When I decided to end my relationship with most of my possessions and start pursuing a lifestyle owning less, I thought that I should do something, buy something. Quite ironic, I know. I wanted to be like the fellow bloggers and podcasters: wearing the same black clothes every day and traveling around the world with only one backpack. I thought: “I can’t call myself a minimalist if I don’t own and wear only black t-shirts.” This thought was stuck in my mind for a while till I finally realized that I don’t need to buy more stuff If my greater goal was to actually get rid of them. I didn’t make any sense to pursue the first. It was my old self speaking and I needed to block it.”How did I start being a minimalist,” you might ask? Well, easy. My minimalist journey started with a couple of trips to the dumpster and a couple of days spent in isolation.
If you’re like me, or let say like the majority of the people populating the planet earth, you then love to spend your time and money on things: headphones, games, big screens, clothes for going out, clothes for training, clothes for traveling, clothes for in the house. You love your stuff and you don’t give them to anyone. At least this is what I do. I don’t like other people touching my things. Everything I own I consider “my precious.” Or at least that was the case before I’ve started to look at things differently. Before I realized that I don’t need more things in order to feel fulfilled.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably standing on the crossroad. Or let’s make it a bit more dramatic. Let’s say you’re holding a blue and a red pill and you’re about to make a choice: If you take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your home and you start your car so you can go to the mall, again. If you take the red pill – you make the leap into the land of less. The place where fewer things mean more time for important tasks.
Which pill did you take? I knew it, the red one, right?
In this article, I will lay down the essentials steps for starting a minimalist life. A set of easy tasks that will allow you to quickly identify the real benefits of learning to live with fewer things.
1. Hate It
Get up. No, really. Go to your closet, or bedroom and open your wardrobe. Then, open your drawers and think for a moment: “Do you like what you see?” Are your shit organized? Go through the clothes you have in your apartment and think about when was the last time you wore that shirt? These pants? These jeans? These shoes? Can’t remember, right? It was the same story with me.
One day, I was sick. Sick of going through a pile of clothes every day only to find a specific t-shirt. My wardrobe was full of clothes I didn’t wear and I didn’t know why I was still keeping them. It was the same situation with a lot of other areas in my home: Beneath my bed was crowded with boxes, more clothes, and more shoes. Even though me and my girl recently bought an apartment, our cellar was also full. Full of boxes. I had barely any room for my bike.
Awareness is the first step to the desired transformation.
I mean, before you decide to make a change, before you actually commit to make a difference in your life, no matter in what direction, you should first feel hate, disgust. This is what happens when we end a long term relationship. We feel hate towards the other person and this prompts us to finally make an end. When you feel such a strong feeling, it will help you really commit, give you drive to act. Otherwise, you will soon return to your old behavior.
Not that you can’t get started without feeling hate, you can, of course. If you’re a reasonable person, you can understand that you need a change. Simply, something like this will help you realize that you reach the bottom. When you hit the bottom, the only way is up, like people say. No matter what’s your reasoning to desire a minimalist lifestyle, the important thing is to know why you want it. To cut waste? To find happiness? To find clarity? Think about what’s your reason. Mine is eagerness for clarity and focus.
2. Throw Away Shit
We don’t consider throwing away stuff as something fun. We do it because we have to from time to time. But you won’t hear people say, “Oh, I need to throw away more stuff.” They say quite the opposite: “I want this and that and I have to buy more of these…” When we spoke with our friends, we often tell them what we bought or what we’re planning to purchase but never what we’re planning to throw away. Is quite normal. Everybody is trying to impress the people around him, consciously or subconsciously. It’s simply human nature. We are trying to get ahead of the pack and in our current society, this means acquiring more possessions: More stuff means you earn more money, thus you should be better than others. At least that what most of the people think.
Remember, you’re here for something different. You’re here to learn how to shift your focus from a desire to purchase more towards the pleasure of letting go and enjoying the …
Let’s get back to our program. You already saw the piles of things feeling your condo, apartment, whatever. Sort your stuff in 3 categories:
- Wearing/Using – These are your essentials. You will keep those, of course.
- Maybe/Seasonal – Your warm jacket, your boots, your winter pajama – these are things you will put away. However, there will be other stuff that you won’t be quite sure what to do with them: “Throw them? Keep them?” Do the following: Put them away in a bag for a while. If you haven’t used them in the next 3 months, this will mean that you don’t really need them. So, dispose of them.
- Don’t fit/No using – Everything old, ugly, stuff that no longer fit or clothes you bought for no reason, you can donate or throw away.
