What is Minimalism? A 3 Step Beginner’s Guide to a Minimalist Mindset
What is Minimalism?
Minimalism is choosing to live with less because less, is truly more.
When you have less material items, you spend less time organising and caring for the items. You spend less because you are no longer in a race to keep up with all the latest trends. When you have less extracurricular commitments, you spend less time worrying about a schedule. You have less stress because you have less to worry about.
Living with less things means the items you do have; you love and use all the time. Having fewer commitments mean you only choose what you really enjoy and gift yourself time to be spontaneous by dropping anything that doesn’t make you happy. You have more time to spend doing what you love with who you love. You have more money to spend on what matters most to you and your family.
Getting into a minimalist mindset is not an easy task. It means fighting a lifestyle that has been instilled in us from birth. It means fighting a constant barrage of advertisements from billboards to the radio and television to social media and any assortment of online activities. It even means holding your ground against the friends and family that will raise their eyebrows at your lifestyle choice.
Becoming a minimalist does not me self-imposed austerity. It does not mean going without things or not taking holidays and having fun days out.
Rather it is being mindful of the things we let into our homes and the activities we select to spend our time.
It’s about setting values for yourself and your family. What means the most? And those are the items you save for and spend your money on.
I have faith in you to make the change. You made it here and are looking to give it a go. That’s a big step in itself.
So let’s jump right in to Step 1.
1. How Do You Want to Spend Your Time?
Time has the power to be worth more than money. When we think about our money we keep track of what we earn, how much we spend, bills that need to be paid. So we are going to look at our time the same way.
Sit down and make a list of how much time you have for you and your family each day of the week.
How many spare hours or minutes does each family member get to do anything they want or nothing at all?
Is it enough time?
What do you enjoy doing during your spare time? Do you have enough time to yourself?
What do you and your family do on weekends?
Are you and your family spending the time the way you would like to, or are you busy meeting obligations? Obligations include not only extracurricular activities like your son’s football game, but all the extra things like birthday parties, hen dos, christenings, etc.
How much time does your family get to spend together as a family doing what you want to do?
How would you spend family time if you had more of it?
Adopting a minimalist mindset will eventually create more time.
How? Once you have established what really matters, you can eliminate what doesn’t and that will translate into not only stuff, but how you spend your precious time as well.
You only have one life and you should be spending it how you want. Give yourself permission to say, ‘no.’
Say, “No” to the extra activities, the birthday parties, christenings, hen dos, anything you don’t genuinely want to go to that isn’t something like a required family obligation.
Has your child been invited to a birthday party from her class, but isn’t necessarily good friends with her? Politely decline. You don’t have to make an excuse. Just, “Thank you for the invite, but Olivia won’t be able to attend.”
This works for any obligation that you don’t want to go to. There is no point in wasting the precious time you are given on this earth to be spending what little free time you have on things you don’t enjoy.
Activities for the kids are another time killer.
Depending on the activities, you haul the kids around town then dedicate weekends to games or competitions.
Is it too much?
Does your child enjoy all the activities? Is she better at one than the other? If you give your child the choice does she want to do all the things she’s signed up for?
This is tough because we want our children to be talented, well-rounded individuals that are good at many things, but the reality is, at what cost?
Jamming your children’s schedule so full of activities, you take away their only time to just be kids and play. You take away precious family time that could be spent having a meal, watching a movie, or having a game night. Time that could be spent having conversations as a family. Time on weekends that could be spent exploring new places or trying new things.
Time you will never get again.
Again, decide what you value, what can be let go, and spend your time and energy on doing what you and your family enjoy.
There is no right or wrong answer. Just what’s right for your family.
2. Let’s Talk About Shopping Habits
If you are here you are also trying to reduce your waste so you may have read how to change your shopping habits to buy less, use what you have, look for pre-loved items, etc.
But what if you genuinely want or need something new or specific?
Get into the habit of asking questions about that item.
• Do you love the item?
• Is the item high quality and well-made so that it will last for ages?
• How many ways can you use or wear the item?
• How often will you use the item?
• Will the item improve your daily life
Then wait. Maybe a week. Maybe a month.
• Do you think about that item still?
• Do you still know you need it in your life?
This may seem like a lot over whether or not to buy a new jumper or a paint set for the kids that’s on sale at Aldi but think about this; for every new thing you bring home, it’s one more item that needs to be put away, stored somewhere, and eventually something you may need to get rid of.
Not taking the time to consider your purchase is how you run out of space and suddenly feel like you need to move to a bigger house, or get a storage unit.
Sure, it might be nice to have the latest fashion or the newest model phone, a bigger tv or toys for the kids but why do we want these things? Is it because we are trying to keep up with the Jones’s? Are we falling for advertising and experiencing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)? Are these things what you want your life to be about? Will you have the time for all the things?
Having more also means you have more options which become more decisions you have to make. Sure choosing your outfit for the day may seem like a small choice, but it’s mental energy being used and lots of little decisions leads to using a lot of brain power that could be better spent elsewhere. (Think Steve Jobs).
This is why step one is thinking about what you value.
• Do these new items align with your values?
• Will spending money on an item take away from what matters most to you and your family? (Refer to the list you made in Step 1).
• Would it be more beneficial to save the money for something else?
