How to Be a Minimalist: Beginners

Recently I found myself getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff I had lying around. I’m a busy person and I don’t always have a whole lot of time to clean and due to the multitude of knick knacks that I own, when the room would get even a little dirty, it would look a lot worse than it was, stressing me out. So, I decided to google “how to declutter your life” and I stumbled upon a lot of minimalist articles. They were interesting but were super hit or miss for me; some of them preached owning less than 100 things, owning little to no furniture, keeping nothing for sentimental value, etc. Those were not ones that I was interested in following as I am a very sentimental person and I will wholeheartedly admit that I like being comfortable and I am not about to start sleeping on the floor.

I was about to give up when I started finding these other articles that weren’t based on a set of rules, but rather a lifestyle. The idea behind these articles were simply that you shouldn’t base your happiness and success on material things, when you let go of things you don’t need or that don’t bring you joy you find true freedom, and it helps you shift your focus to other things when you aren’t spending all of your time cleaning your home. This was more up my alley, so I started to look into it and here are the most helpful tips I’ve found for those of us who want to explore minimalism but aren’t ready to get rid of all of our stuff.

  1. Go through each item in your possession and think to yourself, when was the last time I used this? If the answer is a long time ago, or never, then ask yourself this question. Does this bring me joy? If the answer to this follow-up question is no, get rid of it. These are the two most important questions when you are starting off in getting rid of things. If you don’t use something and it doesn’t bring you joy, why do you have it?
  2. Go through your stuff several times, a month or two apart. I first started this process about 5 months ago and I just finished going through my room for the third time yesterday. The first time, I found about a box worth of things to give away, the second time I found a little more, and yesterday I found about four boxes worth of things to get rid of. The more you go through your things and organize, the less you realize you need. Reevaluating is a very powerful thing.
  3. There is no shame in keeping something because it is sentimental. If you feel that you will regret getting rid of something because it is sentimental to you, don’t get rid of it. You can then reevaluate next time you go through your things; however, if you are keeping something because there is just a random memory associated with it that doesn’t really matter too much to you or because you feel you might use it someday, get rid of it.
  4. Apply this to your life. Minimalism isn’t just about stuff; while living with less is one of the major tenants of minimalism, there are other important parts as well. Evaluate your life, the things you do and the people in it; ask yourself, is this necessary and/or does it bring me joy? If it is unnecessary and stresses you out and you don’t enjoy it, remove it from your life.

Minimalism is about finding freedom in your life through having less, if you are interested in considering it, don’t let those who are intense about it scare you away. You may get there, and you may not but regardless, don’t let anyone shame you into “not being minimalist enough”. Minimalism has as much or as little meaning in your life as you want it to and you can start whenever you please!

by Chelsea Hoel

1 Comment

  • Reply February 24, 2018

    Katie

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. I consider myself a minimalist, yet I’m sure most minimalists would accuse me of hypocrisy when I say that, because there are two main areas of my life where the idea of minimalism does not apply: art supplies and books. I can barely walk into my walk-in closet because of all the jewelry making, drawing, and painting supplies, and very little wall space is visible due to the bookcases holding my over 800 books. But take those two areas away, and there isn’t much left.

    Minimalism isn’t about denying yourself your greatest enjoyments. It’s about realizing that having stuff for the sake of having it (usually a status symbol) actually does the opposite of making our lives better. I try to make reading and art a part of every day.

    There is an excellent book that was written before minimalism was popular called “Simplify Your Life” by Elaine St. James that you might find useful. She goes through how to simplify, or minimalize, every possible aspect of one’s life.

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