Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is about mindfully changing your habits to live better with less. It has become increasingly popular in the last couple of years as people are more aware of their purchase habits, choices and impact on their environment.
The benefits of choosing a minimalist living are countless:
- It gives you more space, physically and mentally
- You are more free as you are less attached to material things
- You save money by not spending it mindlessly
- It’s better for the planet as you reduce your overall consumption
When I decided to change my habits, I did a bit of research and found a lot of impractical tips, like ditching all your electronic devices (that’s just not realistic) or growing your own vegetables (though this is very appealing to most of us, not everyone has 1) a garden that’s big enough, or 2) the time to take care of it).
I wanted to share with you all the things that I did when I decided to change my habits. For all of you who are interested in small, incremental steps towards a more sustainable living, this will get you started.
1 | Declutter what you already have
Decluttering your life is the first necessary step towards a minimalist lifestyle. It might take you several days or weeks to go through all of your things, but you will feel a huge sense of relief as you clear your possessions.
As you start reviewing what you own, always make three piles: what you keep, what you donate, and what you trow.
- You probably have a lot of clothes you are not wearing, go through them to see what you can donate.
- Books: are there books you didn’t like or you’ll never read? Give them away or sell them.
- Paper (letters, stationary): research how long you need certain documents and if you can keep a digital version of them. Throw away junk letters
- Kitchen: you are probably not using everything in your kitchen, consider selling or giving what you do use.
- Products: throw away old make-up or recycle expired tablets
Your garage or storage room: if you have one or the others, it is very likely the messiest place of your house, and where you keep most of the things you don’t really use. Spend extra time clearing it up.
Your car: clear your car of all the junk laying around. We all have at least one thing that has been there forever.
Your work space: apply a minimalist approach to your work environment:
- Clear your desk to keep only the essentials
- Empty your drawers: throw away papers and materials you don’t use anymore and bring back the stationary you took but don’t use back to the station where other people will use them.
For a proper decluttering, I recommend you check the technique Marie Kondo has developped. You’ve probably heard of her as her books are everywhere and she even has a Netflix show. ‘m not going to go into details into her KonMari technique but you should definitely check it out if you want to improve your decluttering skills.
2 | Recycle & freecycle
Make sure you always recycle what you don’t use. If you’re not using it and it’s in a good condition, you can sell it on a classified ads. You can also donate it to charity or join a Facebook group in your city where people exchange things for free. You can use this kind of freecycling initiatives to also get things you need without having to pay for them.
3 | Be mindful when you shop
It’s directly linked to the habit #2. Build an awareness around your purchasing habits so you understand why you are buying stuff: is it absolutely essential or is it for pleasure? Are you really going to make a good use of that? What happens if you change your mind, will it take a lot of space or will it be easy to get rid of? What do you already own that you could use instead of this new item? Before going to the till, think twice.
4 | Only buy essentials
One of the golden rules of minimalism is to buy things that are essentials to your life. That’s something that I personally needed to change and that has had the most impact on the space in my house.
Let me give you a concrete example of how this plays in my day-to-day life: when I go food shopping there’s often a discount on a kitchen appliance I’d love to have, like a waffle maker. I love cooking and baking, so for me a new appliance is like a new toy. In the past I would have probably bought that waffle maker but that’s not the case anymore because the waffle maker always fails the following test:
- When was the last time I ate waffles? A very long time ago.
- Will I use it every day or every week? Clearly I won’t.
- Can I cook other similar foods with appliances/utensils I already have? Yes, I can do pancakes or crêpes.
- Do I love waffles that much that they can’t be replaced by pancakes or crêpes? No.
- Will it make me save money? No.
Clearly I don’t need a waffle maker.
This can be applied to most of your purchases. For the ones that are for pleasure, like a book for instance, consider borrowing it (I got a library card) or reading it on a device (see tip #8).
5 | Quality over quantity
Overall, a minimalist way of living focuses on quality and not quantity. I know quality usually comes in with a higher price tag. But consider the money that we spend replacing things that broke very quickly. It’s better to spend €100 in a good pair of shoes that will last you 5+ years than a pair that costs €30 but that will need to be replaced every year.
6 | Cook simply
Along the lines of the example of the kitchen appliance I shared (#4), switching to a more minimalist lifestyle can also mean a minimalist cooking style:
- Choose recipes that don’t require a dozen appliances
- Have go-to recipes
7 | Pick experiences over things
When you are in the fortunate position of having all you need, you can decide to reward yourself not on useless things, but on experiences, like a class to learn a new skill, or a (day) trip somewhere. If you can’t really afford this type of activity, you can always ask them as a gift for your birthday or Christmas.
8 | Choose electronic books and online reads
Switching to ebooks is one of the best ways to save space (and money). Nowadays you don’t necessarily need a Kindle (though if you can afford it I highly recommend you get one). Everyone can read from their tablet, laptop and even their phone. If you subscribe to a magazine, look for the subscription that gives you full access to their online articles without receiving the paper version.
9 | Declutter your devices & inbox
We use multiple devices every day, probably more than we realise, so we should treat them like our home, garage and work station: like a space that needs to be cleaned up from time to time. What does that mean?
- Delete apps and software you are not using
- Reorganise your files and delete the ones you don’t need anymore
- Run Ccleaner on your laptop or the “device care” function in the settings of your phone to delete temporary files and optimise storage
- Clear your desktop area to open your laptop and phone to a clean, minimalist screen
- Empty your laptop bin regularly
10 | Repeat again and again
In this post we touched on the first steps to take to live a more minimalist lifestyle. Obviously it doesn’t just stop there. Going through each step regularly will make you want to go a little further each time. You will see as you repeat these tips, they’ll get easier: you’ll donate more, buy less, choose better quality, etc. A lifestyle can’t change overnight, so it’ll take a bit of practice, which you can achieve by mindfully implementing new habits into your life.