Attempting to begin living a minimalist lifestyle is not something I purposely set out to do years ago. Instead I attempted to become a minimalist.
I drooled over pictures like the one at the top of this post and brainstormed my list of 100 items I would keep if I actually managed to get rid of everything else. I took multiple trips to Goodwill. I traded in plastic containers for glass ones. I seriously considered how many old yearbooks I needed to keep and threw some in the trash.
Yet I still had stuff that I had to manage and I still felt like my life was more complicated than I wanted it to be. My home did not look like the photo above and my kids even had some non-wooden (GASP!) toys that they stuck in their mouth from time-to-time. I had more than 30 pieces of clothing items and I could not keep indoor plants alive to save my life.
Was I a failure?
What does it mean to begin living a Minimalist Lifestyle?
The true answer to both of my questions above are subjective.
Living a minimalist lifestyle is a process, not something to achieve and then move on to something else. It is a steady mindset that prompts me to examine my possessions, obligations, mindsets, habits, and attitudes to decide if they are aligned with my values. If not, I work on letting them go.
So how does my life look different now than it did before I started this journey?
Before I began living a minimalist lifestyle, I still got rid of stuff because I’ve never liked clutter. But I did it just to have less stuff, not as a mindful way of paring down. Now, I think about getting rid of anything that doesn’t serve me – and that extends way beyond possessions.
I am also more intentional. If I get rid of something that doesn’t align with my values, I think ahead a few steps and consider how I can avoid getting rid of something like this again. I try to improve my ability to discriminate the first time around instead of simply getting rid of after the fact.
And yet, it is a process and my journey has loads of ups and downs. At times I feel like everything is aligned and I’m living mindfully and simply and other times I feel as if I’ve gotten all off course and wonder where to start in order to get back on track. My home can look simple, clean, and organized but sometimes it just looks like there’s tons of stuff begging to be put somewhere, anywhere.
My point is that a minimalist lifestyle looks different to different people at different times and that’s okay. I like to call myself a minimalist in training or a semi-minimalist. 🙂
Simply deciding to start the minimalist process and take the journey will still reap amazing clarity and peace.
How to Begin Living a Minimalist Lifestyle
There are many articles, videos, and books on how to get started with living a minimalist lifestyle. I personally believe that spending a small amount of time considering the mindsets that help someone live a minimalist lifestyle well is most helpful.
One of the reasons so many people live by this philosophy is because it isn’t really about less stuff and white walls. At its’ core, it’s about shedding the old, evaluating what’s important, and aligning your actions to your values.
That’s why I like to suggest that people new to minimalism start their journey by considering a few big picture questions that can make the transition to a minimalist lifestyle easier and more enjoyable. (You’ll find these in my free ebook + workbook below, btw.)
Tips to Begin Living a Minimalist Lifestyle
Along with the mindset shifts, there are other tangible things you can do to get started.
Getting rid of possessions is any easy first step. People often start minimalism so they have less stuff, less clutter. From there, they progress to shedding habits that they dislike or rethinking mindsets. So, let’s start with my favorite exercise. It’s easy, painless, and fast. And it’s really, really fun – and eye-opening – the first few times you do it. I call it the Quick Sweep.
Here’s what you do. Get two large bags or boxes and pick a room to start in. Set a timer for about 10 minutes and then go through that room trying to find anything that you obviously don’t want or need. If you are unsure whether to keep or discard of something, keep it for now. Your goal is to get rid of items that don’t require much decision-making and that you have little to no emotional attachment to. Throw the items in a donation bag/box or a trash bag/box. Keep going from room-to-room until you’ve gone through every room.
Common Questions About Starting a Minimalist Lifestyle
What is a Minimalist Lifestyle?
This is subjective, as I mentioned earlier. But to me, a minimalist lifestyle is a lifestyle dedicated to keeping what aligns with your values and getting rid of what doesn’t.
Why is minimalism so expensive?
Minimalism itself costs nothing. But I imagine that people connect minimalism with beautiful loft-style, structural homes with expensively curated items. Just looking at a pantry that is well-organized – not to be confused with minimalism – and beautiful, filled with matching containers can set you back hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
But minimalism itself doesn’t cost anything. You don’t have to replace items with more expensive ones or paint all your walls. There is a minimalist aesthetic that may cost some money to achieve but that is different from practicing a minimalist lifestyle.
Does my house have to look a certain way to begin living a minimalist lifestyle?
Nope! I do believe that most people who practice minimalism attempt to have as little clutter as possible. They may prefer less things on the walls or less trinkets sitting around. I love, love white walls but you certainly don’t have to like white walls to be a minimalist. And, as mentioned earlier, minimalism is a process. That means that my house may look one way in year one and very differently in year 5.
Is minimalism still a thing?
There have always been people who live simply and prefer to have only things they really value and I believe there always will be. They may or may not call themselves a minimalist but you don’t have to label yourself in order to par down.
Are minimalist happier?
I think many minimalist are much happier with this lifestyle than they were before. I am. Paying attention to what really brings joy and contentment and then adjusting your lifestyle and possessions in accordance makes things easier, less overwhelming. I wholeheartedly believe minimalism helped me handle my father’s death better, deal with a chronic illness, and be a better wife. And I absolutely love having clean surfaces void of stuff surrounding me. It makes me feel like I can breathe better.
Is minimalism a good thing?
Our world is busy, fast, and intense. There are so many people and companies fighting for a piece of our mind, our attention, and our money. I honestly believe that minimalism is an effective way to live in this world instead of drowning in the “stuffness” that surrounds us.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about the Minimalist Lifestyle
The most important thing I’d like you to know about a minimalist lifestyle is that it is for anyone. It will look different from person-to-person and that’s okay. You don’t have to be a certain age or make a certain amount of money. Minimalism is for anyone who wants to learn to let go so that they can live a full life today.
Interested in living a calmer, more peaceful life? Get started with this free mini-ebook filled with secrets to get you on your way.
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