BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO MINIMALISM
What is MINIMALISM?
"Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfilment, and freedom." - The Minimalists
Minimalism can be used to declutter your life of excess things, stress, fear, guilt, worry and consumerism. To simply your life, reduce your consumption and find deeper meaning in your every day. That doesn't mean you can't own stuff, or get enjoyment from things. It just means that you become more aware of what you have in you life, by making a conscious decision only to keep what is important to you. Ask yourself, what is necessary, and what is superfluous in your life? Once these questions are answered, you're one step closer to becoming a minimalist and leading a purpose-driven life.
Why BECOME A MINIMALIST?
If I can act as an example of someone who has used minimalism to benefit their lives, I can share with you what minimalism has done for me. It has helped me quit a job I hated and pursue my dream career. Encouraged me to let go of an unhealthy obsession with fashion and beauty that left me broke, unhappy and discontented. Pushed me to focus on my health, looking inwards and taking time to take care of myself every day. Given me the courage to travel to the other side of the world with just a backpack and a bike. Allowed me to earn more and save more money, as I work harder doing something I love, while saving money from avoiding unnecessary purchases. Made me reduce my overall consumption of things, making me more environmentally aware of my impact on this planet. Given me the strength to give up alcohol, something that has caused me countless problems in the past. Supported me to discover more purpose in my life and grow as an individual as I let go of what isn't true to me, and focus on what is. And of course, its helped me get rid of a whole heap of stuff.
Anyone can achieve these things through minimalism.
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
Think less about "where" and more about "when"! Get started now, and set in motion the waterfall effect of decluttering and getting rid. The beginning is often the hardest part, but the most rewarding once you start to feel the effects. Starting with something physical that is cluttering up your space is usually a good place to start. Find some time, and start going through your stuff and getting rid of everything you don't use, don't need or don't want anymore.
WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL MY STUFF I WANT TO GET RID OF?
I often get asked this question, and it's important we're responsible when getting "rid". Unfortunately when we throw something away, there is no such thing as "away". Keep this in mind when decluttering, trying your best to pass on things to friends and family, donate to charity, recycle properly, or repurpose in your own home. When we did a big declutter of my partner's childhood bedroom, we had to get really creative with where all of his old toys, books, folders, gadgets and random stuff would go. We took lots of wires, old electronics and assorted items to the local dump for recycling, many bags of clothes and toys to the local charity shops, an old cricket uniform to a local sports shop that donated the kits to schools in India, a huge pile of folders to a local school, and two gigantic boxes of (many unopened!) toys to the local children's hospital. We even sold a few things as well as taking some things that we knew we could use in our own home. It felt really good to repurpose many of these things and give them new homes to people who would make better use of them than we would. But it also felt pretty terrible that we had many bags of just rubbish that couldn't be recycled or repurposed. But this is OK. It's a part of the process. What's done is done. Seeing the sheer scale of things you've collected over the years becomes motivation for making more conscious decisions in the future when bringing new things into your life.
Now those questions are out of the way, let's get into my top tips for minimalism.
my top tips
1. TAKE IT EASY
Like I said in my Beginner's Guide to Veganism, please remember to first and foremost, take it easy. Minimalism is a lifestyle choice, and adjusting to it it is going to take time. You aren't going to end up with a pristine clean, minimally furnished and perfectly organised home overnight. So allow yourself to take all the time you need, start slow and enjoy the ride. Every individual is starting from a different place and it's important to keep that in mind when you start to declutter your life.
2. start somewhere
Figure out what area of your life is in the most chaos, and start there. Do you have an overflowing wardrobe and an addiction to online shopping? Are you a hoarder of DVD's, games and books you don't watch, play or read? Are your days filled with so many things to do, that you feel that you don't even have time to breathe? Do you hate your job, and find yourself wishing for another career? We all have our weaknesses, things that we can improve and reduce. Figure out what your is, write a list (lists are always a good idea), and start to put in place a plan of action. Remember tip 1, and set aside some time to get started, but don't expect it all to be done in one go. Maybe you're like I was, and you have far too many clothes; focus on an area of your wardrobe and start decluttering. Whether that's your shoes, your chest of drawers or your coats, for example, get them all out (and I mean all of them), and start creating piles.
Piles, as well as boxes and lists, are you friend in this process. When you're done emptying your wardrobe for example, start forming piles: one for things you know for certain you love, wear all the time and want to keep, one for things you like, but maybe don't wear very often, and one for things you haven't worn in a long time, don't fit, are no longer you style etc. The yes pile can go back in the wardrobe, the maybe pile can go in a box to consider at a later date, and the no's can go straight in a box ready to pass on to friends, or donate to charity. This process is not only really satisfying, but can be done over and over again as you get more into this whole process. If what you want to change, however, isn't physical, then write a list and come up with a plan of action! If you know you need to quit your job and start moving towards a more fulfilling way of life, then write down logistically how you can make that happen. Rope a friend in to help you make some hard decisions, and get stuck in!
4. things are just things
I think that one of the biggest lessons I've learnt through this whole journey, is that things are just things. No one thing will bring true happiness, satisfaction, fulfilment or love. Life, the people in it, and the experiences it brings, however, will. While this is something lots of us have been taught by our parents, and that we know deep down, it's easy to forget in the consumerist-obsessed world we live in today. We're constantly sold the dream that things will bring us happiness. This realisation, therefore, may take time to fully come to terms with. Especially if you're anything like me and was convinced by magazines and mainstream media to spend every penny earned on new shoes, new dresses or new makeup. Don't waste your money cashing a "dream" that will never achieved by stuff. What you have in your head and your heart are priceless, whereas things are disposable.
5. time to get serious
If you're dedicated to finding more meaning in your life, to travel the world, to save money, to reduce your carbon footprint, to tidy your home; whatever your motivation may be, if you're dedicated, then it's time to get serious. Ask yourself serious questions when decluttering about whether or not you really need these things. When was the last time you used it, or even looked for it? Does it serve a purpose in your life currently? Is it taking up space? Would someone else find more joy in it than you are? Is it time to go? Get serious, be harsh, and say goodbye to what isn't serving you. If you're dedicated, this time next year, your home, and your life, should look a whole lot less messy.
6. don't compare yourself
The thing about the term "minimalism" is that it comes with a lot of pre-conceived notions about what a "minimalist" should be. I wrote a whole blog post about this, so I'd definitely recommend you check that out. But essentially minimalism is a way of life that means to declutter and reduce everything in your life that isn't meaningful, with an overall aim to live more simply and more purposefully. By this definition, a minimalist can own 20 things, or own over 100 things. They can have a white home, or a colourful home. They can live out of a backpack travelling solo around the world and working online, or they can live in a fully-furnished home with a big family and a desk job. There is no one-size fits all. What minimalism looks like to you, can be very different to the next. But the aim remains the same: to reduce and simplify. To realise that things don't define us. To live more consciously and more aware of the impact we're having as individuals. By this definition, anyone can embark on a minimalist way of life, and hopefully find that it enriches their life in more ways than one.
7. don't stop decluttering
I've been decluttering for at least two and a half, if not three, years now. And I don't see myself stopping any time soon. As humans, we're always accumulating stuff, and so the decluttering never ends. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, I personally love it and get the same satisfaction I used to get from buying stuff, from decluttering stuff. So even if you're at a point where you have decluttered the main areas of your home and your life, keep periodically decluttering, questioning and rethinking. I find this not only keeps everything in my life organised, but it keeps me thinking and questioning everything I'm brining into my life, as well as keeping me from slipping back into old habits.
8. what do you really want?
A hugely rewarding part of my minimalism journey, is that my main goals in life are no longer focussed on things, or the attainment of things. I've started questioning what I actually want, and not what I've been told I want. As a lot of the time, these desirable things, aren't as desirable once you actually have them.
Once I stopped caring about whether I'll ever have enough money to afford x, y and z, I started finding wealth in my experiences. Look inwards, seek out true happiness, and don't be swayed by someone else's perception of what that might mean. Realise that the best things in life are for free, and start to live in the moment. OK, that was a lot of cliche's, but they are so appropriate to this conversation! Save your money, get stuck in and start living your life! You've only got one life to experience, so it's time you stopped waiting around for something to happen or to change, and started making that change. Who is holding you back from doing what you've always wanted? You, and only you.
9. get thrifty
A huge lesson I have personally learnt from minimalism is to get thrifty. Reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle (and borrow!). Learning that I probably already have what I need, or at least someone I know does, not only saves money, but it saves you from collecting single-use stuff. If you have a party to go to and nothing to wear, see if a friend has an outfit you can borrow. Rinse and sterilise old food jars and use them for storage. Sew up your favourite trousers if they rip. Use up that half-used notepad that's sitting in the bottom of your drawers. Dig in you food cupboard and make a meal from something that's been sitting there a while. This thrifty mentally is a one we seem to have lost in our convenience and consumerist-driven world, but its values are huge.
10. have fun!
And finally, have fun! Yes it may seem stressful, overwhelming, daunting, or even impossible to be a minimalist. But the rewards know no bounds once you get started. Keep it light-hearted and have fun with it to keep your sanity. Play loud music when you're decluttering, invite friends over to help, or host a clothes swap at your house. Keep a bullet journal to stay organised, and fill it up with pretty quotes and calligraphy. Save up for a trip of a lifetime, go on a weekend adventure, say no, say yes, read more, consume less, and enjoy the ride. Minimalism should enrich your life as soon as you start letting you in. And a rich life, is a fun life!
Are you starting your minimalist journey? Where are you going to start? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Don't forget to check out my other posts on minimalism here on the blog, as well as my video linked below on the topic!