If at the end of this thought process you decide, yes, I still want this item. I will love it forever and can’t stop thinking about it a week or however long later, then get it.
If you have any reservations at the end of the thought process, skip it.
3. The Tough Part. The Purge.
Clearing the clutter from your home will be the most satisfying and mentally freeing task you and your family can do for your home. It is also the task that will give you more time.
Whether you want to go Marie Kondo on your home and look for items that spark your joy, fine. If you want to try different methods you found on Pinterest, go for it. If you just decide to be ruthless and just go crazy, more power to you.
Whatever way you decide to go through your home, try to avoid the temptation of buying organisers or containers to store items out in the shed.
The idea is reducing the amount of stuff in your home. Get rid of the things you (honestly) don’t use.
Get rid of the clothes that might fit someday. Look at items that you keep because you might need them. How many times do you say that and then wear the item? If never, donate it.
Feeling guilty about an item that still has tags on it? Don’t. If you’re not going to wear it, give it away to someone that will and make sure to take step 2 seriously the next time you go shopping for clothes.
Get rid of the kitchen gadgets that you used a couple times and banished to the back of a cupboard. Don’t feel bad about what you spent, try reselling it yourself or donate it. Get rid of duplicates. You don’t need 8 plastic serving spoons and 4 spatulas and 3 potato mashers.
Clear out expired items in the cupboards; medicines, dried foods, canned items. If you come across items in date that your family won’t eat, donate them to a food bank. There is no reason to take up cupboard space with items waiting to expire.
Go through toys, with or without the kids. Take toys they don’t play with and hide them away for a couple weeks. If they don’t ask for them, donate them. Older children can make the decisions themselves. It keeps them from accumulating excess as well and will be an omportant skill as they head into the world on their own.
This is a good process to repeat after birthdays and Christmas.
Get rid of books you have read. Either give them away to friends or family to read, donate them to the library or charity shop. If they aren’t in great condition, recycle them.
Don’t feel obligated to keep things that were gifts. If there is sentimental value to it, then yes, keep it, but if not, there’s no point in storing things you don’t or won’t use. It’s not worth the occupied space in your home. If you know someone that would like it, regift it. Lotions in a scent you won’t use? Donate them to a women’s shelter.
Go through everything in your home- old trophies, papers, Christmas decorations, regular décor around your home. Think of this as one last Spring Clean. Just go through everything.
If you can’t get rid of something (photos, keepsakes), display them because you value them. Don’t banish them to a box bringing you joy the one time a year where you happen upon it while cleaning. If you have no where to display it, get rid of something else that isn’t of value so you have room.
Because you have less everything on display should be something about you and your family. Items that make you happy, or have a story. There’s plenty of ways to make keepsakes fit your home’s aesthetic.
Once you have had a good clean out. You will find that you have more space in your home, clear counter tops and tables, and one big bonus…
When you don’t have as much stuff, you aren’t spending all your time cleaning it. Clear worktops mean you can wash up the dishes, wipe the counters and that’s it. Kitchen clean. Hoover the front room without spending 15 minutes moving toys and stuff off the floor to do so.
15 minutes might not seem like much, but that’s enough time to take a shower, read a chapter in a book, listen to a podcast, build a tower out of blocks with your kids, or have a cup of tea with your significant other.
Now imagine all your household chores cut in half.
Add that up over a week, month, or year and we are talking a substantial amount of time that you can spend on things you want to do because all the must dos are done.
Less clothes mean less laundry.
Less toys mean an easier, faster tidy up for the kids.
Less of everything mean you spend less time cleaning and maintaining stuff.
Less of everything means less mental power you have to spend remembering where everything is and where it all goes.
Making the house less cluttered feels so good and means you can come home to a house that always seems tidy which can be a huge weight lifted mentally after a long day.
Or it means spending your day in a home where you aren’t busy managing chores and have more time to spend with your kids.
Whatever the scenario, who wouldn’t wish for a cleaner home and more time?
It’s Not an Overnight Process.
As you work your way through the three steps here’s another way to look at minimalising the contents of your home.
This is an extreme example, but California is on fire yearly now and a woman I used to dance with just lost her home to one.
She had an evacuation warning so she loaded her kids and what she could fit in her car. Her husband had a couple more hours after to go and load their second car.
In that short amount of time her family had to decide what was absolutely essential to take with them, the things they loved, the things they needed, and the things they couldn’t replace.
The following day they found out they lost everything else.
I don’t know what her family chose in those hours, but given you have a moment to reflect on this; what would you take?
If you get stuck on whether you should get rid of certain items, ask yourself, “Would I bring this with me if I had to evacuate?”
If you wouldn’t squeeze that item into your car to take with you, then it’s not something worth keeping in the first place.
Again, it is an extreme example and there are some things we keep that might be season specific or for certain activities, but you’ll know which items need to be asked the question as you go through your home.
Then, just keep plugging along until your home feels right for you and your family.
Changing your lifestyle and the relationship you have with things has the power to save you money, give you time, and even leave you happier and less stressed. It’s. So. Worth. It.
If you have any questions or want to share your progress, feel free to drop me a line. I would love to hear how things are going for you.
You can also find me on Instagram @the_greenish_mama