STEP 1: Visualize the future
Minimalism is much more than having your hallway in order. What people expect to see is organized minimalistic spaces or stylish 10 piece wardrobes – and those will come, I promise – but the first thing to do when becoming a minimalist is to visualize an ideal world and the kind of life we want for ourselves and for our children.
Minimalism is one of the future solutions. At some point in the future everyone will automatically have less because there are not enough resources to produce new the way we are producing now. Our planet can’t simply take it. The rational thing to do right now is to buy less and to invest in sustainable, functional items. To teach our children that instead of using our time to work more to earn more to buy more unnecessary stuff we have an option to focus on what the world needs, what our family needs and what we personally need and want.
We can spend time with our families and friends. Protect nature and rescue animals. Learn history and teach it to our children. The political climate in today’s world doesn’t give the impression we have learnt enough from some past mistakes. What everyone needs now is empathy and understanding. Caring about our environment, animals and each other.
Visualize the world where you want to grow old and where you want your children to live and grow old. Visualize a safe, multicultural place full of joy, happiness and equality. A place where your race, age, gender, sexuality or things like the stuff you own mean nothing. A place where people take responsibility of their actions and care about other living creatures.
Visualize your everyday life as you want it to be. Visualize your life without chaos. Visualize yourself calm and healthy. Visualize learning to know new people and new cultures and being surrounded by literature, art, music, history and beauty.
Minimalism is for everyone and not only for wealthy, elitist groups. The best things in life are free. Create. Create together with your kids. Read them every day. Use your public library. Sing, dance, play. Cook together. Organize family gatherings. Spend weekends with friends. Search for different free events and visit them. Avoid categorizing and do what you find interesting (high culture vs. popular culture), try new things.
Minimalism is not just giving away your extra stuff and making your life easier that way even if it’s also that. It’s a way of thinking. It’s building something sustainable and focusing on things that matter for real. It’s not about having an empty space (although there’s something absolutely beautiful in that too) but having more space for people and things we love.
Take the first step and be ready for the next one.
STEP 2: Create structure
The second step is laying the groundwork. What most of us want is taking control over our life and that can happen by having practical systems, building habits and creating everyday routines. Have an objective look at your life and sketch your daily, weekly, monthly and annual schedule. Think about your household routines, eating habits, exercising, family schedules, working schedules and travel planning and analyze what you should do every day, once a week or maybe once a month.
Consider if this is all something you really need to and genuinely want to do. Who says you need to do something? Your mother? General expectations? People are often surprised to realize they are allowed make their own decisions. Do what feels right for you and your family. For example, I find it important to cook a proper meal every day but I iron only men’s shirts and nothing else. I’m lazy and ironing sheets is an annoying task.
Have a family meeting and go trough weekly things like shopping, cleaning and laundry. Who does what and when. Plan your ideal day and how it looks. What would you eat, how much you’d like to exercise. Start creating systems for your home. Organize your pantry and fridge and write a basic shopping list. Organize your laundry room and make it as practical as possible. Write down your morning and evening routines and if needed create more because these are essential.
Remember that minimalism looks different for different people. There’s no need to compare yourself to others and the number of things you own means nothing. Start making your life suitable for your own needs. Someone living alone can be happy having only one cup and plate. A couple who has dinner guests every weekend might want to own special kitchen equipments and a family with kids wants to invest in basic dishes for their everyday family life.
Pay attention to functionality. The basic rule is to store things where they are used and to have everything grouped instead of having them spread around the house. If you don’t have everything grouped start doing it now and prepare to the big clutter clearing this way. Don’t worry how you are going to store things, just organize similar items in groups to see how much you have everything. Probably more than you had imagined.
Understand that to avoid clutter clearing in the future you need to change your buying habits. Now is the time to understand what it means to buy less and find options for it. You don’t need to own everything, you can borrow things or own them together with friends or neighbors. Some things can be used in multiple purposes. Work for the future by canceling magazine subscriptions, going digital (if you haven’t done that yet) and learn to make a shopping lists for everything you need to buy.
This is also time to have the discussion with your spouse, family, relatives and friends. Explain what having less means to you and how important it is for your well-being to have everything in order. Show example, don’t pressure anyone. Never give away someone else’s personal items without asking a permission. If relatives want to spoil the kids give them options to do that without buying more toys. Usually people just want to show their love and are not sure how to do it right.
