I’m sure by now we’ve all heard about the benefits associated with scaling down our possessions and simplifying our lives. Everything from your finances, to organization skills, aesthetics, psychological clarity and the environment can benefit from a minimalist approach.
But what does a simplified life look like in practice?
When you’ve committed to paring down your belongings and de-cluttering your living space, the things that you do choose to keep take on greater importance. Here are five minimalist habits to bring more order and efficiency into your life:
1. Dress with Less
In a world filled with choices, the need to make lots of small repetitive decisions day after day is a drain of your energy.
You can avoid stress and decision-fatigue by automating your daily processes as much as possible. Particularly with deciding what to wear. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama are known for their very limited wardrobes, which reportedly helps them save brain power and maintain focus on the important things. Minimizing your wardrobe will make for a more efficient lifestyle.
2. Plan and Repeat Your Meals
Food is a great domain for enjoying abundance and variety. But constant attempts at creativity can be a drain on your time, energy, and resources. To solve this problem, many minimalists commit to a simple and repetitive meal plan, which automates the shopping process and removes a lot of routine decision-making from the day.
Deciding what to eat can be deceptively exhausting, especially if you’re dieting. By creating a meal plan, you’re limiting alternatives and options. Your mind can relax. Plan ahead of time your meals for either breakfast, lunch, or dinner; or all three. Stick to it during the week, or for your particularly busy days. And save your more ambitious or spontaneous cooking projects for the weekend!
3. Rethink Your Space
Walking into a room in your home, and being overwhelmed by the clutter is not a good sign. Every room in your house should serve a purpose, and no, a junk-room doesn’t count as ‘a purpose.’
Creating more space is not the solution; Americans are building bigger homes than ever before. When you have too much space, human tendency wants to fill it, and usually, we don’t fill it with things we actually need.
To become a minimalist at home, begin “The Great Purge.” Gather boxes and trash bags and go through one room at a time. Have three piles: 1) keep 2) throw away 3) donate/sell.
Anything to be thrown away, take out to the dumpster or trashcan immediately. Don’t let it linger so you can second-guess yourself! Any items to be sold, snap pictures of and set a time limit on how long you’ll keep it posted on Ebay or Craigslist before you donate it. Two weeks is a suggested amount of time. For items being donated, load them up in your car and get them out of your place ASAP.
Once you complete “The Great Purge,” you’ll have much more room and storage than you originally thought. You can also check out these tricks of the trade designers use to make spaces seem larger and more functional.
4. Minimize Debt
It might not be a physical hindrance in your everyday life, but debt will be a looming black cloud of frustration following you everywhere. Part of being a minimalist should be studying how to pay off any debts you have, especially bad debts, like credit card balances.
One suggestion is to take a small amount each week — around $20 to $40 dollars — and slap it onto payments you already make. It won’t hurt as much to part with a small amount of money. If you can make the payments automatic or a direct deduction from your paycheck, go that route.
It’s also helpful to have an “emergency fund” to minimize any bad financial surprises. The same principle applies – take money each week and set it aside in an account. If you can forget it exists, do it.
5. Life in Digital
Receipts, bills and records have a place, but it’s not on your counter scattered everywhere. A great way to de-clutter is to digitize your important documents, and have them ready for printing if needed in physical form.
Photo quality is just as good as scanning nowadays. Once you’ve uploaded all your documents, keep a bin by your computer and upload new items each week. Don’t get too far backed up, or you’ll feel overwhelmed. Invest in a hard drive or cloud space so you won’t lose anything should your computer fail.
There are many more steps you can take toward becoming a minimalist, but baby steps are important in any major life transition. As long as you are motivated and driven toward creating a simpler lifestyle, you’ll get there. Celebrate small victories (but not by buying more things!)
Do you have any tips for living a more peaceful and minimal life? I’d love to hear!