When most people think of minimalism, the stories that often come to mind are of people like myself. People who gave up their corporate jobs and 90 percent of their possessions for a more vagrant lifestyle of being glamorously homeless.
Other common examples are men who move to the woods and cut all ties with civilisation, the backpacking hippie with no place to call home, and the early-20-something who lives in a tiny 200 square foot house.
While these are all accurate representations of minimalism, they are also extreme versions. There are far more manageable ways that all of us can obtain a simpler lifestyle.
After all, minimalism is not about doing without. It’s about reinvesting our resources in the things that matter most to us. So here’s how you can do it, too.
The larger your home, the more likely you are to buy more furniture, and more gadgets to fill it with. The smaller your living space, the less opportunity you have to fill it with unnecessary odds and ends.
Larger homes can also hold far more things before it begins to feel cramped. Smaller living spaces do not provide this luxury.
Books, paperwork, photo albums, and old CDs and DVDs take up a lot of space in our homes. Going digital is one way to minimise this.
I keep thousands of books on my tablet and Kindle, watch movies via Netflix, and store most of my pictures in digital format. Thus, they take up space in the cloud, and not in my apartment.
Resist the Urge to Upgrade
Let’s be honest. Most of the time when we upgrade possessions, it’s not because we need to, but because we want to. The aftermath of this is that we’re stuck with the older devices and furniture, because we have a hard time throwing out perfectly functioning things.
If your possessions already serve all the purposes you need them for, then resist the urge to replace them.
Donate and Sell
If you just can’t resist new purchases or work in an area where getting new stuff is just one of the perks, then rather than let the junk pile up in your home, donate and sell them.
Donating is a great way to give back to the community, while ensuring you get back a little something extra on your taxes. And by selling your old furniture and gadgets, you get more income almost immediately.
Get Out More
Your home should be a sanctuary from the chaos of everyday life. However, the more time you spend hiding away at home, the more you feel the need to fill it with new things to make it more ‘comfortable’. You start to consider new couches, a bigger TV, or a new gaming console.
The more time you spend away from home – travelling, hiking, or even just going to the gym and work and school – the more comfortable home feels when you return to it. And more importantly, the more it feels as though you have enough.
Develop a Versatile Fashion Sense
One thing that takes up the most space in our homes – even mine – is our clothes. Some people need a different pair of shoes for every outfit based on colour and design. However, the more versatile your fashion sense, the less necessary this is.
Most of my clothes are black, grey, and white, which means virtually anything I wear matches everything else. I can travel with one pair of shoes in my bag and one pair on my feet and never worry.
Keep Household Size Small
If you’re looking to downsize and de-clutter, marriage and kids won’t help much. Husbands have their big boy toys, and kids don’t make very good minimalists either. I certainly didn’t as a child.
Kids need books for school, toys to keep them busy, and are rarely neat and organised. They are also much more susceptible to advertising, and far less willing to part with their belongings.
Keeping household sizes small, should also include pets. The more pets you own the more stuff you need – bowls, leashes, scratching posts, brushes, shampoo, litter boxes, and the list goes on.
Repair Before you Buy
When done incorrectly, repairing items can actually lead to more junk in your home. Why? Because a lot of people keep old items meaning to repair them, but never actually do. Thus, they end up in boxes piled sky high in the attic and the garage.
Attempt to repair broken items like electronics and even shoes before tossing them out. If you can’t, then don’t pack them up in a box for later. Give it to someone who can fix it, or throw it out.
Clear Your Cookies
One of the easiest ways companies suck us into buying their goods and services is through ads on websites, which remind us of all the last purchases we looked at online, and even better offers than what we originally found.
The ads are able to do this based on information in your cookies. Deleting and clearing your cookies deprives websites of the information they need to suggest more ‘stuff’ for you to buy, and helps you get rid of the temptation to spend.
It may seem like unlikely advice, but the more self-love a person has, the less likely they are to fill their lives with external possessions to make up for a feeling of emptiness and inadequacy.
People often confuse self-love with selfishness and conceit, but they are not the same. Ideally, self-love involves knowing what your inadequacies or faults are and accepting the ones we cannot change, while working to improve all the ones we can.
Conceit only masks the inadequacy – something we all face – often through materialism, and dressing the part of who we want people to think we really are.
Hopefully this helps many readers who despaired about not being able to adopt a minimalist lifestyle as I had done, due to fear or family and job commitments. It’s not as hard as it seems, as long as you make a commitment to start somewhere.