I began my minimalism journey in late 2015 and since then my life has been positively impacted by that decision in so many ways. If you wanna know all about my story with that you can check out my minimalism playlist on youtube, but otherwise this page is gonna be more of a guide on how you can begin your own journey!
first of all... What is minimalism?
There really isn't a definition for it. No set of standards are required to call yourself a minimalist- it means something a little different for everyone. It's about living simply and intentionally. Only (for the most part) having things you need. Learning to have appreciation for your belongings while at the same time releasing attachment to them. Getting rid of material objects that distract us from living and keep us stuck in having. Focusing on experiences rather than things. It's not only an external journey to a more simplistic physical space, but an internal journey to freedom.
Some more specific examples to describe it:
Getting rid of the clothes that you don't wear and don't add value to your life.
Decluttering your house or room of unnecessary items.
Only having a few of your favorite shoes or pieces of jewelry instead of having many more than you actually need.
Keeping the amount of personal care products you have at a minimum aka having one lotion instead of twenty.
Minimalism, though, is not about the numbers. It's not about getting the amount of clothing items you have down to 50 or 30. It's not about only having 100 belongings total. You don't have to have under a certain amount of anything in order to call yourself in minimalist. You could have had 500 clothing items at one point and gotten it down to 100 while someone else might have had 100 to begin with and cut that in half, and you can both still call yourselves minimalists. It's just a label!
And because it's different for everyone, some minimalists may travel the world out of a backpack with 60 items in it, all of which they use fairly often. Others may have a family and own a home in which they try to keep simple but also have a few decor items. You don't have to use every single thing that you own, but you want to keep the amount of things that aren't useable or in frequent use to a minimal level that feels good for you.
Minimalism will change your life in ways you could never have imagined. You might be thinking, 'oh if I get rid of a lot of my clothes then it'll take me way less time to get ready in the morning, that'll be great!' Or, 'with less things lying around, organizing and tidying up won't take as long.' And those are both awesome benefits that everyone will likely experience, but it goes sooo much deeper than that as well. Not only do you free up physical space, but you free up mental space as well. I know that probably doesn't make any sense... but let me explain it more.
Physical clutter = mental clutter
When you have a lot of different objects in your space, you brain picks up on all those things in your peripheral vision whether you're consciously aware of it or not. It takes energy to process all that information. Think of how you feel when your room is super messy and there's clothes lying everywhere, the bed isn't made, stuff is piled up on your desk or dresser- that physical clutter effects the way you feel in the space. Then once you've cleaned up and organized everything and there's much less stuff to look at, you feel so much more at peace and less stressed (that's how it is for me at least)! It's almost like there's a weight lifted off your shoulder and now you can be in your room without thinking as much about the things in it. This can help you be more productive as well. I have a video you can watch here where I go into more depth on mental clutter.
One of the best benefits I've experienced is not being as attached to material objects. We live in such a materialistic society where many people value things more than experiences, people, relationships- more meaningful things. I use to seek a sense of identity through the clothes I wore and things I had but now by getting rid of so many of them, I've been able to realize that they have nothing to do with who I am- so I shouldn't identify with them. Material objects cannot fulfill you or bring you happiness! That's one of the greatest lessons I've learned through my journey.
If we do not feel grateful for the things we already have, what makes us think we’d be happier with more?
By finding contentment with less items, you don't need to continue purchasing more and more things- so you can save tons of money through minimalism. I use to spend so much money on clothes I rarely wore since I had so many of them, but in the first 2 years after starting my minimalism journey, I only purchased about 5 clothing items!
One other thing that is more of a choice than a result is that you can use the experience of minimizing to appreciate the things you do have more. It's like if you have 300 dogs, you're not going to be able to give love and appreciation to each one as much as if you just had 2 dogs. When you take the things you don't need out of your life and are left with things that really add value to your life, you can (if you choose) gain a huge amount of appreciation for those items and how they add to your life.
The average American throws away approximately 80 lbs of clothing in their lifetime. Each year in the US, over 15 million pounds of textile waste is generated, most of that sent to landfills. When we’re constantly buying and getting rid of clothes because our style is changing, trends are changing, or just because we have money to spare and like shopping, we’re contributing to the excessive amount of clothing waste that ends up just sitting on Earth for years and years. By keeping our purchases to a minimum, we lessen the possibility of getting too many things, not using some of them, and then getting rid of them.
