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Although owning a large home may seem appealing, remember that living in a bigger space comes with its own downsides.
Having additional square footage means spending more to fill and decorate it. It also offers more room to keep and store clutter, including things that are no longer useful.
Minimalist living may not be for everything, but it can help natural pack rats live freer, simpler lives. A common misconception about minimalist living is that it means having white walls and only two pairs of shoes. But that simply isn’t true. It’s really about living intentionally with clarity and purpose.
It may be difficult to know where to start, but it is easy to ease into minimalist living with a little bit of help.
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.”
While the American culture values more over less, owning a lot is exhausting, because every item requires time, money, and attention.
The self-storage industry is an example of how costly it can be to own too many possessions. The average monthly cost of a storage unit per person in 2018 was a little more than $91, which adds up to more than $1,000 annually. You could instead use that money to pay down debt, start an emergency fund, or go on vacation.
Experts like Marie Kondo have popularized decluttering and have encouraged viewers to espouse a minimalist lifestyle. Many books, blogs and podcasts explore the idea that living a minimalist lifestyle can save money, lower stress levels, and help people find more personal meaning in life. Eliminating the stuff that doesn’t matter will help focus on what has true meaning. These are the same principles of living frugally.
Here are some other positive side effects to living a more minimalist lifestyle:
- Be happier and less stressed
- Enjoy improved health, sleep, and overall wellness
- Have deeper relationships
- Be more environmentally conscious
- Have better financial health
- Be more contentment
- Have increased productivity
Ready to start heading toward minimalist living? Don’t get overwhelmed at the idea that minimalist living means getting rid of everything at one time. Just start small and build from there.
Try one or two of the tips below and see how they work before committing to more changes.
10 Ways to Live a More Minimalist Lifestyle by Living with Less
Ready to try minimalist living? Here are 10 ways to begin incorporating minimalism. Change is hard, so one of the most important things to do when trying something new is to do what personally works best.
1. Simplify Finances
Living with less means ultimately having more money in the bank. It’s also a chance to consolidate and simplify finances, which can make it easier to manage money.
Money is often made out to be more complicated than it needs to be, so here are some ways to add minimalism and simplicity to the equation.
Try consolidating multiple checking and savings accounts (although if some of them are used for specific purposes, keep those open. Minimalism doesn’t always mean having just one bank account).
This also applies to retirement accounts. Merge multiple 401(k) accounts from different jobs into one account. This can be done by rolling over the funds to an IRA. Not only will this make it easier to manage the retirement accounts, it will also cut down on fees.
Use one credit card for all spending
Many people believe that it is a good practice to use different credit cards depending on what purchases they are planning to make. But having complicated credit cards rewards systems might mean that potential rewards are underutilized. It’s easy to forget about all of the points and miles programs available if there are a lot of them.
Consolidate spending to just a few different credit cards. This will help track expenses better and take advantage of the available rewards.
Holding on to financial paperwork can get overwhelming, especially for those who have a tendency to ignore important forms and bills for weeks. But it will be easy to clear the clutter by choosing a paperless option.
Simplifying those accounts will also reduce the amount of paperwork swirling around. If using a filing system, keep only what is truly necessary for tax time. Everything else can be recycled or shredded. In addition, upload important documents to the Cloud.
Pay down debt
While this can be easier said than done, paying down debt will help to simplify finances. It may take months or even years to finish repaying some loans, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
Having a roadmap for debt will help de-stress and will give all income a purpose.
Cut out recurring expenses
While reviewing spending, take a look at any recurrent expenses that can be cut. Cancel monthly subscriptions that are no longer being used, and try to figure out ones that are no longer needed.
Services like Hulu or Netflix may cost only $10 or $15 a month, but add up over time and end up costing hundreds of dollars each year.
2. Turn Decluttering into a Challenge or Game
Like Mary Poppins famously demonstrated, every responsibility will be more fun when it becomes 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.
For example, for 30 days, get rid of the number of items as that day of the month. On the first day, eliminate one item, and on day two, throw away two. And so on.
This will be even more fun if a friend joins in; at the end of every day, compare notes and cheer each other on. Just make sure that the items actually leave the house and don’t make their way back in.
Or have a “packing party,” and put belongings into boxes as if you are preparing to move. The trick is to unpack only things that are needed and will be used. After a certain amount of time (like a few weeks or months), donate everything that wasn’t unpacked. For seasonal items, wait a season before doing this, to get a true sense of what is needed. Donate or sell everything else.
3. Do a Social Media Detox
Social media is a huge influencer. Studies have shown that the average person spends three hours per day just on social media. Doing a social media detox will help to reset online usage.
