“Less is more”, so the saying goes; and it is proving to be more and more accepted – and understood – as people from all walks of life decide to downsize, declutter, and live only with the essentials. Their motivations may be emotional, financial, social, or just aesthetic. Perhaps they want to move away from the city into a country cottage…or from a large country house into a small suburban apartment or co-housing community.
People are finding that it’s actually quite easy, fulfilling, and “cleansing” to live with less, appreciating everything they have so much more. This is definitely the trend as people, young and old, feel that the modern lifestyle is too hectic, too overbearing, too cluttered and they need more space with fewer “things” to worry about.
How does one go about downsizing for a minimalist lifestyle? Let’s take a look at the trend and discuss a few pointers that could certainly help.
1. Set clear goals:
Write down your goals. Decide what you want to achieve and what the benefits will be. What is your personal definition of a minimalistic home and life? Is it to have the least number of possessions possible, making do with only those items that you use on a daily or regular basis? Is it to declutter each room and toss everything that you haven’t looked at in months? Perhaps it’s to clear off that bookshelf cluttered with dusty unread novels and souvenirs from your grandparents’ 1975 cruise to the Bahamas! It could even be changing your eating habits for a healthier diet. That can be a minimalist strategy right there. The key is to set goals and measure your progress.
2. Work to a time frame:
In order to know if you’ve met your goals and to measure your progress, you need to set deadlines – “…by the 31st of December, I want to have this room cleared out, completely,” and work diligently towards that date. Break down the steps you need to take to reach that goal, and give yourself a smiley every time you reach a milestone.
3. Discard the duplicates:
Walk through your home with a box labelled “Duplicates” and fill it with things of which you have two or more. Two sets of measuring cups? Put one in the box. Two sets of crockery? Copies of the same book or DVD? All the duplicates go in the box. Once you fill it, put it out of sight for 30 days. If you don’t feel the pressing need to pull anything out, or don’t even remember what was in it, donate the whole thing to a worthy cause.
Create three categories for your stuff:
- Stuff you never use
- Stuff you sometimes use
- Stuff you can live without
Here’s a rule of thumb: if you haven’t used it, or at the very least looked at it in the past six months, it goes into the “live without” category. This may seem obvious, and on paper it looks easy, but getting rid of stuff can be the most painful step for folks who have a real attachment to many of their items.
Start slowly and deliberately with stuff you obviously don’t need (the “live without” group) and throw out or donate the pile to a thrift shop, charity or a garage sale. Then put the “sometimes use” things in a box – or a spare room if they start building up (a sure sign of the need to declutter). When you have them all centralized, go through them again, and reclassify. Keep stripping away as much stuff as you can until you have whittled them down to your essentials…then reclassify them once again for good measure.
5. Train yourself to live with less:
Give things up gradually. Try taking a trip and packing for half the time you expect to be away. Take one pair of jeans instead of three – you won’t need them. Take three T-shirts instead of 10… clothing can be washed and worn again a day later. See how well you survive and how happy, free, and light (thanks to less luggage weight) you feel.
6. Move to a smaller home:
Large homes and big fancy apartments are just not practical anymore, especially if you don’t have kids yet, or at the other end of the scale, if your kids have left home. They are expensive to maintain, require a lot of capital, need a lot of upkeep, and frankly they don’t really enhance your life or status. People will be far more impressed with how you have managed to downsize by moving to a smaller home and live a fulfilled minimalist lifestyle. If you really want to go radical, sell everything, buy a caravan or trailer home, and live off the grid.
7. Ask yourself constantly, “Do I really need this?”
Once you have “gone minimalist”, you need to change your shopping behaviors in order to maintain your new, liberating lifestyle. You may easily justify purchases out of habit, but eventually you may find yourself realizing you don’t need many of the items you impulsively buy. Do you really need that pseudo Delft vase going for $25.00? Really? Maybe, it will please your soul to have it on your window ledge, filled with fresh flowers every day; in which case, buy it. But if it is not going to fulfill a real need and play a significant role in your new lifestyle, move right along.
8. Reuse items:
Learn how to reuse or repurpose items so they don’t go to waste or lay around cluttering up your newly uncluttered space. Repair and fix things rather than replacing them. Strip down old chairs and tables and repaint or remodel them into “shabby chic” items, which will add a lot of character to your newly minimalistic space. Recycle old clothing – especially denim – and use as scrap fabric for DIY projects or quilts. Find creative ways to reuse something you already have rather than buying something new.
Going minimalist may not be for everybody, but for those who have gone the route of downsizing, getting rid of clutter and streamlining their lives, the benefits far outweigh the effort and transition made to get there. They feel happier, “lighter”, freer, and more in control of their lives. Their homes can look neater, more tasteful and stylish. They are living proof that less is definitely more.