Jumping Gently Into Minimalism

When you intentionally live with less, you can experience life with more attention and purpose.

Minimalism starts with a desire to live with less. It is typically triggered by being sick and tired of being sick and tired, or experiencing the “enough is enough” moment. Before you identify yourself as a minimalist, you may notice a nearly obsessive need to unclutter and simplify. Before you know it, uncluttering  starts to apply to more than just a kitchen drawer. For me, the process went like this: Health, stuff, debt, obligation, love, religion. None of it happened overnight, and most of it is still work in progress.

Some minimalists have successfully turned their lives around, and decided to live out of a backpack in the blink of an eye, but most of us need a more gentle transition. We’ve become aware that working too much, to spend too much, to have too much, only to find out that we need to work even harder to support our bad habits isn’t working. Change is inevitable, but introducing big change to an established life takes time.

If you have a spouse, children, pets, or all 3 (like me), be patient. Respect the fact that it took you many years to get where you are today, and it may take time to get somewhere new. Why jump? Unlike falling, jumping is intentional. It is a little more deliberate than dipping your toe in, and not quite as drastic as diving in. Come on in, the water’s fine.

Advice on Jumping Gently Into Minimalism

  • It starts with you – Make your health top priority. Eat simply and move every day. Try yoga.
  • Research – spend some time reading about minimalism and talk about what you are learning with your family. Authors like Meg Wolfe, Tammy Strobel, Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta have inspired me to live with less. Reading about how real life people, with very different lifestyles, live with less, shows that minimalism can be for anyone and everyone.
  • Start slowly with your stuff – You may want to attempt to empty one drawer each weekend or one room depending on your time. Respect the “family stuff” and don’t toss or donate things you share without a consensus.
  • Dump your debt - This could be the most important step in moving towards minimalism. Having no monthly payments will free you up to do things that matter. I follow the Dave Ramsey plan and highly recommend it.
  • Don’t compete – Having less than another does not make you a better minimalist and living with less is not a competition. The purpose of simplifying is to have more time and space for what matters most to you. That being said, you may challenge yourself with fun ideas like the 100 Things Challenge,  or minimalist fashion Project 333, but attempt them with a light heart.
  • Focus on small - Sometimes the littlest change makes the biggest difference. Don’t overlook small progress.
  • Dream – Minimalism is not all about getting rid of stuff. It is also about living your life without distraction so you can spend time living life your way. Don’t wait for the perfect time to go after your dream. The Right Time is Right Now.
  • Reach out – Feel free to email me and others writing about minimalism with questions and comments. Connecting with like-minded people makes the journey that much better.

What starts out as an external journey (giving things away, cutting the cable), becomes very personal, intentional and more meaningful. You start to think of “stuff” as not just things but obligation, debt and stress. Then you see how this “stuff” is getting in the way of your LIFE and decide to make a bigger change. It’s at this point that minimalism becomes more about who you are, instead of what you have.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for this reminder Courtney to not run before we can walk, and to take things a step at a time.

    I’m at the edge of some potential pretty major transitions in work, where I live, how I spend my time, and it’s all exciting but daunting too. I feel very blessed and free, and at the same time trapped, mainly due to finances. Not debt, just finding sustainable alternative ways of earning income so I can escape the day job.

    I can see the beautiful meadow across the other side of the river, but haven’t quite found the bridge or the boat to help me cross the river yet.

    One step at a time, one courageous step at a time. : )

    • Courtney Carver says

      Dan, Maybe you should try a stand up paddle board. They are really fun, and much easier to deal with than a boat or a bridge! ;)

      Now that you can see the destination, it is only a matter of time before you see your way there. Can’t wait to hear more!

  2. says

    Great article Courtney! Thank you for including my article under Suggested Blog Reading as well. These are some great resources that you have pointed to and I’m thankful to get a chance to read them.

  3. says

    I love this Courtney. Living with less distraction vs. getting rid of stuff. It’s a great way to look at minimalism. Making room for what matters. Thanks for another inspiring and useful post. I’m working on it.

  4. says

    Wonderful thoughts in this post ! Thank you for sharing your advices. I am learning the way of living more simply, day after day. In this I found help in a great book by Dominique Loreau “The Art of Simplicity”.

  5. says

    This article helped me to remind that each small step toward the minimalistic life, is worth to do it.

    Thanks a lot Courtney for writing this article and for suggested reading!

    — Jan

    • Courtney Carver says

      Jan, Thank you for reading and for spreading the word! I so appreciate your support and connecting with you through the blog.

  6. says

    Thanks, Courtney. Well stated! I WANT to be MORE of a MINIMALIST. I guess that statement sums it up for me. I’m working at it. But I’m juggling so many different roles, as most modern women do – I’m a mom to a crazy wonderful 19-month-old girl, a wife, a part-time Ph.D. student, and a full-time employee in a traditional 8-5 job setting – it is hard to make any significant changes, even though I’d like to turn our lives upside-down for the sake of feeling more sane, and less stressed. I feel like until I’m done with this crazy battle between balancing family with student & work life, it’s hard to delve into this with the abandon that I want to delve into it with. We have a house, and a lot of debt. I’ve started decluttering, somewhat obsessively. Working on my urges to buy stuff — retail therapy has always worked in the past, but it’s also gotten me where I am today. :( A long way to go. Thank you for reminding me that it doesn’t have to happen overnight; as much as I wish it could.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Clara – Now that you have the awareness of a simpler life, it will come step by step. Stay in touch and let me know how I can help along the way.

  7. says

    a wonderful posting. this is my way for to be a minimalist, too. since i go this way i feel better. my personality disorder is under a better control and i have less depression. to live with a simplify and minimalism lifestyle works great for me and my family. i look forward for more posts like this one.
    greetings from germany.
    sincerely

    • Courtney Carver says

      Rolf, I’m so glad that embracing the minimalist lifestyle has been a healthy change to your life. Thanks for sharing that. It’s a great reminder that simple living isn’t just about stuff.

  8. says

    “It starts with you – Make your health top priority. Eat simply and move every day. Try yoga.”

    Yes!

    It’s funny that after a couple of years of being enamoured with the whole minimalist movement, I just “got” this aspect of it within the last 48 hours. It’s even funnier that within a few hours of the proverbial lightbulb switching on, I came across this post.

    I’ve already begun the slow process of overhauling my diet (restraint being a major component of this) and starting to re-introduce my old friend, yoga, into my life once again. It looks like tomorrow I will officially commit to 2 visits to the studio per week, plus as many at-home sessions as I can reasonably fit in.

    I’m interested to see if prioritizing health and wellness helps me to succeed in my other, as of yet unfulfilled minimalist goals.

  9. says

    YES! Im so glad i found your site this is exactly how I envision my family going through the paring down process. I couldnt be happier that you recomend Dave ramsey as he, among others started the ball rolling a year or so ago. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I started attacking Debt and began to discover other areas of life that could use some work as well. Minimalism appears to go hand in hand with what dave teaches. Living with less is more rewarding. Great post

  10. says

    Thanks for the article, it’s refreshingly different to a lot of the more extreme minimalist blog articles out there. Another tactic that I’ve been using for ‘jumping gently into minimalism’ is to have a “between” cupboard or room – a place where I put things that I don’t think I need but am not quite ready to throw away or sell just yet.

  11. Victoria says

    This is a great post. I love your blog, I found you through Miss Minimalist. She was my inspiration! Love her. Anyway your blog is fascinating, I started from you very first one and am reading up to the present. I love your take on things and you articulate yourself so well. Keep up the amazing work! <3

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