You see, it’s not only about throwing away, one, two, five, ten things, everything. I mean it does feel good but that’s not the main point. The reason behind this is larger than it seems. More stuff laying around, filling our houses is not only taking physical space, it’s taking also our mental space. It’s blocking your mind from thinking straight. So, by letting go of things you don’t use you’re actually helping your brain function better. Also, this simple exercise will help you realize that you don’t actually need much to look good and survive in life.
3. Create a Functional Wardrobe
I used to work in a store where I sold man suits, primarily. There were other things too: shirts, pants, blazers, belts, bow ties, ties, and etc. Mainly, clothes for an elegant man. There, I started to experiment with my wardrobe. I bought a lot of different clothes in different colors. Even though I was getting a lot of attention from the girls, at some point it was becoming a headache: What to wear? What else to buy? There was this constant dissatisfaction. I bought new clothes every two weeks and I thought that I should constantly update my wardrobe. I was spending a tremendous amount of money on clothes I wore only once or twice. I had to make a change.
Now, I own only 3 pairs of jeans, a pair of black trousers, a handful of t-shirts and a couple of shirts, a blazer, black letter jacket and one green parka. I focus on black and white colors mainly. This allows me to combine all of my clothes without having to think about, “whether these sneakers will go with these jeans.” I know they will. I simply get up, brush my teeth, pick a t-shirt from my drawer and I’m ready to go out.
I’m also quite a sneakers fan but instead of wasting my time on searching for new brands, colors, I now buy new pairs only when my old ones are, well, old. I purchase only black and white colors and only Converse or Addidas originals.1
Things can get messy when it comes down to clothes. There are thousands of options and you can easily get distracted from all the brands competing for the number one spot. To distract yourself from the fashion trends, adopt the model of Three when it comes down to clothing. Choose three brands and purchase clothes only from these shops.
4. Eat the Same Meals
Food, nowadays, is more than just something to keep us alive. It’s an art, a true craft. I love to surprise my mouth with different tastes, even though I’m not a cook myself. However, with the increasing volume of varieties, the decision of what to eat is becoming burdensome with each passing day.
The question: “Honey, what we’re going to eat today?” Became quite irritating at some point in my life. Me and my spouse, Katya, argued a lot, and still do sometimes, about what to eat. This decision shouldn’t be such a trouble, I think. It should be a constant pleasant experience. That’s wasn’t the case with us. We spend hours wondering what to eat and what to prepare. Till I finally, decided to prepare a list of my favorite dishes that will help us decide what to eat.
I don’t have like a detailed plan or something, I simply have a couple of things written down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When we go shopping for groceries, we focus on buying pretty much the same things. Not that I won’t try something new on some occasions. As I mentioned, I love different tastes. I mean that we don’t spend a lot of time choosing what to eat. The rule of Three applies to food as well. We tend to buy the same products and we experiment as little as possible.
5. Save, Then Spend
What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you receive your salary? That’s right, to pay the bills and to buy something. I’ve guessed it, right?
I know because I’ve been doing the same thing for my whole life. I get paid and I run to the mall to buy something. It turned out that I’m working for shopping. Till the age of 25, I had saved 0, zero, amount of money thanks to the previously described habit. Then, slowly but surely I started to spare money aside before I even paid my bills. This simple task allowed me to save enough money to buy my own apartment and later to feel secured. I know that if something happens I will be ok, at least for a while.
When you turn the TV or the radio, you hear the same commercials, the same recurring script: “Buy more, pay later.” Personally, I don’t understand why people take small loans from the bank. Or loans in general. If you don’t have enough money to buy something, then this should be an alert that you shouldn’t buy it, not the opposite: to go into debt. Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you don’t need money. Yes, you might need less money to sustain your living but it doesn’t mean that you won’t need them at all.
Focusing on the essentials will actually help you a lot to save enough cash for emergencies, which on the other hand will help you reduce stress.
6. Manage your time
Becoming a minimalist is not only about de-cluttering physical objects, but also about getting rid of time-wasting activities. Stop for a moment and evaluate how you spend your time through one full day. Grab a pen and a paper and start writing down everything you do from the moment you’re awake: “I opened my eyes and then I…” Share with yourself what follows.
Once you have a detailed list of your daily activities, go through all of the points and ask yourself whether the activities you engage in add value to your life. You will surely spot a lot of things that are only wasting your time and blocking you from reaching your true potential. Think about how you can stop doing these tasks and replace them with something more valuable, something you enjoy.
