing your belongings is that you will appreciate what you have. Instead of having 30 mugs in a 2-person home, you can have 4 very special mugs. Instead of having 10 sweaters, 2 of which you only really like, you can have 3 (2 that you love and 1 for casual wear because it was expensive). When you reduce your belongings to things of value, you become more appreciative of what you do have.
Keep It Current
Get ready to part with things that aren't sentimental and can be replaced. Why hold onto a 10-year-old camera when technology is fast developing?
The Minimalist Challenge
So, let's try it out. Take your next free day and tackle one of these projects even if it's just for an hour. Have a strong cup of coffee and put on some good tunes. Let's get started:
Go through the items in your wardrobe.
- Have you worn it in the last 3 months? Yes or No
- Is it expensive? Yes or No
- Is it sentimental? Yes or No
- Is it irreplaceable? Yes or No
If you answered "no" to these items—donate it. If you answered "no" to all but it's "expensive," consider selling it. Pack all of your summer or winter clothes in a nice storage container (depending on your season). This will make it easier for you to get dressed in the morning.
Go through all of your cosmetics (men, too). Look at all of your things: makeup, cologne or perfume, hairbrushes, hair ties, shampoos, lotions, etc. Check them all out. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is it expired? Yes or No
- Does it contain artificial ingredients that may be harmful? Yes or No
- Is it inexpensive? Yes or No
- Do I forget to use it? Yes or No
If "yes" then toss it or give it to a family member (please dispose of your items properly and recycle when necessary). Focus on curating your FAVORITE products for use. When you go shopping, only buy those, e.g. the same shampoo, conditioner, hair tie, chapstick, shaving cream, etc. Buy what works for you.
Another thing that sabotages our physical health is our food choices. Minimalists are fond of buying things that are not packaged in plastic. The benefit of following this belief is that most food items not wrapped in plastic tend to be healthier, preservative-free, and plant-based. I recommend getting reusable vegetable bags, grocery bags, and saving mason jars for use of storing rice, grains, misc. Even glass spice jars are good for storing things.
Always Make a Grocery List
Start making a weekly list of what you and your family actually eat. Instead of walking into a grocery store and spending left and right, create a list that will support the meals you will want for the week. Before you shop, dig through your spice rack, pantry, fridge, and freezer to get rid of expired food or food that can no longer be consumed or used for one reason or another. Try not to be wasteful and repurpose these foods appropriately, even if it's in your compost.
Getting Rid of Your Belongings Without Regret
Give yourself time to adapt to these changes. Start out small. I promise you that once you part with an item you will not think about it after 24 hours have passed. I have struggled with getting rid of things I thought I would miss forever. Truth is, I've never thought about something I've donated or given away after. I thought I would miss it and regret it, but after 24 hours, you never think about it again. This is because we have so much on our minds!!! That's why we have to create more space in our environment.
Take it slow and congratulate yourself on your progress. You will notice the difference.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Layne Holmes