It might seem like a passing trend fuelled by Marie Kondo’s Netflix show and a penchant for neatly folded socks, but for true believers, minimalism is a way of life.
And it’s about much more than getting rid of a heap of stuff or tidying the mountains of stuff in your home. This part is only the first step. Living a minimalist lifestyle means owning only things that you believe hold great value and refraining from purchasing things that don’t – and enjoying the spoils that come from owning less.
“It’s not about stuff – it’s about the way you live,” says decluttering coach Rebecca Mezzino from Clear Space. “Once you’ve discarded all your stuff in the initial phase, it’s more about curating what comes in and curating your lifestyle.”
Why switch to minimalism?
According to American duo Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who’ve achieved global fame as The Minimalists, minimalism helps you find freedom – from fear, worry, overwhelm, guilt and the trappings of consumer culture.
The practical benefits of a minimalist lifestyle are many: more space in your home, the ability to live in a smaller home, better control over your finances and a smaller carbon footprint.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is time. “Time is the true currency, and by living with less you have time to do the things that you love with people who you love,” says Mike Campbell from Live Immediately who, along with his wife, eliminated half their belongings before housesitting in North America for one year.
How to prepare for a minimalist lifestyle
Changing your mindset about the things you own and the things you’ll come to own throughout your life, especially those that have strong sentimental value, is key to transitioning to a minimalist lifestyle.
“We’re brought up with an attachment to belongings because our belongings are very strongly related to our self-worth,” says Rebecca.” A lot of times when you’re parting with these things, you feel like you’re parting with a part of your identity. So it’s about having the strength to separate your identity from your belongings, and understanding you aren’t going to lose part of yourself with the belongings that you discard.”
If you’re struggling to sort through sentimental items like baby clothes, children’s artwork and pieces of furniture you’ve inherited from grandparents, Mike says it’s important to persist.
“There will come a shift,” he says. “There will be something that you’ve held onto for many years because you felt like it was part of your identity. And once you let go of it, you’ll realise that your belongings don’t make you who you are.”
Start living a minimalist lifestyle
Ready to embrace minimalism? Here’s what to do:
- Separate your identity from your belongings. “Decide that you don’t need your stuff in order to be happy,” says Rebecca. “This is the biggest and most difficult thing to do.”
- Remove everything that doesn’t meet your criteria for a minimalist life. “Start simple,” says Mike. “I started with my clothes, while my wife started on the cutlery drawer because she had no emotional attachment to those utensils. You could also start with your wallet or handbag, the things you’ll see instantly.” Fields Millburn and Nicodemus’ popular Mins Game encourages players to get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two on the second, three on the third and so on.
- Devise strategies to maintain a minimalist lifestyle. “Have very strict criteria about what comes into your home,” says Rebecca. “Create lots of rituals and routines around discarding. Once you go through all the hard work of decluttering, having these habits in place will help you to maintain a minimalist lifestyle.”
Originally published as What to know about living a minimalist lifestyle by Angela Tufvesson.