A couple of years ago, I wasted whole days on doing nothing – sitting around and watching TV shows or hanging out with friends talking about girls and clubs. When someone called me I stopped all activities and I responded immediately. I thought that this is what good friends do, they are willing to go the extra mile for their buds. Generally, this is true. If your friends need you in an emergency situation, you should respond. However, “come with me to pick a new pair of jeans” is not considered a life-threatening situation.
There should be limits, even in friendships. Find out how, and with who, you spend your time with and evaluate these activities. Once you know what you need to stop doing, say no.
7. Say No
When you start seeing the beauty of a life with owning less, you will find that there are certain activities you no longer want to do. Some people you don’t want to see. It sounds rude but it’s true. When you know what’s your greater goal – the last step – you will slowly apart yourself from the time-wasting activities. At first, you will feel bad that you refuse to other people but later you will see that it’s for good.
Saying No its a disarming strategy and you need to learn to use it without any regret. At first, you might think that this act will leave you without any friends but this is only true if your friends are only pretending to be your friends. Actually, saying No makes other people want you even more. How do I know? Well, I received quite a few rejections from girls. Did this make me stop wanting them? No, it had the opposite effect.2 I want to say that your friends you still love you if you don’t do everything together. If you share with them your decision to pursue a minimalist lifestyle, this will set some ground rules for everybody.
Decluttering your wardrobe is only the beginning. In order to keep your closet tidy, and your life focused you must say No consistently. No to newer clothes; No to night outs; No to unimportant tasks; No to people you don’t quite like. Say No more often and Yes only when it’s really worth it.
8. Limit Onscreen Time
As a person working in the IT industry during the day, and writing on a website during the night, its close to impossible to limit my onscreen time. Still, there is room for improvement. When I’m not standing on a computer, I often find myself scrolling the net through my phone. It’s like my phone is glued to my right hand. I wake up and I check my phone. I go to the bathroom and I spend additional 15 minutes because I brought my phone with me. I sit on my couch and instead of talking to my girl, I read the latest posts on social media. It’s insane.
Our phones are small, yet powerful computers. They allow us to do extensive tasks with only a couple of clicks. It’s quite amazing and at the same time dangerous. Even though no one admits it, people are getting addicted to social media and their phones. Mainly, this is due to the things you can do on your device. You can basically do anything. That’s why is so addictive.
Start small to get rid of this nasty habit. Uninstall most of your applications, block push notifications, keep your desktop with close to zero icons, install a distraction-free application on your laptop3, replace this task with a different one, much more productive one. Reading a book, taking an online class, writing, going out with friends are great alternatives to our current lifestyle.
9. What’s Your Meaning
Minimalism is something more than just a lifestyle concept. Consider it as a tool that will allow you to get from point A to point B, faster. By turning off the noise around, you will be granted with extra time so you can focus on what truly matters. Like things, your car, for instance, minimalism shouldn’t be your main goal, it’s simply a leverage for achieving more meaningful things.
I see that a lot of people are focusing on becoming minimalists, only. Ok, but what happens next? Whan happens when you already own 100 things and you travel the world with only a backpack? Is this everything? Is this your ultimate mission? It shouldn’t be.
Use minimalism to become better, to develop your skills, to gain focus and traction. The refrigerator will keep your food cold and fresh, minimalism will keep you focused and sharp. The questions should be: What’s your meaning? What do you want to do that will help others become better?
That’s also a question I will answer on my site. Even though this is my personal website and I will share my minimalist journey, the majority of the content will be focused towards you, the reader. Content aiming to help you realize the true potential of living with less and actionable advice that will allow you to achieve better results in every aspect of your life.
Don’t get too caught up by this question, though. A lot of time people spend quite some time to figure out what they want to do and what should be their purpose. They think that is should be something extravagant, unique, exceptional, exclusive, godlike. But actually, the most successful and useful things for society are simple.
Don’t spend too much time searching for your meaningful purpose. Simply do. Helps others are much as you can.
You may end up with the impression that the first step towards becoming minimalist is decluttering your closet and getting rid of all of your clothes. Even though this simple task helps a lot, it’s not the first step.
The main thing you need to learn is how to control your mind. How to restrain your thoughts from desiring more things. Things you don’t really need. It’s easy to throw away half of your possessions but it’s hard to keep yourself from buying more stuff you will later have to throw away again.
I was hard for me as well. I wanted to begin living a minimalist lifestyle but my mind was pulling me back, making me wanna purchase stuff. It took me a couple of months till I finally canceled the voice that whispered “more” in my mind. Now, I must say that I calmer person who is focused towards his greater goal: find meaning in a lifestyle where less is more.
I really do hope these steps helped you conquer a bit more space in your home and also in your head. Share in the comments below your progress towards a simpler lifestyle.