How to Start Your Minimalist Life
"Everest" sums up the state of your laundry pile. Toys brightly carpet the...carpet. Wait, do we have carpet? Papers, ads and magazines litter every desk, and though there are a bajillion pens you can't seem to find a single one that works. You've no idea what's growing in the back of the refrigerator but can't actually excavate it because that would require unloading everything else. You really would like to sit and actually read one of those magazines, but that would mean unearthing the couch. *sigh* Friend, you need an intervention. It's called minimalism.
Minimalism is knowing the life you want and going after it, and getting rid of all the distractions that prevent you from getting there. Doesn't that sound nice? It means less, not none.
If this kind of life piques your interest but you're not sure where to start, let me guide you...
1. Know your why.
If you want to not only get motivated but stay motivated, you have to know why you want to do this. (Full post on knowing your why here.)
Maybe you want to be present with your family instead of constantly cleaning up clutter. Maybe you want to be able to go on a trip but your third car payment isn't letting you. Maybe you want to get out of debt so you can retire early. Maybe it is avoiding decision fatigue at 7 a.m. instead of standing in front of your bursting closet. Or maybe you're just tired of feeling compelled to own more, never actually finding happiness in the next thing.
Whatever the reason, identify it and hold onto it as you begin to sift.
Dive in. Tackle a drawer, a closet, a nightstand, or a cupboard. In the beginning, it's all about easy battles, quick wins and building momentum. (*Avoid paper/sentimental items which will take you down memory lane and totally derail you. Once you've got practice making decisions, then you can take on these types of belongings.)
Great non-committal places to start?
skin care products
the medicine cabinet
spare change (always collect and use)
extra bedding (you really only need two sets - one to use and one to rotate - and maybe one more for guests)
towels (two per person max)
books (keep only your favs - you will likely never read most of them again and if you have been meaning to get to it but just haven't read it yet, you probably never will. Ditch text books.)
toys (full post on sifting with kids to come!)
dishes/pots and pans
bigger kitchen items/appliances (we had three crock pots and didn't ever use them - gone! Freed up so much space...)
old electronics/cords (if you can't remember what it was for, get rid of it)
3. Ask the right questions.
Realistically, does it need to stay? Can it go? Does it adds value to my life? Does it distract from the life I want? Do I love it? Use it?
Asking the right questions is great; answering them with honesty is better.
4. Ditch duplicates. Corral like items that are scattered across your house. All the scissors in one pile. All the jackets in one pile. All the pens in one pile. Whatever item it is, grab them all and pick only what you need. Give yourself permission to keep only your favorite(s) and nix the rest. Put that one or two items in the places that make most sense to keep them.
5. Don't sell. Unless it rakes in $100+, just donte/dispose of it. The point is to get it out of your house ASAP so you can experience a clear space. Finding ways to support causes you're passionate about is a great way to part with possessions, too.
6. Experiment. Last summer I took an online course called Uncluttered. At the end of the 12 weeks, we were charged with experimenting. What can I live without for a certain amount of time to discover if I really need it or not? Essentially, you're finding what is enough.
After living in Argentina without a microwave for close to a year, I knew it was something we could do without. But it wasn't until we moved the microwave to the basement and had to reheat food on the stove top or oven that we realized...our food tasted better than when we put it in the microwave. We made due the full 29 days without going to get it. Those 29 days turned into 8 months, and finally we took it to the thrift store, satisfied that we not only didn't need it but we didn't want it.
I know that sounds like a crazy hippie example, but experimenting is key to learning what is enough for you. Maybe it's being a one-car family for awhile to see how much gas you can save and learn how much you enjoy biking. Maybe it's getting rid of one thing from your calendar for a month so you can enjoy a meal at home as a family. Maybe it's watching one less show so you can go to bed earlier or have time with your spouse. Maybe it's a temporary shopping ban to stop the itch from needing to swipe your card.
Whatever it is, pick one thing for a month and commit to living without it to see what enough means for you.
And speaking of less television...
7. Prevention. The average American watches THIRTY FOUR hours of television each week. (Can you imagine what you can accomplish in 34 hours?!) No small amount of that time is dedicated to commercials, AKA luring you into buying more stuff. Stop the madness!
You are exposed not only to an alarming amount of advertising every day (browsing, pop ups, social media, etc.) but you are also continually fed the idea that happiness is in the next thing. The better car. The new shoes. The next thousand Instagram followers. The bigger house. Whatever it is, we buy it. We buy into the lie that contentment is just out of reach and we'll have it if we can just buy ____. Let me tell you something: if this is you, you'll never be happy.
Happiness does not lie in the next Target end cap. Happiness does not exist in the next retail therapy high. Happiness is not bigger and better.
Happiness is finding contentment in what you already have. Happiness is not being a slave to the compulsion to buy more. Happiness is only having what you need. Happiness is a decision.
So if you're ready to not only start your minimalist life, but you want any hope of sustaining it? Get out of the rat race. Remove influences from your life that tell you that you need to buy more to be happy.
Now start sifting and HAVE FUN!