There is no such thing as “away”. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere. -Annie Leonard
There are so many benefits of adopting a more simplistic lifestyle that you'll discover as you're minimizing, after a few weeks, and even years later. They just keep coming. . .
How to start
The first thing I did was watch a bazillion minimalist wardrobe and room tour videos. You gotta get inspired first!
Next, I took all 350 of my clothing items and threw them in a huge pile in my room. And then I got down to business.
I would recommend starting with your clothing, like I did. I'm going to explain 2 different methods that I think can work very well, just choose whatever works for you.
This is how I did it the first time. Start out by throwing everything in one pile and counting the amount of items you have (if you want to). I think it can be beneficial to count just so you can compare before and after or maybe you want to get down to a certain number -- but also keep in mind not to make it only about the numbers. From there you're gonna make 2 piles:
Want to keep (wear often)
Definitely don't need or wear much
So then pick up an item one by one and if it's something you don't wear often/have something similar to/have another color of- put it in pile 2. If it's something you know you want to keep or aren't sure of, it goes in pile 1. You could also make 3 piles and have the third be a not sure pile which would work as well, but I'm just sharing how I did it! Once you've gone through everything and separated them into the piles, go back into pile 1 and do the same thing over again. This time make it your intention to only keep the things you really really want and use. Try to recognize any attachment you may feel toward certain items as that can oftentimes be something that holds us back from letting go.
When you have your final 2 piles- keep and get rid of- count again and see how much you've downsized. I had gotten my clothing from 350 items to 100 which was more than I thought I would going into it but.. it's actually really fun and a little bit addicting. But even if you just cut your items by 25% or in half- that's great! You can always go back through the process again in the future once you really start paying attention to what you do and don't wear.
For the things you decide not to keep, you can give to friends, sell online, have a rummage sale, donate, or throw away if they're totally trash- but try to recycle as many as you can. You can also reuse old clothing products in creative ways.. like you could use some old jeans for a craft project somehow or a t-shirt can be cut up and used as a rag.
The second method is to begin by dividing your clothing by type. Make separate piles for shorts, pants, long sleeves, short sleeves, sweatshirts, socks, swimwear, etc or you could divide them by casual wear, athletic wear, school clothes, work clothes, etc, or winter, summer, fall + spring, or what ever groups you decide. In the times after my initial minimize, this method is more how I’d do it.
Once you have your piles, take one of them and count it. Maybe you have 5 sweatshirts but you basically live in them so you decide to get rid of only one and bring it down to 4. Or maybe you really don't wear them that often in any seasons so you figure you can get by with 2. Say you have 6 pairs of jeans but only wear jeans once a week.. you probably don't need that many then. You can simply get rid of the ones you don't want or you can aim for a certain number or percentage. If you have 18 long sleeve tops, maybe you'll want to cut that in half or only have 5. Again, whatever works for you. So do that and make two or three piles like method 1 of things you want and don't want. Then go through the want pile once more to clear out anything you were on the fence about. It's really important to do that second revision because the first time you might want to keep things that you realize you don't really need after thinking about it more. I remember the first time when I had my 350 clothing items divided into two piles and the ‘keep’ pile was still so big even though I thought I wanted and needed everything in that pile..
There are tons of other methods out there if neither of these feel right for you. Remember not to worry about doing it the same way as others are, it's important to just do what works best for you.
Shoes, jewlery, makeup, accessories
Once you've gone through your clothes, the rest is pretty straightforward. If you're into jewelry and other accessories, you don't have to get rid of all of them. But you also don't need 30 different necklaces. Keep the few that have meaning or that can be worn with many different things and give away the rest. I use wear earrings and had dozens of pairs of them, but only 3 total sets of holes in my ears, so I really only needed to have a few pairs.
