Writing this article, How to Become a Minimalist, has been a fun reminder of the different stages of minimalism I’ve navigated over the last ten years. In the beginning, the word minimalism wasn’t even in my vocabulary. Neither was the word simplicity.
My only focus was eliminating stress from my life so I could live a good life with Multiple Sclerosis. I was diagnosed in 2006 and still clearly remember my neurologist telling me that I was standing on the edge of a cliff. I had a choice. Keep pushing, stressing, and over doing it all, and fall off the cliff. Or, slow down, step back and get my life back.
How to Become a Minimalist (or just simplify your life a little)
I leaned in slowly. I didn’t want to add stress by turning everything upside down overnight. It took us many years to declutter, downsize, and become debt-free. By investing the time and energy to simplify, I turned my health around, started my own business and changed my entire life.
With my family, I’ve taken a bunch of tiny steps that added up to big change. Whether you’ve been simplifying for years or you are just getting started, there is something here for everyone. If you want learn how to become a minimalist or just simplify your life a little, start here:
1. Write down why you want to become a minimalist.
Figure out why you want to simplify. My why was health. Your why may be different. Maybe you want to pursue your dream job, travel the world, or have a few minutes to yourself every day. Jot down a few of the things you want out of life and why you think minimalism will help you get there. Once you understand and connect with the whys, the hows, whats and wheres will come much more easily.
2. Start decluttering and keep going for as long as it takes.
Very slowly, start letting go of the stuff in your home that you don’t use, love or even notice most of the time. Start with the easy stuff and as you begin to enjoy the space you are creating, move on to the more challenging items. When you finally get to the really tough stuff like photographs and sentimental items, read this: https://bemorewithless.com/bye-photos/.
3. Make-under your closet.
A simple closet is the gateway to a simple life. Instead of another seasonal closet clean-out, make it fun and meaningful (and make it last) with minimalist fashion challenge Project 333.
4. Simplify your social media.
Spend less time online overall but when you are engaging in your social feeds, curate them to support the changes you are making in your life. Follow and unfollow accordingly. Once you’ve simplified your social feeds, spend less time on your phone with these 8 little tricks.
5. Know what you owe.
If becoming debt-free is part of your minimalism journey, the first step is knowing what you own and what you owe. I was deep in debt for decades and it was one of the most stressful parts of my life. I was so ashamed and overwhelmed that I ignored it most of the time. I never understood what the real numbers were until I put them on paper. Even though the numbers didn’t paint a pretty picture, it was a relief to see where I was starting from. When you are ready to become debt-free, try this 21-day guide to help you get started.
6. Support your minimalism with daily inspiration.
When I’m making a change in my life, I read books or listen to podcasts with encouraging, helpful information to stay motivated and engaged.
Start with these:
- Slow Your Home Podcast
- Minimalist Podcast
- Simple Families Podcast
- Soulful Simplicity how living with less can lead to so much more
- The Minimalist Home, a room by room guide to a decluttered, refocused life
- Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things
7. Decide how you want to spend your time.
Sometimes we get so busy, we forget we have a choice in how we spend our time. What matters most in your life right now? Make a quick list. It might be one thing, and it might be ten. Write it all down. Now write down what you spent most of your time doing over the last month.
Think about your what matters list as the life you want, and your what you did over the last month your actual life. Does how you spend your time support what matters to you? Don’t judge, just notice. I make these lists from time to time, especially when I am caught up in something or feeling run down. And when I make and review my what matters list, I remember myself and what matters to me. It makes it easier to say no, and to more mindfully decide how I want to spend my time.
8. Simplify your insides.
As Eckhart Tolle says in The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, “When you get the inside right, the outside falls into place.” As it turns out, calming your outside can calm your inside too, but don’t dismiss all of that clutter and stuff that has built up inside your brain and your heart. It affects your mental health, your physical health, and your relationships. It matters.
9. Do just enough.
If the things I mentioned sound impossible. If you don’t think you have the time or energy to simplify your life or declutter your home or calendar, just do enough. Simplify enough, declutter enough, clear your calendar enough. Just enough to create a few minutes every day so you can sit quietly, remember who you are and what matters most in your life.
10. Do what’s best for you.
Don’t worry about following the advice of every popular minimalist or decluttering expert. You don’t have to wear the same shirts Mark Zuckerburg wears, or create the perfect capsule wardrobe collection. You don’t have to live in a tiny house or carry all your belongings in a backpack. Don’t worry about how many items you own or don’t own. Don’t compare your journey to another. You can watch your favorite movies and buy what you need and love. You can call yourself a minimalist or not. This is your journey, your minimalism, your life.