“Minimalism is simply removing the things that remove you from your life. It doesn’t mean removing all of those things overnight, and what you choose to remove will change over time.”
That’s how my friend Courtney Carver defines minimalism. I love her definition because it succinctly captures my experience of minimalism.
For example, minimalism helped me remove the following things from my life:
- toxic relationships,
- and more.
Thanks to minimalism, I can do the following:
- save money,
- take care of my health,
- embrace my creativity,
- savor the things and places that I enjoy,
- and prioritize my loved ones.
Defining minimalism is a personal and philosophical process. Your definition of minimalism will depend on your needs, wants, and desires.
What isn’t minimalism? 3 common misconceptions about minimalism.
Misconceptions about minimalism abound in popular culture. Below are a few myths I’d like to dispel:
- Minimalism isn’t about how many items you own. For instance, you don’t need to own less than 100 things to be a minimalist. However, taking the time to inventory your stuff can be illuminating and helpful.
- Minimalism isn’t about the size of your house. My husband and I lived in a very tiny house for five years. We sold our little house, and now we live in a two-bedroom apartment. Being a minimalist isn’t about the number of square feet I live in. Instead, minimalism is about making mindful choices that add joy to my life.
- Minimalism isn’t about being happy all the time. Getting off the work-spend treadmill made me happier. However, I still experience challenges like grief, anxiety, work setbacks, and more. Becoming a minimalist helped me deal with difficulties by using tools like therapy, spending time in nature, and journaling.
What is minimalism?
Minimalism is about reducing distractions by letting go of clutter, debt, toxic relationships, and more from your life. By letting go, you’ll have time for the things that delight you.
Below are 3 examples of what it means to be a minimalist:
- Minimalism is about defining what “enough” means. For me, enough includes: living in a small two bedroom apartment, riding my bicycle for transportation, cooking delicious food at home, and working less so that I have time to travel, hangout with friends, volunteer, and more. Like I said previously, each person’s definition of minimalism will be a little bit different. Figuring out what “enough” means for you is a key part of the process.
- Minimalism is about maximizing nonmaterial, precious experiences. This is my favorite part of minimalism. We live minimally so that we can take fun trips. For example, last summer we went to Europe to visit friends. Before minimalism, we were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have the means to travel. Investing in experiences, not things, has improved the quality of my life.
- Minimalism is a mindset. Understanding what enough means for me, and my family, helped me declutter my mind. My old mindset was all about acquiring things – like more clothes, a bigger house, a fancy car, etc. Today, my mindset is different. Minimalism gave me the physical and mental space to focus on gratitude, love, and kindness. Also, letting go of my things helped me realize I have everything I need.
What are the benefits of minimalism?
The benefits of becoming a minimalist are endless, including:
- No debt. Paying off my student loan debt, car, and credit cards was a game changer. Being debt-free has given me the freedom to leave toxic work environments. I also have savings for travel, emergencies, and retirement.
- More time. I work less and I don’t shop for happiness at the mall. Changing these habits opened up a lot of time in my daily life. I use my extra time for hobbies like journaling, taking day trips with loved ones, reading, and playing with my kitten.
- Less clutter. Decluttering my life made my home easy to clean. It’s also made my house feel welcoming and calming.
- Say no. I say no to activities that don’t add meaning to my life (examples include toxic jobs, networking events, unplanned errands, and tasks on my to-do list that never get done).
- Better health. Learning to say no has improved my mental and physical health. Also, having saving accounts has improved my life. Being able to take care of my health is a gift.
- Strong relationships. My relationships are strong and stable, and I’m not lonely. Making time for loved ones through phone calls, lunch dates, and trips has infused my life with meaning and gratitude.
How can I become a minimalist? 7 steps to becoming a minimalist.
When I started my minimalist journey, I felt overwhelmed. If I could go back in time, I’d tell 25-year-old Tammy to worry less. I didn’t realize my minimalist adventures would be so much fun and that I would meet so many like-minded people!
Below are 7 steps that helped me become a minimalist. I hope they help you, too!
- Define minimalism. Does the definition of minimalism I mentioned above resonate with you? If it doesn’t resonate, create a definition of minimalism that works for your life circumstance.
- Reflect on your goals. After you define minimalism, make time to write about your goals. As you write, think about categories like work, relationships, finances, and more. Writing about your goals can help you figure out what minimalism looks like in your life.
- Let it go. Let go of stuff, relationships, extra work, and habits. As Courtney said, “If you want to feel light, you have to let go.”
- Start small. Decluttering won’t happen overnight, and that’s okay! Starting small is key. You can begin by doing Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge or by focusing on decluttering one room at a time. Letting go of something each day, over the course of a year, will give you unexpected results.
- Find your people. Connecting with a community of like-minded people will help you stick with your goals and stay inspired on your minimalist journey. Asking friends and family for support is a great place to begin!
- Keep learning. Learning about new ideas, and revisiting old concepts, helps me stay grounded. I do this by reading minimalist blogs, newsletters, and books.
- Change your mind. Be open to new ideas, experiences, and to changing your mind. For instance, my husband and I loved living in our tiny house. We also wanted more space for cooking and hosting guests, so we let go of our tiny house and moved into a bigger apartment. Minimalism gives us the freedom and flexibility to change our minds, and circumstances as needed.
Additional resources for minimalists…
Looking for resources to help you on your minimalist journey? The following books contain inspiring stories, helpful tips, and practical ideas:
- Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More by Courtney Carver
- Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
- Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter