I have to thank Julien for showing me what minimalist living looks like.
A couple of years ago, I moved to Sydney for work. There were 6 people living in the apartment and I shared the bathroom with Julian, a 19-year old German well versed in the art of learned minimalism.
His fridge had toast, butter, and orange juice. He ate most of his meals either at work or out. Toiletries? One shower gel that doubled as shampoo (and probably conditioner too), toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and perfume.
Julien didn’t own a lot of things but always seemed calm, collected, and happy. Owning less meant he had to care for fewer things. Like Tom Robbins said: “Any half-awake materialist well knows – that which you hold holds you.”
When he left to return home, I admired the size of his suitcase. Mine was at least double the size. Did I really need so many things?
After a couple of months, I also left Sydney and returned home.
By then, I was a totally different person.
And all thanks to Julien.
What Is Minimalist Living?
“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” —Jackie French Koller
Minimalist living is a much older concept than you might think.
Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns were the first to adopt it. Their goal was to gain more wisdom and focus on the spiritual side of life.
“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, a book about cleaning, simplifying and organizing your belongings, brought minimalism into the mainstream. That’s why many think of minimalism as owning only a few pieces of clothing, a tiny house with nothing but a mattress and zero waste.
But it’s also wrong.
Here’s how The Minimalists define it:
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”
Minimalism is not about stuff but about mindset. Things are just a byproduct of that mindset.
Minimalist living is about intention. You make room — space and time — for the things you love and eliminate everything that distracts you from them.
You become intentional with what you choose to do and own and how it impacts your way of living, thinking, and perspective on life.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci
To add value to life, think subtraction. Think of what you can remove.
The Benefits of Minimalist Living
There’s a reason why people love minimalist living so much. Living in a minimalistic way has proven to offer the following benefits:
- Become Happier: instead of feeling like you need more, minimalism forces you to enjoy the things you already have
- Peace of Mind: since there’s less to worry about, you will have a clearer mind
- No Fear of Failure: owning fewer possessions and living minimalistic in all areas of life means that you have less to lose
- Better Health: you will experience less stress because you have less to worry about
- Space: minimalist living forces you to remove a lot of stuff from your life which means there’s more space for other things in your life
- Money: it’s easier to save more money since you will be spending less
- Time: if you minimize the number of time commitments, you have more time left over to do something you love
- A Sense of Purpose: becoming a minimalist means intentionally choosing to live with less
- Confidence: you will remove a lot of stuff that doesn’t really align with you and your lifestyle. Now, there’s more room to live your life connected to your true self
- Relationships: there’s more time to spend with people who mean the most to you
- Memories: minimalism leads to a lifetime of precious memories since you have more time and money than ever
- Clean House: it’s simple, less stuff in your house means less cleaning
- Improved Environment: as a minimalist, you will not be over-consuming but rather live more in line with nature and its beauty
- Productivity: everything less means more of what you’re doing now. Fewer priorities, commitments (urgency), tools, and choices
How to Implement a Minimalistic Lifestyle
“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” — Sue Grafton
Here is a step-by-step plan you can easily follow to finally become the minimalist you’ve always wanted to be.
Step 1: Define Your Vision
Before you choose to do anything at all, you have to start with why, how and what.
Why do you want to become a minimalist?
Perhaps you start to realize that you don’t own things, but the things start to own you. Breaking free from this could mean a sense of freedom for you.
How would you like to go about it?
You can become a minimalist cold turkey, area by area, or make up your own minimalist lifestyle where you only apply minimalism to some areas of your life.
What are your goals as a minimalist?
Changing to a minimalist lifestyle is a conscious choice to achieve something. Your goal can be to have 1 more hour a day to spend on your passions or a couple hundred bucks a month by spending less.
Write everything down to remind yourself consistently of why you’re living this life.
Step 2: Change Your Mindset
As I said, I think of minimalism as a mindset.
You must adopt a (kind of) black and white mindset. Not complicated, not cluttered with stuff. A simplistic mindset where everything fits. You need to have a set of clear rules you commit to fully, and make clear decisions.
In “The Minimalist Mindset”, author Danny Dover explains that changing to a minimalist living mindset requires 3 elements: routine, obsession, and prioritization.
Routines make life simpler. There are so many actions you can perform throughout the day that it only makes sense to adopt routines that allow you to perform those actions with less energy.
Obsession leads to mastery. It’s the medicine for information overload and distractions. You’ll achieve great things with an obsessed and laser-focused mind.
Prioritize growth. Growth is an essential part of every human life, so prioritize the tasks that move you forward to live your life to the fullest.
Here’s a couple of additional ways to change your mindset:
- Choose What to Keep, Not Discard: change your mindset by choosing what to keep instead of what to discard. Thinking from this perspective focuses more on the positive than the negative, like a half glass full instead of a half glass empty
- Think Subtraction, Not Addition: always look for things you can remove instead of what you can add. The opposite of minimalism is always wanting more
- Simplify Everything: look for simpler ways to look at things that you’re currently doing
Step 3: Simplify Your Life
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein
Minimalist living is related to making your life simpler.
Here are some questions to uncover how you can simplify your life:
- Is it possible to eliminate it? Once you embrace minimalist living you can cut out a lot of stuff from your life, so be honest with yourself
- Can I automate it? Some things might be too valuable to eliminate but can be automated by systems
- Should I delegate it? When you can’t automate something, delegate it to someone else. On work, this can be an assistant or a co-worker. At home, this can be your partner or kid
- Is it possible to outsource it? If you think there’s still something left that is not worth your time, hire someone else to do it for you. A virtual assistant can work remotely for you while you focus on the important tasks
Step 4: Change Every Part of Your Life
Every part of your life has to be adjusted to the minimalistic lifestyle before you can call yourself a minimalist. We’ll start with physical clutter aka stuff you need to get rid of since that’s the essence of minimalism.
- Clean Up the Wardrobe: check all your clothes and only keep the clothes you like the most. You can throw away or donate the rest
- Have a Calm Bedroom: do you currently have a TV in your bedroom? Think about moving it to another room or getting rid of it
- Clean Your Desk: organize everything in binders instead of piling it up
- The Bare Necessities: buy only what you need instead of what you want
- Less Phone Time: only use your phone in set time ranges. Turn off all notifications (also on your laptop) and put your phone in airplane mode whenever you’re not using it
- Unfollow & Unfriend: if it doesn’t interest, entertain, or inform you anymore it’s time to go. Our feeds are full of distracting posts from people we’re not particularly close to. Unfriend anyone that doesn’t add value to your life
- Delete Social Media: no sense using all the platforms available. Keep only the ones that you love. If you want to go hardcore, delete your profiles (here’s how to remove Facebook). To be less extreme simply de-activate your account. Trust me, you’ll survive. Social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s definitely a bad habit
- Clear to Neutral: at the end of the day, close all your tabs and programs, delete or move all the files from Downloads, empty the trash, and shut off your computer. By clearing to neutral you’re helping “future you” get started
- Access, Don’t Own: ownership can be stressful. Instead, take advantage of the access economy by streaming video and music
- Detox: commit to a 30-day digital detox
- Rent: not owning a home is one less commitment to worry about
- Schedule “Me Time”: implement a self-care day (‘me’ day) in your week
- Meditate: this will help you calm down as well as regain mental focus
- Get Your Finances in Order: money can be a major source of headaches. Spend less than you earn and limit the number of sources of expenses. Set minimalistic financial goals like saving at least 30% of your money per month. If you’re in debt, focus on getting out of it first
How to Keep Your Minimalistic Lifestyle Going
Once you’ve changed to a minimalistic lifestyle, you’ll need to sustain it.
Sustaining a certain lifestyle isn’t that hard once there are systems in place and that’s exactly what I did for you. Below you’ll find rules you can follow and how you can determine your boundaries.
- “One in, One Out”: every item you purchase has to replace an item you already own
- Weekly Review: Reflect on your priorities, life, and home on a consistent basis
- Quality Over Quantity: start buying quality stuff that lasts for years
- Apply the 90/90 Rule: pick something up, anything, and ask yourself if you have used that in the last 90 (less or more) days. No? Get rid of it
Determine Your Boundaries
Not everyone likes to apply an all-or-nothing mindset to a minimalistic lifestyle. That’s why it’s important you decide for yourself where you draw the line, where it becomes too extreme for you.
First, figure out what your values are and what that means. You value money more than health? Cool, focus on money first.
Second, be aware of the consequences of everything you do and take responsibility. You can’t change others. You can only change yourself.
Last but not least, experiment.
You know how children discover if something hurts?
Tell a kid fire is dangerous and he will put his hand in a fire. When it hurts, he won’t try it again, believe me.
This works the same with a lifestyle.
Learn from your actions and write them down in your personal handbook of minimalist living.