Do you feel overwhelmed with having so much to do or manage? Perhaps you have an overscheduled calendar or physical clutter that doesn't allow you to fill your home and life with the necessary things.
Having more space and time in your life can help you take advantage of more opportunities, take bigger risks, and spend time with loved ones.
Minimalism is a concept that has become popular over the years. More than a concept, minimalism is a mindset and lifestyle that can help you keep only the things that truly matter while eliminating all other distractions. With minimalism, you can live simply and have more freedom to focus on fewer things that matter most.
Read on as we explore what being a minimalist means, common misconceptions about minimalism, and some starter tips for living a minimalist lifestyle.
Related: Looking to spread the minimalist love? Click on over to our selection of minimalist gifts for gifts that fit the bill.
So, what is minimalism? Minimalism means different things to different people. The core of minimalism is a mindset, style, or design that uses the simplest and fewest elements to create the maximum effect. In practice, this could be having less clutter to create more room for the things you need or owning fewer possessions.
The concept of minimalism was introduced as far back as the 1800s, with people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Carl Andre being prominent figures of the minimalist movement over the years.
Joshua Becker, an American author who has written books on minimalism and living simply and intentionally, defines minimalism as
“the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality. And as a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.”
Minimalism comprises a life of simplicity. It is about curating important things to our priorities and vision.
Sometimes, people fear cutting out so much from their lives and often think of minimalism as living “too small.”
However, minimalism can be applied to one's life, whether living in a tiny home or a mansion.
Now we have an idea of what minimalism is, let's look at a few benefits of choosing simple living:
Arguably, one of the most valuable resources in the world is time. Each person only gets 24 hours in a day or less.
Becoming a minimalist can help you prioritize only activities that offer value and bring meaning to your life. This could be spending time with your spouse, friends, and family or investing in a project or hobby that brings value and gives you joy and fulfillment. With less stuff to maintain or worry about, you can save time to do the things that matter to you.
One of the greatest benefits of a minimalist lifestyle is a clutter-free, organized life. We often have excess stuff that takes up our space, toxic relationships that steal our joy, and many more things we don't need. Applying minimalism in your day-to-day life can help you free up space and help you live a more organized and fulfilled life.
With fewer items in your space, you can relax and gain clarity of thought.
Maintaining relationships can be complex. From that family member to that colleague, friend, or romantic partner. But what does minimalism have to do with the people in your life? Simple living helps you eliminate unnecessary material possessions and improve your relationships.
With less stuff to care for, we have more time and energy to invest in the people that matter most in our lives. You can spend quality time with your family and friends and focus on creating lasting memories. Also, with less stress, you can maintain a positive attitude with more people in your life.
With less stuff to maintain or worry about, you can save money and create more space to do what you want. This gives you a sense of freedom and increases your happiness.
For example, instead of spending all our time trying to maintain our possessions, we can invest in experiences like taking a trip with family and friends. According to a study, experiential purchases stimulate more happiness and positive feelings than material purchases2.
By owning only the things we need, we can develop contentment and increase satisfaction with our lives and those around us.
Related: Check out our happiness quotes for a bit of light relief with minimal words.
Having a cluttered space and crammed schedule can leave us feeling overwhelmed. That feeling of having so much work and so much to commit to can leave us gassed out and increase our stress and anxiety levels. This affects our overall well-being.
One study showed that minimalists showed more positive well-being than non-minimalists1.
With minimalism, you can concentrate on things that bring you value and happiness, giving you a great sense of peace and fulfillment.
We live in a world where people consume more than is needed. People have excess clothes, food, and plastics, which take up our resources and pollute our environment. Ultimately, this has led to environmental issues like climate change, global warming, and other environmental degradation.
With more people choosing to live the minimalist culture, the fewer resources are used up, the less waste is generated, and the less environmental impact in our world. And with climate change, the challenge of our times, less is more has never run so true.
As you prioritize essential things and eliminate the rest, you can make more time to reflect and be still. You can connect deeply with nature and view your world from gratitude. You can also develop more positive traits like empathy towards others.
Different people have different ideas of what minimalism means to them. There is no universal rule on applying minimalism to your life.
However, clarification about what minimalist living truly is can prove helpful. Here are a few common misconceptions about living the minimalist life:
A significant part of the minimalist lifestyle is getting rid of unnecessary stuff and only keeping fewer essentials. However, throwing out everything you own is simply unrealistic.
Minimalist living is more about understanding what matters most to you. It is about rediscovering yourself and finding out other things you love doing. It's also about letting go of stuff that causes you stress.
Instead of trying to throw everything out of your life, focus on things that give you more time and more space and help you live a good life.
Some people believe that living a minimalist lifestyle means you won't have to have an attractive house, colorful clothing, and possessions. However, this is the exact opposite.
