Similar to considering other lifestyle changes, people who are thinking about becoming a minimalist generally fall into 3 categories.
- ONE: Let’s Go – Where is the dumpster?
- TWO: No thanks – I don’t have a stuff problem, I have a space problem.
- THREE: I’m interested, but I don’t know where to start.
Sometimes, the twos make the jump when they see how happy the ones and threes are.
I’ve become a minimalist slowly. I stepped in to minimalism, stepped out, moved forward, moved back and finally began to lean in consistently.
What took me so long?
Over the course of 7 years, I simplified my diet, stuff, debt, health, home and busyness. There are a few reasons why I intentionally took my time.
- In my experience, slow shifts are more sustainable than radical change.
- I have a family and they come first.
- I had to experiment to determine what was enough for me.
- I was seeking more. Just getting rid of stuff wasn’t my intention. I wanted to discover what meant most to me, what made my heart sing.
- I am still seeking, experimenting and defining enough. I don’t have an end point in mind.
If you are a beginner or somewhere in your journey to simplify your life and become a minimalist, enjoy these tiny steps.
1. Write it down. Make a list of all the reasons you want to live more simply. If you are sick of debt collectors, write it down. Mad that you never get any time with your kids? Write it down. To stressed out to sleep at night? Put it on paper. Want to fire your boss? Yep, write that down too. These are your whys and your whys will provide great leverage when you think it’s too hard to keep going. Your whys will help you remember what matters.
2. Discard the duplicates. Walk through your home with a box and fill it with duplicates. If you have two sets of measuring cups, put them in the box. Copies of the same book or DVD? Put one in the box. Doubles on place mat sets? You only need one. Once you fill the box, label it “Duplicates” and put it out of sight for 30 days. If you don’t need anything or don’t remember what was in the box, donate it.
3. Declare a clutter-free zone. This area could be a kitchen table, your nightstand, a countertop or a drawer in your kitchen. Use that clutter-free zone as inspiration to live with less. If you enjoy that clean, clear environment, expand the zone a little bit each day. A clutter-free countertop can become a clutter-free room and a clutter free room can become the clutter-free, minimalist home you’ve been thinking about.
4. Travel lightly. Travel always renews my love of minimalism and living simply. The next time you take a trip, pack for 1/2 the time. If you are traveling for 4 days, pack for 2. You can wash and hang clothes if you need to or wear the same things twice. See how it feels to carry less baggage.
5. Dress with Less. If you haven’t considered Project 333, dressing with only 33 items for 3 months (clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories) sounds extreme, but thousands of people know that it actually makes life easier instead of more challenging.
6. Eat similar meals. When you think about how much time you spend thinking about what you are going to eat for lunch, make your family for dinner, or what you need to pick up at the grocery store, it’s clear that food is not always simple. Try eating the same breakfast and lunch all week and have 2 or 3 dinner choices that rotate throughout the week. If your family complains, let them know it’s an experiment and then talk about it at the end of the week.
7. Save 1000. An emergency fund simplifies everything. If you are paying off debt, only pay your minimum payments until you can save 1000. If you aren’t in debt, but still spend what you have, set aside money every day or every week until you reach 1000. Try the 52 week money challenge and in 45 weeks, you’ll save more than $1000 without ever contributing more in a week. Money for emergencies reduces stress and emergencies.
Try these one at a time and continue to take tiny steps and lean into the life you crave. Even if it takes 10 years to get to where you think you want to be, the benefits begin immediately.
The beauty of being a beginner minimalist is that you can be curious, and daring. You can ask for help, get back up if you fall, and look forward to new adventures in a life with less stuff, drama, debt, and obligation.