Another big one is shoes. What I found works for me is having one pair of dressy shoes for colder months and one for warmer months, and then one pair each of tennis shoes and sandals which are what I wear 99% of the time. It's totally okay to have more than that or less than that though. But you don't need flip flops in 5 different colors or 6 different styles of flats or boots. Don't think that if you wear the same pair of shoes every day that people are gonna judge you- honestly no one really cares... which is great!
Things like scarves, swim suits, hats, gloves, etc you probably only need 1, maybe 2 of.
As for makeup, of course its unnecessary to get rid of certain things you have just because you have too many. Use up the products you want to ‘get rid of’ and don’t repurchase anything besides what you use on a daily basis. You don’t need to have every single youtube beauty influencers palette that’s out there, or that one new mascara that has the cool brush so you had to get it even though you have 5 half-used mascaras in your makeup drawer. Buy what you use and love, use up what you don’t or give it to a friend if it really doesn’t work for you!
The next thing I decided to simplify was my room. You can take the info in this part and apply it to your whole home if you have one but I didn’t so I'm just gonna talk about minimizing your bedroom!
There are a few different areas you can section your room off into..
It is totally okay to have decor items in your room, and it's totally okay to have a completely bare room. But if you have a lot more items than you really need and they just take up space, you might want to get rid of some. Try to only have a few of your favorite items that add a lot to the room to make it not look bare, if that's what you're going for. If you have 10 pillows on your bed, only keep the ones you actually use. Some things might be hard to let go of but that's part of the journey, learning not to be attached to items- even if they have sentimental value. Just go around your room and look at, say, your dresser and ask yourself which items you really use. Maybe you'll choose to keep things like candles or diffusers (because you use them) and get rid of solely decorative items that you bought at a home goods store that don't add anything to the room and you don't really care much about. Or you'll keep some cool rocks you got on vacation. It's really up to you what to keep and get rid off but don't be afraid to get rid of more than you thought you would!
things in drawers/storage
I use to have a whiteboard in my room and before I started with minimalism, I had like 50 dry erase markers to use on it. Along with that I had a dozen pens and pencils, when I only needed one of each! Any duplicates you have in drawers are not usually needed. If you have something like a junk drawer, that's a gold mine for minimizing! Again, only keep the things you use and need. Everything else can go. But also, don’t throw things away just to throw them away. If you have a lot of pens, use them up- don’t waste half of them by throwing them away. I would also recommend finding a way to organize the things you keep, just to make it easier for them not to get cluttered up again.
...Or just go by sections
Start in one corner of your room, maybe the stand with the tv on it, then go to your desk or dresser, then to your bed, etc and section it off that way. Anything that doesn't bring you joy or isn't used frequently goes! Try to make surfaces clear for the most part and store the majority of your things that aren’t used often or aren’t decor items out of sight.
Self care products
Another thing you'll want to do is go through all your lotion, perfume, hair products, shampoo, soap, etc and only keep one or two of each. You really only need to use one shampoo at a time. My mom is a hair stylist and would load me up with products so I'd have like 7 different kinds of shampoo in the shower and now I only use one and my hair is perfectly fine. For lotions or chapstick, maybe keep one in your purse, one in the bathroom, and one in your room. It's okay to have them in multiple different places, you just don't need a collection of 20 lotions all in the same spot, right!
One other thing you could do is go through your vehicle and clear that out if you have one :)
how to make it a lifestyle
things to remember
Minimalism doesn't mean you can't buy any more clothes or material items, you just want to be conscious of what you're purchasing. Over time, you may start to collect a few more items than you want to and thats okay. It's a life long journey and you're always going to be getting stuff and getting rid of stuff. But if you want to live a minimalistic life, do your best to be intentional with your purchases. Try to limit impulse purchases and be more of a conscious consumer.
You may go through phases where it feels better to have a bit more items and at other times you'll feel best having just the bare minimum, depending on what you're doing and how you're living at the time. As I said earlier, it's not about the numbers, it's about releasing attachment to material objects... knowing that they do not bring long term joy. Instead, we should focus more on experiences and connections with others if we wish to live a more fulfilling life!
Finally, one of the most important things to remember is that minimalism is not a destination, it's a journey. Don't be too hard on yourself or take it too seriously, it's only purpose is to benefit your life! So enjoy the process. ❤︎