The idea of “minimalism” may inspire thoughts of tiny houses and people living at just the bare sustenance level. Thankfully, getting the benefits from a minimalist lifestyle often requires only small changes in how you live and work. Decluttering your life by removing excess things, both physical items and mental stressors, can leave you with the feeling of additional freedom and direction. A minimalist lifestyle is meant to deliver greater satisfaction with your life, and these five steps can help you make the most of a change to minimalism.
The first step is to clarify your motivation. Discover what it is that you seek to accomplish by decluttering your world. You may wish to remove unwanted memories by removing items associated with them, or simply to have more space to move, exercise, or spend time with the people in your life.
Think about your reason for decluttering, and let that goal motivate you before you start the process of putting away smaller mementos or moving large items and boxes to safe personal storage units. With this motivation in place, you’ll be ready to overcome the myriad of small challenges that come with any lifestyle change.
Developing new habits takes time and energy, and discovering how to declutter is no different. Create a plan that involves making small changes to begin with. Start with the items or tasks that are clearly not part of your new plan. Work your way towards the big stuff. Simply packing away a few items and removing a few unnecessary steps from your daily routine may not seem like much, but these small steps can snowball over time into big changes.
Do a little bit each day to work towards the larger goal of minimalism. Cut and prune your work schedule or to-do list when you get up in the morning, and grab items to place in their new home whenever you get up and move between rooms. Keep your planned changes from becoming overwhelming by tackling one small bit at a time.
When it comes time to tackle those big items, take stock of them on a seasonal basis. Christmas lights are no good to you in the spring, and you should put summer camping equipment away about the time you bring out the fall decorations. Skis and winter coats are big, bulky, and utterly unnecessary when the temperatures climb above freezing. Take inventory of the larger stuff you own, and when you’ll likely want or need those items. Organize your personal storage accordingly (with clear labels that show contents as well as seasons).
This same concept applies to your to-do list and work schedules. A minimalist approach to work, whether it be housework or your career, requires identifying seasons and organizing accordingly. At home, this may mean spring cleaning, summer fun, fall yard work and winter party planning. At work, you’ll likely find seasons include preparation times, production, evaluation and the oft-dreaded tax season. Organize your work just as you do your home closet and storage unit, with a clear idea of what you need for each “season.”
One of the biggest timesinks that also causes clutter is meal preparation. Scrambling to decide what’s for dinner, how to manage leftovers and making grocery lists can quickly become bothersome, at best. Consider dedicating a single day each week to meal prep.
Make a shopping list as you decide what foods you’d like to have for each meal, and set aside a weekend day just to cook. Use safe storage containers to keep food fresh, so all you have to do is pop a container in the microwave, or add the contents to your crock pot or oven to solve the conundrum of what’s for dinner each night.
As you make the move to a minimalist lifestyle, focus on avoiding unnecessary items and tasks that might try to creep back into your life. It’s easy to say yes to things and find yourself back where you started, needing to do a major declutter to get your life back under control. Keep enjoying the benefits of minimalism in the long-term by learning to say “no” to items that just amount to clutter, and busy-work tasks that don’t deliver real results.
Above all, ask yourself if these are the things that you’ll have to move or eliminate in the future. If they don’t fit your seasonal models and don’t have a lasting purpose, you may not need them at all. As you become more proficient in the minimalist lifestyle, it will become easier to judge a great many of the things that once seemed important as much less so. This is the true path to the reduction in stress and feeling of freedom that so many minimalists enjoy.