Opening up a platform like Facebook or Twitter can be addictive, because it helps alleviate boredom. But our moods can be affected (negatively or positively) by reading about celebrities on Instagram or personal friends on Facebook. It leads to comparisons and obsessing over what other people are doing.
Take a break from social media and delete as many apps as possible for a period of time – a week, a month, etc. – and do a social media reset. This is a way to incorporate minimalist living by cleaning up time wasters that are cluttering up the day. After the detox period is over, figure out how to get back to using social media intentionally rather than mindlessly.
4. Purge Toxic Relationships
Being friends with toxic people can be draining, both mentally and physically. Relationships are never easy, but toxic friends can be hurtful and cause constant stress. Those who are working on living a minimalist lifestyle should purge the negative people from their lives for an immediate effect on their state of mind.
In many cases, this is easier said than done. But everyone is in control of his or her own life and time. Set firm but clear boundaries with negative people – after all, nobody can please everybody all of the time, nor should they have to try. Cut off toxic people, or at last cut back on contact with them.
5. Choose Quality Over Quantity
One of the tenets of minimalist living is having only what is needed and used regularly. When considering purchasing a new item, 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, and will not need to be replaced as often as cheap items. For example, a quality pair of shoes will be more comfortable and will last many more years than a cheap version. Take care of quality belongings, and they will be useable for a long time – further helping to reduce waste (which is also better for the environment).
6. Buy One, Give Two
For an easy way to limit clutter and live a minimalist lifestyle, apply this handy rule to help cut back on the influx of stuff. Get rid of two items for every new one that is brought in. For example, go ahead and buy that new shirt, but in exchange, select two shirts you already own to sell or donate.
Not only will this help to cut down on the amount of stuff inside the home, it will also mean being choosier about what is purchased and kept. Make money with this habit by selling unwanted items. This way, belongings that would otherwise go in the trash or donation pile will bring in a little bit of extra pocket money.
7. Simplify Your Wardrobe
A great place to get started with minimalist living is with clothing. Stop spending an inordinate amount of time every morning staring at your clothing, trying to decide on an outfit. Instead of keeping a closet full of clothes (but having nothing to wear), start a capsule wardrobe.
This means owning a curated and limited selection of clothing that fits well and that you love wearing. Try to keep the total number of clothing, shoes, and accessories you own to between 30 and 40 items.
Those who live in a climate with four seasons can create a new capsule wardrobe every 90 days to have seasonally appropriate options.
Another way to simplify your wardrobe is to wear mostly neutrals, like black, white, gray, navy, and tan, as well as less busy patterns (like stripes). Wearing a select palette means that everything can be worn with everything, and cuts down on the number of decisions that have to be made every morning.
8. Consume Less Media
Another great way to move toward minimalist living is by consuming less media. The advertising industry spends billions of dollars every year on promoting the latest gadgets. Product advertising is everywhere.
This can all be very overwhelming, and tempt even the most budget-conscious person to spend money and stray from minimalist ideals. Turn off the TV, log out of social media, and close the browser. People who have a real overspending problem can try a browser extension like StayFocused, which will block particularly problematic websites.
9. Limit Gift Giving (and Receiving)
Gift giving is always a hot topic in minimalist living circles, especially around the holidays. In fact, 56 percent of people have reported receiving unwanted gifts during the holidays, many of which are thrown away or donated. Limiting gift giving and receiving will cut down on unnecessary junk and help save money.
Make a pact with loved ones to stop exchanging gifts. Focus on doing fun activities or sharing a meal instead of buying things. If the family is resistant to this idea, suggest switching to experience gifts instead of physical ones (so for example, play mini-golf together instead of buying a golf club). This way, everyone will still get to give (and receive) without bringing additional clutter into their lives.
10. Do the Spending vs. Value Test
Minimalist living is not about getting rid of stuff. It’s about getting the most value out of 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 10 most expensive items that you own, like the house, car, jewelry, TV, etc. Now make another list that includes the things that add the most value to your life. This could include playing with the kids at the park, watching the sunset, or taking long walks on the beach.
Chances are that the two lists have almost nothing in common. Focus on what adds value to your life, not stuff.
How to be a Minimalist: Shift Your Mindset
Minimalist living requires a mindset shift. It’s not just about purging those old T-shirts.
It means focusing on what you value most and cutting back on the rest. It’s about changing the way you think about your possessions and being more intentional with consumption. Being intentional can reduce stress, save money, and bring more freedom.
Focus on what brings joy, and start living with less.
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