The idea of minimalism is to learn the things you love most. There is no rule to the kind of style that minimalists can have. Minimalists are well-known for investing in modern art, timeless pieces, and many other goods, but fewer of them.
Living a minimalist life is not a strict set of rules. Different people experiment with different sets of rules. For example, some people may set a rule to live with less than 100 things. However, this is entirely up to you.
You can experiment with different rules and see which works for you. Experimenting with different directions, or perhaps more helpful aims and goals, also opens you up to other ideas. Don't restrict yourself to someone else's ideals. Simply determine what you value the most and what works best for you. Also, remember to take out stuff that doesn't align with the things you value.
Minimalism isn't just about getting rid of physical clutter. This is only one part of minimalist living. Once you have started living a minimalist life, you will understand that a bigger part of minimalism involves shifting your mindset.
Beyond the stuff you own, minimalism is about understanding why you own what you own.
It's about consciously choosing to keep the things that align with your values and remove the others that don't. The benefits of a minimalist life can extend to diverse areas of your life. You can apply this to how you relate with people, how you spend your time, what you eat, and how you spend money.
Switching to minimalism doesn't mean you won't buy new things. However, minimalism differs because you only focus on the basic components. In other words, instead of impulsive buying, you carefully consider what you need and what makes you happy.
So if you need to buy beautiful artwork to give your room a new look, you don't have to worry about breaking any rules as long as it brings value to you.
A common misconception is that minimalism means restricting yourself and living with so little you only possess the bare minimum. However, living minimalist life is more convenient.
If you adopt the minimalist mindset, you can limit the time you spend on maintaining stuff, remove clutter to create more room for more things that matter to you, and spend time doing things you love. In more ways, this gives you a great level of freedom.
Minimalism is different for everyone. Some people may be able to adjust almost overnight. However, the most exciting experiences gradually change from chaos to purpose. Most importantly, you are making progress and doing the things you consider most valuable.
When some people think of minimalism, they immediately equate it with frugality.
Frugality involves spending carefully and saving more. While it is true that minimalism can make you more frugal, it is not the primary focus of minimalism.
Beyond spending or living with less, minimalism is about living with less to create time and space for what matters to you.
Minimalists may also spend more on high-quality items because they are more focused on something other than being frugal but on having high-quality items.
So now you're thinking of starting your minimalist journey and are excited. Keep in mind that minimalism is a gradual process. Here are a few starter tips to turn your desire into a living-proof experience:
The first step on your minimalist journey is not decluttering your house. The first step is to be clear on what matters in your life. It is important to reflect on your values and what you consider essential. Find out what your deepest motivations are and what makes you feel happy.
There is no pressure. Simply build a list of priorities and make them a point of daily focus.
As you master this new way of thinking, minimalism will become almost second nature to you. For example, your priority list could look like this:
The idea is not to eliminate shopping but to become more intentional about it. As a minimalist, start investing in quality over quantity. Invest in high-quality possessions that can last longer. Even if it comes at a high price, it will save you money in the long run. In addition, you can also decrease waste in your home.
Now it's time to declutter. Taking out the clutter is an important step. Decluttering involves eliminating things you don't need or don't add value to your life.
Start by creating a list of what adds value and what doesn't, and eliminate all the things that don't add value to you. Keep in mind that the process of decluttering will take time to happen. As you do this, bit by bit, you will begin to create more space in your house. Ultimately, you can create more time and energy for other valuable activities.
Related: How to Minimize Your Wardrobe
You can save space and money by simply going digital. Instead of having a home full of books, you can simply read digital copies of the same books.
If you prefer to have a physical feel of the pages of your books, consider going to a free local library. Also, you can go digital instead of having a clutter full of CDs for music and movies.
One healthy minimalist practice is to prioritize experiences over buying material things.
So invest more in creating beautiful and valuable memories. Invest in a family trip or a cooking class - whatever you consider important to you. Investing in experiences can add more value to yourself and create lasting memories.
Related: 21 Best Experience Gift Ideas
Cutting expenses will help you save more for the things you love. Consider what expenses are and cut them down as much as you can. Consider other inexpensive alternatives for expenses you can eliminate.
As you go on your journey, practice gratitude and focus on the things that are valuable to you. You can create a gratitude journal and write down things you are grateful for when you wake up. This will get you in a positive mood to start your day.
Now let's get more practical. Here are some ways you can apply minimalism to specific areas of your life:
Whether it's your bedroom, closet, garage, or any part of your house, you can apply minimalism to that area. There's nothing more satisfying than walking into a decluttered home.
Start by cleaning up your space. Take out the trash, clean your surfaces, and tidy your home. Get rid of any extras. If you have more clothes or shoes than you need, you can give them to a friend or donate them to charity. Replace bulky furniture and maximize your shelf space. Invest in reusable items to reduce waste.
