Updated: Apr 27
What is Minimalism?
For many, “minimalism” means not having a lot of personal belongings and living in a very clean, simple space with only the “essential” items. While this is a a significant aspect of minimalism, there is so much more to it than that - most importantly the practice of being mindful and intentional.
Why do we buy the things we buy? Are we asking the right questions before making purchases or bringing more clutter into our homes? Your why is an essential part of living a minimalist lifestyle. Minimal living is greatly connected to mindful living, it’s not so much what you buy, but rather why are you buying it? Often, if you can be honest, behind the answer is a need for an emotional bandage, an endorphin rush, or simply an uncoscious need to fulfill the BUY command of someone’s marketing campaign. If the next time you’re doing some harmless online shopping, and you ask yourself this question before clicking “confirm purchase” - you may find yourself abandoning your cart more often than not.
This brings me to values - throughout the process of living more of a minimalist life, it is super important to define your values. Simply put, what matters to you most? Do you love to travel? Or, do you prefer to stay home and do creative crafty projects? Maybe you love to go out and try new foods created by award-winning chefs?
We all value different things in life, so when it comes to purchases, your job, social interactions, and personal growth, start to identify and develop the main habits that adhere to those values.
With your values established and intentional and mindful consumerism at the core of every decision, you will thrive with a more minimalistic lifestyle. Here are 5 tips to get you started!
1. Keep Surfaces Clean
I’m not here to give you a step-by-step guide on how best to do your initial home “spring cleaning”. You can easily look that up on Youtube and have access to loads of amazing videos showing you how best to organize all of your storage and how to decide what to keep, donate and throw away. I can tell you that as a basic rule, you should try your best to make sure all of the surfaces in your environment are as empty and clean as possible. What do you really need to have on your desk? A computer, light - maybe a note pad? You definitely do not need a container full of pens and pencils half of which don’t have any ink and random tchotchkes that you were gifted over the years and didn’t know what to do with. The fact is, we are able to focus better and longer when there is less surface clutter in our office and home. As a rule of thumb, don’t wait for dishes or random items to gather on surfaces over time - if you see a dirty dish on your kitchen counter, put it away right away.
2. Downsize & Maintain
This is especially relevant when it comes to your wardrobe. Try creating a list of your essentials and then create a cap on how many of each item you want to keep. For example, if you include shoes as an essential item and decide on a cap of 6 pairs, if you decide you need to buy hiking boots to support your new hiking hobby, see if you can sell or donate one of the six pairs you already have. Be mindful to not use the one-for-one method as an excuse to constantly have an influx of new fast fashion items rotating through your closet.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Before purchasing something ask yourself: does this item add value to my life? Why am I making this purchase? Is it something I have never thought of before and then I saw an ad for it and all of a sudden feel like I can’t live without it? Did a friend say they really liked it and convince me to buy it as well? Try to wait 24 hours before clicking the “confirm” button on an online purchase or before thoughtlessly throwing an item into your cart at the store. If after 24 hours, you are not missing it, chances are, you don’t need it. The point is to be mindful of what you want vs what you need and trying to find a balance between the two. The things we think we want in that moment, might not matter to us within a week and that’s what creates unnecessary clutter.
4. Digital Minimalism
We can’t forget about digital clutter. It’s 2021 and almost everyone has a phone with an ever-growing number of apps that are speficially designed to consume as much of our time and attention as possible. Digital clutter is a serious issue that is important to address. Again, try to be mindful of how much time you are spending on apps like Facebook and Instagram - are you spending your time on them effificently and in a way that is in line with your values? If you love photography and want to create a digital portfolio on Instagram, maybe spend the majority of your alloted social media time on that app rather than on Twitter or Facebook. Also, digital clutter includes having 3,849,837 photos on your phone because you took 234 of your dog looking cute sleeping and never went back and deleted the 233 extra photos. It also means deleting emails that you don’t need to keep and making sure that your desktop is organized into easy-to-find folders. I think you get the point - it’s time to go on a serious deleting spree ;)
Don’t Fall for Trends and Fast-Fashion
It is very expensive and clutter producing (not to mention extremely wasteful and bad for the environment) to constantly follow seasonal trends. This is again where intentionality and values come into play as well as asking the right questions. While your friend might be super into designer handbags and collecting the newest Gucci bucket bag, you might value traveling more - so save your money for the things in life that have the most meaning and value to you. Spend less time and money worrying about what other people want and have and focus on your actual wishes.
Here is my handy guide to making intentional purchases:
Good reasons to make a purchase: quality, life-span, joy, value.
Bad reasons: trends, cheapness, peer pressure, impulse purchase.
Needs: you use it every day; you need it for your work; it is an investment in yourself; it contributes to your overall happiness.
Wants: you didn’t know it existed until you saw an ad; you saw your friend has it and now you want it as well; it doesn’t necessarily add value to your life; you already have something similar that is in perfectly usable condition; you buy it because it’s on sale or inexpesive.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed some of these tips on how to incorporate some minimalist habits and mentalities into your lifestyle. Comment below with any tips you have on how to simplify your life and create space and time for the things that bring you peace and happiness.
Until next time,
Alexes Hazen MD