STEP 3: Clear clutter
Most times being a minimalist requires a major clutter clearing project where we completely clean and organize our homes and give away or maybe sell things we don’t need or want so we can finally live with less. Different people experience this kind of big clutter clearing in very different ways. Some people do it over a weekend, some people use months to go through everything they own.
Again, keep in mind that getting rid of your too much stuff is easier if everything is already grouped with other similar items and always ask a permission before giving away things that belong to someone else. Think carefully with every item if you want to keep it or not. Is it something you need and use regularly and does it bring you joy. Be prepared that sometimes it’s hard to let go and remember you are doing all this to make your life better and easier. You are allowed to keep whatever you want and you can have collections if they are important to you.
At this point the challenge is to find home for everything you don’t want to keep. You could just bin everything but that’s not the right thing to do and not something I recommend. Bin only things that are clearly waste. Remember to carefully destroy papers with personal information (old tax papers etc). If you have time sell things that are worth money. Collect unnecessary toys, books, clothes and household items and take them to your local charity store. Give magazines to local hospitals or healthcare centers (for people to read while waiting). Ask hobby groups or kinder gardens if you can donate them crafting materials like yarn, fabric or paints. Animal centers are usually happy to receive old blanket and towels.
Be thoughtful with items like family heirlooms and ask first if someone from your family wants to have them. Also, think twice before tossing special items like old photographs. Digitalizing them sounds like a practical solution at the moment but storing digital pictures in the long run is actually challenging and I suggest you rather keep paper copies for important old photos.
STEP 4: Keep yourself motivated
Your house is in order, your have created useful daily habits and your household systems work like a dream. It’s time to enjoy easier everyday life. How do you feel after letting go? Light, free and energetic? That’s how people usually describe it, it’s a liberating experience. Now remember this is your new life style and keep yourself motivated to continue it.
It’s essential to carefully consider every buying decision until you are in a situation where you buy something only when you absolutely need it and would rather not shop at all simply because there are so many more interesting things to do in your life. Look for inspiration and ideas from minimalism blogs and read books about the theme. Join minimalist communities or discussion groups.
Give some thought to your personal style and look for options to build a compact wardrobe and beauty system to avoid buying unnecessary clothes and cosmetics. This way you will also save money and can reward yourself for the job well done, not by buying stuff but maybe buying yourself a massage, an event ticket or something else clutter-free. Generally, take a good care of yourself. Eat healthy food and do your daily exercising routine. Start meditating and find out how much easier it’s to focus on your meditation when everything around you is in order.
Make you daily environment as inspiring as possible. Depending on the season, do either a big Christmas or spring clean. Clean the whole house and add some fresh flowers. Create new seasonal or family rituals. Cook apple jam. Prepare family brunch every Saturday morning. Have a weekly movie night. Visit new cafes. Add these plans to your calendar to make them even more tempting. Enjoy little things in life and keep yourself busy and you won’t even think about shopping.
Eventually, it’s time to take the last step and think what’s really important for you and how to focus on essential.
STEP 5: Focus on essential
When people let go of unnecessary things around them, whether it’s material or just something time consuming, they are forced to think what they actually want from life and what their personal goals are. Many people have waited for this moment and letting go gives them an opportunity to do something they’ve wanted to do for a long time. Often it’s a project like starting a new creative project (like writing a book) or something related to their new healthy life style (like starting a new exercising habit). Of course it can also be something bigger like changing a career or moving to another country.
However, in my experience the biggest change minimalism brings into our lives can be seen in our own attitudes and in our everyday life. Makes a huge difference to be able to live normal, everyday life without the chaos we were so used to and to be able to focus on and to do ordinary things mindfully and not feeling irritated or annoyed but just calm and grateful.
Sometimes life can feel empty when the extra stuff is gone because there are not enough meaningful things in life to focus on and for that the best advice is to do small things for others which will give perspective and bring joy. What can discourage people from doing small good actions is the feeling they are not doing enough and that’s a shame because if everyone focus on doing small good things eventually a lot of good can be achieved. A small thing to do can be learning to know charities and giving them monthly donations, helping rescue animals or donating blood, to mention just a few.
Minimalism can be seen differently depending on our point of view. It can be shopping less and avoiding consumerism. It can be a practical solution for families with small children because having less distraction and creating structure in life has a positive effect not only on adults but especially on kids or it can be something we can use in all areas of our life. Prioritizing and focusing on essential make people more effective at their work and as a concept is already used in many business strategies as well.
Happy minimalism xxx