If you buy anything new at home, get rid of the old.
Beyond physical possessions, minimalism can be applied to our relationship with people. Toxic people can drain us and leave us feeling terrible about ourselves. Do an audit and find the most important people in your life and who put you down. If you have people who aren't a positive influence in your life, you want to remove them or reduce the time you spend with them.
Conversely, you also want to invest in the relationships that matter to you. Practice becoming more present and create memories with your loved ones.
Minimalism can help you prioritize where you spend your money. Managing your money involves being more intentional about what you buy. Buy fewer items and save money towards more valuable projects. The more you save money, the more you can channel them toward other exciting projects and experiences.
In practice, start by outlining your priorities and tracking where your money is going. You can invest in apps or online spreadsheets to help you track your money. Create a budget plan for your priorities, utilities, savings, and investments. You can also build an emergency fund for unexpected events.
Lastly, be content, live, and spend only what is necessary from your income.
Minimalism can be applied to our daily schedule and activities. A crammed schedule can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Most times, this makes us even less productive.
By removing activities that don't matter and creating more space in your day, you can use your time for things that directly add value to you. This could be reading a book, connecting with nature, spending time with loved ones, or resting well.
You can live a fulfilling and happy life by prioritizing and doing what adds value to you and those you love daily.
The simple life is sometimes more complex. While numerous benefits come with the idea of minimalism, it takes hard work to maintain. Here are a few challenges that come with living the minimalist life:
The transition process may take a lot of work. Changing your mindset, decluttering, and intentionally prioritizing what matters most may be challenging to adopt if you're just starting.
The good news is it gets easier as you go further into your minimalist journey. Begin with the easy things and work your way into the more difficult ones. For example, you can start by giving away excess clothes to friends and neighbors instead of donating them immediately.
Letting go of some items can be hard, especially if the person is emotionally attached. If this is the case, don't get too hard on yourself. Begin by asking yourself some honest questions like:
Does this item serve any kind of purpose? Align with my values? Does this item bring me happiness?
Asking these types of questions will help you decide if that something is something you should keep. Remember, take things slow, and be easy on yourself if it seems complicated.
Decluttering can be time-consuming. You may need to sort, organize, replace, and donate more than you would think. However, the more you purge, the less time-consuming it becomes. As you let go of the things you need and embrace the things you do, you begin to feel a great sense of freedom and happiness.
As you switch from accumulating more to prioritizing only what adds value to you, people may need to help understand you. Some friends, neighbors, and colleagues may have questions, and others may even pass judgment or make unpleasant remarks. This may not be helpful in your transition process.
However, understand that mainstream society only thinks of spending and acquiring more. Explain to the people in your life what you are trying to do and why it matters.
As you reap the rewards of minimalism, people may see things from your perspective. And who knows? You could inspire everyone around you.
It would be great to say that applying minimalism once would be just fine. However, this is different.
Minimalism is a lifelong journey that involves lots of adjusting and maintenance. As our lives change, our preferences, needs, and priorities change. Hence, minimalism is not a one-time event. But, the process gets easier with each process.
Diving into the world of minimalism can be an enriching and transformative experience, and having access to a wealth of resources is essential for fostering your understanding and growth.
As you continue your journey toward embracing a minimalist lifestyle, we've compiled a short list of books and websites that will guide, motivate, and empower you to make meaningful changes. Let's explore these valuable resources to gain further insight into minimalism's principles, benefits, and practical applications.
(all Amazon links)
Minimalism goes beyond trying to cut down things. Minimalism is a concept and a tool that can help you reach an end goal. With minimalism, you can remove the things that don't add to your life and make more time and space for the things that do. More stuff is a conscious choice that costs more money; minimalism is the opposite.
In conclusion, minimalism is a powerful and transformative approach to living that emphasizes intentionality, simplicity, and mindfulness. By stripping away the excess and focusing on what truly matters, minimalism empowers you to create a life filled with purpose, joy, and contentment.
As you embark on your journey towards a minimalist lifestyle, remember to reassess your priorities and stay true to your values continually.
Doing so will not only declutter your physical space but also foster a sense of inner peace and clarity that will enhance your overall well-being. Embrace the minimalist journey as an opportunity for personal growth, self-discovery, and a renewed appreciation for the beauty of simplicity.
Hook, Joshua & Hodge, Adam & Zhang, Hansong & Van Tongeren, Daryl & Davis, Don. (2021). Minimalism, voluntary simplicity, and well-being: A systematic review of the empirical literature. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 18. 1-12. 10.1080/17439760.2021.1991450.
Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2003). To Do or to Have? That Is the Question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(6), 1193–1202.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.