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It was two years ago when I made my first real, or what I thought, was a real attempt at simplifying and decluttering. I thought, “I’m doing this minimalism thing. I crave simplicity. I can’t stand all this crap surrounding me. It’s gotta go.”
So I dove in. Head first. Right into the deep end of the freaking pool.
I emptied every box I had onto the floor. It was a mass of stuff, everywhere. The basement looked like a cheap cluttered flea market. My mind was blown away by all the useless crap I had accumulated. Some stuff I remembered purchasing, other stuff I regretted purchasing.
My first attempt at minimalism was, well, overwhelming. I wanted to light fire to all of it. I wanted to give in and just toss it all back in boxes, hide it away and avoid it.
When I started out, there was no guidebook, no Marie Kondo. I didn’t even Google it. I just dumped and hacked away at the mess on the floor bit by bit. One day I was ruthless, the next I’d want to fish things out of the garbage or donation box.
Then I stopped. And I asked myself, why are you doing this? Are any of these material possessions really important or of any value to you? Resoundingly, the answer was mostly no. All I knew at the time was that I wanted peace and simplicity in every aspect of life.
So I purged. Ruthlessly. With no looking back.
If I had it all to do over again, I would have put a bit more thought into the process. And it is exactly that – a process. For me, simplifying was a necessity to save my sanity. I was tired of being a shopaholic. I was tired of how complicated and stressful my life had become. Making the choice to live a simple life has changed everything for me – I have an abundant mindset, have a much different idea of success, and have found a way of life that I love.
If you’re new to minimalism and simple living and want to learn how you can simplify and love a life of less, here’s a beginner’s guide to get you started:
Understand What Minimalism Is
Most of us associate minimalism with the design aesthetic – clean, white interiors, sparse furnishings and wardrobes of grey, white and black. Minimalism does not have to be vanilla. It does not have to be extreme.
For me, minimalism is creating life habits that align with your values to allow you to live a purposeful, happy life.
Minimalism and simpler living has helped me focus on abundance instead of lack, gratitude over fear, and quality over quantity.
The Minimalists sum it up perfectly in one sentence: “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
Accept The Process
By starting out with an understanding that your journey to minimalism will be a process – a transformation of sorts – you’ll be much better off. Having this mindset will solidify the foundation that you build your simpler life on. It will get you through the tough times when you want to burn everything because it’s not disappearing fast enough and it will get you through the struggle of wanting to buy it all back again. Start by accepting you want to change your life for the better, and understand that it will not happen overnight.
Identify Your Why.
I love having a guiding principle or value; it drives me. Understanding why we do something or why we want to create a happier life helps us see the beauty in what we’ve created. We form an appreciation for our why. Without knowing why we’re headed where we are, we cannot truly embrace the process or idea of simple living. Creating a why is like having a north star; it will guide all your actions throughout the process of designing a minimalist lifestyle. Find a why that will weather the storm and keep you pushing through your more emotional days. For me, I’m a planner and I hate chaos of any kind. Chaos and turmoil is unsettling to me – I don’t feel grounded. Physical clutter is visual clutter, which in turn, becomes emotional clutter.
My why? To lead a stress-free, mess-free meaningful life. Intentional. Mindfulness. Peace. Gratitude.
Create Habits to Live By
You’ve identified your why, now it’s time to set some guiding principles for you to live by. Your minimalist mindset. In creating your guidelines, you need to ponder a few things:
What kind of lifestyle do you lead? How does it look now and what do you really want it to look like?
What makes you happy?
What makes you sad and/or depressed? You want to avoid these states for obvious reasons.
What will keep you motivated and mindful? Journaling? Minimalism games or challenges? 1 in 1 out? A shopping ban? Quality versus quantity?
Next, look back on your why and ask why again. Keep asking why until you get clear on why you’re really craving simplicity. You’d be surprised at the rules you’ll find already in there. Such as? Well, maybe you want more time for family, or hobbies. Or you’re tired of saying no to friends all the time.
You need a few rules to guide you and keep you motivated. These rules are yours. They are for your life. Please don’t adopt someone else’s rules or believe you have to. It’s not a race to see who can own the least amount of items. The idea here is to become happy, abundant and content in YOUR life. Use this advice and that of others as guideposts or markers to help you formulate what your ideal life should look like. Please, please don’t get hung up with – but so and so says I should own only 5 dresses, 3 pairs of shoes and only 1 candle. Nuh uh – don’t do this. You’ll be unhappy.
Adopt The Mindset
So far, we’ve looked at what minimalism is, that it’s a process, and we’ve identified a why and created habits. To solidify this life change, you need to adopt a minimalist mindset. In other words, take your rules, guides, habits, mantras (whatever you call them) and live by them. Adopt your why and habits into your everyday life. This will look different for each of us based on our lifestyle and the why we have chosen.
Remember me at the beginning of this post? Dumping everything on the floor? Try not to do that. It’s more stress inducing than you think. And besides that, it’s a bit overwhelming. Trying to change everything all at once usually ends in failure or a meltdown of some kind. So as not to shock your soul or brain, do start small. Here are a few ideas on how you can start small (+ 9 Ways to Simplify Your Life):
- Donate a stack of books to the library.
- Donate a bag of clothes.
- Clean out your makeup drawer.
- Create a few minimalist mantras to help you adopt your new mindset.
- Develop a daily practice to create your happier, simpler life. This could be journaling, it could be accepting that perfectionism is not necessary, or that you will no longer allow fear to rule your life.
- Create a starter self-care routine.
Understand that simple living and minimalism is a process. You will not change your life or home overnight. It will take time and you will encounter roadblocks. When you feel yourself getting impatient, frustrated, or fighting your new life change, consider taking a me day, having an Artists Date, or stepping back from decluttering. Creating new habits takes time. Be patient with yourself and do a check in to ensure you’re not taking on too much change all at once.
When you’re ready, and your mind game is strong, then consider doing a deep declutter. If you do this before you have your why, your rules/guidelines, and adopted the mindset, it’s possible you’ll revert to old behaviours or give up. This was my first step but it should have been the last step. I essentially had to start over again. Decluttering is meant to free up space and free us from stuff that we don’t want or need. It’s the last step in a process toward freedom and happiness. Do the foundational mind work first – then embark on decluttering your room one space at a time.
Embrace Your New Way of Life
Yay! You’ve laid the mental groundwork, done the decluttering, now it’s time to embrace the life you’ve created. Minimalism is so much more than a clean house. It’s about creating a fulfilling life minus the stuff, the fear, and the overwhelm. Be mindful, don’t compare and remember this is your life. Do what works for you. Don’t get caught up in the trap of perfectionism. Life will never be perfect, it is what you make of it. If you choose to live with less, be happy and intentional, hang onto that.