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When my husband were looking to buy a house, we wanted something on the smaller side.
We’re not die-hard minimalists, but we both know the hazards of owning a large home.
Having more space means spending more money to fill and decorate it. As a recovering pack rat, it also means more room for me to keep clutter even if it’s no longer useful.
Being a natural pack rat made me interested in minimalist living. It’s not about having white walls and only two pairs of shoes. It’s about living intentionally with clarity and purpose.
Maybe, like me, you also like the idea of minimalism and living with less, but you’re not sure where to start. It may seem difficult at first, but you can ease into minimalist living.
What are the Benefits of Living a Minimalist Lifestyle?
Joshua Becker from BecomingMinimalist.com defines minimalism as, “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 we live in a culture that values more over less, owning so much is exhausting. Every item you own requires your time, money, and attention. The self-storage industry is an example of how too many possessions can cost you.
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. That money could be used to pay down debt, start an emergency fund, or go on vacation.
Experts like Marie Kondo have made decluttering more popular while espousing a minimalist lifestyle. Other books, blogs and podcasts have talked about how living a minimalist lifestyle can save money, lower stress levels, and find more personal meaning. They talk about getting rid of what doesn’t matter in your life so you can focus on what truly has meaning to you. It’s the same principles of living frugally.
Here are some other positive side effects of living a more minimalist lifestyle:
- Happier and less stressed
- Better health, sleep, and overall wellness
- Improved relationships
- More environmentally conscious
- Better financial health
- More contentment
- Increased productivity
If you’re ready to try minimalist living, you can start small and build from there. Living a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t mean getting rid of all of your possessions at once.
Try one or two of the tips below and decide how they work for you before committing to more changes.
10 Ways to Live a More Minimalist Lifestyle
Ready to try minimalist living? Here are 10 ways you can add minimalism to your life. Change is hard, so one of the most important things you can do when trying to incorporate something new is to do what works best for you.
1. Simplify Your Finances
Living with less means more money in your pocket. It’s also a chance to consolidate and simplify your finances, which can make it easier to manage your money.
We often make money more complicated than it needs to be, so here are some ways to add minimalism and simplicity to the equation.
Try consolidating your accounts if you have multiple checking and savings accounts. If you use some of them for specific purposes, then keep those open. You don’t need to have one bank account to be a minimalist.
This also applies to retirement accounts. If you have multiple 401(k) accounts from different jobs, consider merging them all into one account. You can do this by rolling over the funds to an IRA. Not only will this make it easier to manage your retirement accounts, but it will also cut down on fees.
Use one credit card for all spending
Do you use different credit cards depending on what purchase you’re planning to make? If you have a complicated credit cards rewards system, you may be underutilizing your rewards. It’s easy to forget about all the points and miles programs you have if there’s a lot of them.
Try to consolidate most of your spending to a couple different credit cards. This will help you track your expenses better and take advantage of the rewards.
Financial paperwork can get overwhelming, especially if you have a tendency to ignore paperwork for weeks. You can clear the clutter by choosing a paperless option.
Simplifying your accounts will also reduce the amount of paperwork. If you have a filing system, keep what’s truly necessary for tax time. Everything else can be recycled or shredded. You can also upload documents to the cloud.
Pay down debt
While this can be easier said than done, paying down your debt will help simplify your finances. It may take you years or months to finish repaying your loans, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Knowing you have a roadmap for your debt will help you sleep better at night and will give your money a purpose.
Cut out recurring expenses
While you’re reviewing your spending, take a look at any recurrent expenses that can be cut. You may have forgotten to cancel some monthly subscriptions or discover ones you no longer need.
Things like Hulu or Netflix may only cost $10 or $15 a month, but can add up over time and end up costing hundreds of dollars.
2. Turn Decluttering into a Challenge or Game
Everything is more fun when you turn it into a game. Minimalist living is no different. Break the process down into smaller chunks and make it fun by turning it into a challenge.
For example, you can do a 30-day challenge where you get rid of the same number of items each day as the day you’re on. On day one, you get rid of one item, on day two you get rid of two items, on day three you get rid of three items and so on. You get the idea.
This can be even more fun if you get a friend or two to join you so you can compare notes and cheer each other on. Just make sure to get the items out of your house so they don’t accidentally make their way back into your life.
You can also have a packing party where you pack all of your stuff into boxes as if you’re moving. The trick is to only unpack things as you need and want to use them.
