Mindful Minimalism: A Quick Beginner's Guide to Simplifying Your Life
Over the past few years, I've begun to naturally embrace minimalism without putting much thought into it. Even in my teen years, I would try to declutter items, donating what I never used. It reminded me of growth, of moving forward, of learning to let go. It was a lesson to myself in attachment and desire: two things that can be someone's downfall if one does not keep it in check.
I'm not perfect or extreme by any means. I'm still on this journey and still implementing new things into my minimalism almost daily. I still have items in my home, I still purchase items, I still have things I refuse to downsize on (which is pretty much my books, mugs, bones, and so forth). But, I make purchases with a purpose and I make them less. Minimalism isn't merely about materialism or lack-there-of, it is a mindset as well. It's not just about having less, it's about wanting less. It's about simplifying your life as much as possible - in the outside world and within you - and embracing the wonders of life itself: happiness, joy, friendship, kinship, beauty, learning, creativity.
Where to Simplify
A happy home is important. Disorganization and chaos can be detrimental to how a home is run and how the people within it respond. Purging what you don't need allows space for what you do and allows focus on the necessities. A cluttered home, or a home with unnecessary items, makes cleaning more difficult, which takes time away from your family and things you enjoy doing, which allows for unhappiness and frustration, and things can easily spiral out of control. Being aware of what we have in a home and only surrounding ourselves with things that make us joyful or allows a functioning life - is important.
More crucial than your physical home, is your mental home. This is where we reside without tangible items, places, and things. This is our Self. This is what we lay down with when everything is all said in done. Decluttering our minds is a necessary task - more so than chucking away unused items - but it may also be the most difficult. It takes time, patience, and practice. One way to simplify is by practicing meditation and learning to let go of brain clutter at the end of the day or anytime you feel overloaded. By learning how to let go of unnecessary thoughts and distractions, you begin to focus on the present moment and the tasks in front of you. It is incredibly freeing.
Allow yourself to say no at times and set limits. It's okay to want to help others with their workload but make sure you have tackled your own first and foremost. In the same respect, be okay with asking others for help at times. Becoming overwhelmed takes away from our productivity. Set long-term goals and short-term goals and work toward them. Check in with yourself occasionally and see if you're meeting them. Also - don't bring work home with you. Sometimes it's impossible to not be stressed while working because we're often in another's control. Learn to unpack it on your way home or when you're no longer working. Disconnect yourself from it. There is nothing more that can be done once work is over.
How to Simplify
Write it down - As someone who journals and writes constantly, I find it important to write down my thoughts and feelings when I want to tackle something new. Write down your reasons for adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Sick of constantly feeling weighed down with thoughts? Things? Sick of never feeling content? Or always being broke? Or want more time with your children and less time cleaning? Writing it down will help you stick to it. Whenever you feel defeated, you can go back and remind yourself of why you started this in the first place.
Start Small - This change and journey is gradual and is not something that happens overnight. Don't start chipping away at your possessions and start handing them out like candy on Halloween. Be mindful and recognize the things you need from the things you don't. Drawers, closets, or your bathroom are the easiest to start with. Go through and see what is old or goes unused. If it doesn't give you pleasure, any sense of fulfillment, or has any purpose in your life, it goes.
Cut your desires - Stop feeling like you need more in order to become a better minimalist or live a happier life. So many minimalists will go out and buy a multitude of items and feel their decor needs to be a certain way. I find it ironic and even I am even guilty of it a few times. Fight the urge and be aware of need versus want. Part of minimalism is learning to appreciate what you already have instead of always seeking more.
Ditch duplicates - Go around and pick out unnecessary duplicate items. Have two coaster sets that no one uses? Get rid of one. Have multiple dish-ware sets but only use one? Get rid of them. Have multiple ladles? Get rid of one. Have an abundance of unused baskets? Get rid of them. Have 30 pairs of pants but only wear 3? Get rid of 27 of them. Evaluate the necessity of items. If you have the space, put all these items in a box. Label them duplicates. Go back in 30 days and if you didn't need or think about any of the things in the box, they're out. I usually donate things almost automatically when I know they are unnecessary. I will be less apt to overthink and keep something that way.
Create a capsule wardrobe - A capsule wardrobe is a more compact wardrobe that involves versatile essentials and staple pieces. Begin to downsize your wardrobe by getting rid of things you haven't worn in 1-2 years. Chances are you won't wear it again. Be aware of what you wear within a month. For me, I wear a lot of black. I used to keep pieces I owned for a long time in case that changed yet it never did and it was only holding up space in my closet. I became very aware of my style and began discarding what didn't match it. I'm still working on creating my perfect wardrobe but I have downsized tremendously. Finding staple pieces that can be worn different ways is helpful and allows you to have a large closet with few items.
Minimize toys for maximum creativity - Since becoming a mother, I've read into a lot of styles of parenting. One that resonates with me is Montessori which adopts a "less is more" approach. In our home, we rotate toys but keep a small amount out at a time. This allows him to not be overstimulated and allows him to focus on a few projects. It creates less distractions and gives him the opportunity to be creative with the toys that are in front of him. We also have them placed in single rows on shelves compared to our previous bucket. It's been such a change - he hardly fusses and he's able to focus on his toys.
Organize and clean - Minimalism and organization go hand in hand. Organization helps simplify your life by allowing you to know where everything is constantly. The less you have, the easier it is to organize as your not fussing and everything has a special place. Adopt a cleaning schedule that allows you to maintain clutter-free spaces. Some of us are busy but if we become aware of little out of place items and move them instantly, we start to see less build-up and less things to clean. Make sure there is an allotted time each day dedicated to cleaning, even if only half an hour can be done.
Unplug electronics - Being caught up in the digital world can be great. I use my phone to write or read or keep up with people or learn something new but there needs to be a limit. Excess screen absorption isn't healthy. Learn to live in the moment. Read a book instead, learn a new craft, write in a journal, go for a walk. Enjoy the quiet simplicity of life outside a screen. This also can help minimize mental clutter by not absorbing unnecessary information.
Be grateful for what you have - It's one thing to have goals on what you want your life to look like (perhaps a tiny home or farmland or a specific interior design) and another to let unhappiness consume you entirely when your life is not currently what you feel it should be. Let go of expectations and allow yourself to enjoy what you have. Live in the moment. One thing at a time, all things over time. Nothing is wrong with where you are now. You are growing. You are becoming. Your life goals will follow with patience and effort. Don't be discouraged when things go bad as it is all part of the process. In the meantime, love your life as it is and don't expect more. Simply enjoy it.
What to Do With Unwanted Items
See if a friend or family member is in need of any of your items. You can also check in with your local Facebook groups and offer them. There are a lot of buy/sell/trades or freecycle groups and more than likely one in your area.
Some of your items can be donated to local shelters or thrift stores. One of the perks of simplifying is you're often able to help others. Unnecessary items for you become necessary items for others.
Some of your items can be reused. Containers are good for making homemade products. Fabrics can be used for making reusable cloth items, beeswax paper, gifts, etc. Old jewelry can be used to make new jewelry. You can always find a way to repurpose items. Pinterest is filled with incredible ideas.
Check with your local recycling to see what you're able to put in there. While you're simplifying, make a specific pile so you can bring it to them.
Almost anything can be donated or repurposed. Tossing should be the last thing you want to do. Downsizing your environmental impact and waste is just as important as anything else. Look for alternative ways to get rid of your unwanted items before trashing it.