After a set amount of time such as a few weeks or months, get rid of everything you didn’t unpack. For seasonal items, you can give yourself one season before doing this so you can get a true sense of what you use. Donate or sell everything else.
3. Do a Social Media Detox
Even if you don’t realize it, social media has a big influence on our lives. Studies show that the average person spends three hours per day just on social media. Doing a social media detox will help you reset your online usage.
Opening up a social media app like Facebook or Twitter can be addictive because it helps pacify our boredom. Whether it’s a celebrity on Instagram or friends on Facebook, the people we follow can negatively or positively affect our mood. It leads to comparisons and obsessing over what other people are doing.
Take a break from social media and delete your apps for a period of time — a week, a month, etc. — and do a reset. It’s a way to incorporate minimalist living by cleaning up time wasters that are cluttering up your day. If you’d like to get back to using social media after the detox period is over, decide on how to do so intentionally rather than mindlessly.
4. Purge Your Toxic Relationships
Having toxic people in your life can be draining, both mentally and physically. Relationships are never easy, but toxic relationships can really hurt you and cause constant stress. If you’re working on living a minimalist lifestyle, purging negative people will have an immediate effect on your state of mind.
In many cases, this is easier said than done. However, you have to remember that you’re in control of your life and your time. Set firm but clear boundaries with the people that are affecting you negatively. You can’t please everyone all the time and you shouldn’t have to try. Cut off toxic people in your life or at last cut back on contact.
5. Choose Quality Over Quantity
One of the tenets of minimalist living is having only what you need and use regularly. When evaluating adding a new item to your life, 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, which means you don’t have to replace them as often. For example, a quality pair of shoes will be more comfortable and will last you many more years than a cheap version. Take care of the items you purchase and they will serve you well for many years. This will also help reduce your waste, which is better for the environment.
6. Buy One, Give Two
If you want an easy way to limit clutter and live a minimalist lifestyle, make a rule to help cut back on the influx of stuff into your life. You can constrain yourself by getting rid of two items for every new one you bring in. For example, if you want to buy a new shirt, you can sell or donate two shirts from your closet.
This will help you cut down on the number of items you have over time. It’ll also mean being choosier with what you buy since you’ll have to get rid of two items for every new purchase. You can even make money doing this by selling your items. This will help you put money in your pocket for an item that would otherwise go in the donation pile or in the trash.
7. Simplify Your Wardrobe
A great place to get started with minimalist living is your wardrobe. Do you spend an inordinate amount of time every morning staring at your clothes, trying to decide on an outfit? Do you have a closet full of clothes but you feel like you have nothing to wear? A capsule wardrobe can help.
What is a capsule wardrobe? It’s a curated and limited selection of clothing that fits you well and that you love wearing. Generally, a capsule wardrobe means limiting your clothing, shoes, and accessories to 30 to 40 items.
If you live in a climate with four seasons, you can create a new capsule wardrobe every 90 days to ensure you have seasonally appropriate clothing.
Another way to simplify your wardrobe is to only wear neutrals such as black, white, gray, and tan. Wearing a select palette means that everything goes with everything and cuts down on the number of decisions you have to make.
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 trying to get us to buy the latest gadgets. Everywhere you go, there’s an ad trying to sell you something.
All of this can cause overwhelm and prevent you from sticking to your budget and minimalist ideals. Turn off the TV, log out of social media, and close the browser. If you have a real overspending problem, try a browser extension like StayFocused which will block particularly problematic websites.
9. Limit Your Gift Giving (and Receiving)
Gift giving is always a hot topic in minimalist living circles, especially around the holidays. In fact, 56% of people report 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 you money.
Make a pact with your loved ones to stop exchanging gifts. Focus on doing fun activities or sharing a meal instead of buying things. If you run into some resistance, suggest switching to experience gifts instead of physical ones. This way you still get to give (and receive) without the clutter.
10. Do the Spending vs. Value Test
Minimalist living is not about getting rid of your 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 to you. Make a list of the 10 most expensive items that you own, like your home, your car, jewelry, TV, etc. Now make another list, one with what adds the most value to your life.
For me, this includes playing with my kids in the park, watching the sun set over the horizon and cool morning walks.
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 your old t-shirts. It means focusing on what you value most and cutting back on the rest.
It’s about changing how you think about your possessions and being more intentional with your consumption. Being intentional can reduce stress, save money, and gain more freedom. In doing so, you can focus on what brings you joy and cut out the noise.
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