Getting started with minimalism

By this point in time, minimalism is not a novel idea.  There are countless blogs, youtubers and thought leaders talking about it.  To the point that it has almost become trendy – in line with the Danish “hygge”.  Nevertheless, I feel that it’s a worthwhile pursuit for almost everyone, no matter your life circumstances.  (See my thoughts on the Benefits of Minimalism here.)

If you’re interested in testing the waters  but don’t know where to start, see below for my list of easy ways to get started with minimalism. 

Quick caveat, when I say “throw out” I obviously mean sell, recycle or donate anything possible.  Lets take care of our planet people.

Okay, here we go. 

1. Throw out obvious garbage.

This one should be easy – it’s trash after all.  For many of us, as we go through our homes, it’s almost embarrassing that we even HAVE so many things that fit this category! But stuff accumulates.  It happens.  Let the guilt go and let’s move forward.

Begin by looking for things that are very obviously broken (and that you don’t seriously plan on repairing).  Old receipts, past date coupons and calendars, flyers and magazines.  Empty or nearly empty bottles of hand cream or shampoo (use em up and toss em!).  Expired food in the pantry or refrigerator.  Underwear with holes in them.  You get my drift.  Just doing this alone can give you that fresh start feeling and enough motivation to want to keep going.  

2. Get rid of duplicates. 

For most physical objects, save for maybe a couple of cooking utensils, you can only use item at a time.  Do you really need two cake stands, two whisks, two diffusers, two coffee makers, two wireless speakers, two nail polishes in almost identical shades. 

Often times we buy something new and never bother to discard the item it’s replacing.  That item gets relocated to the back of a cupboard, drawer or closet, never to be thought of again. 

If you struggle to let go of duplicate items because they are inherently “useful”, try to put your focus on KEEPING your favorite item, and allowing the duplicate to be passed along to someone who will actually use it on a regular basis.

Photo by Netaly Reshef

3. Stop stockpiling.

I understand feeling the need to “stock up” on certain items when they’re on sale.  This is the most common rationale I hear for buying 20 cans of soup or 5 bottles of shampoo at a time.  To save money.

I have two main counters to that argument. 

Number one …

What often ends up happening is we get so much in our pantries, closets and cupboards that we forget what we have!  Or we can’t use it fast enough.  Next thing you know that extra product has expired (remember food from your pantry you just threw out a minute ago?).  So ultimately you have actually lost money rather than saved it.  And nothing hurts more than throwing out something unopened that you spent good money on.  It’s like literally throwing your money down the drain.  So don’t put yourself in that situation!  

Number two …

The most common household products and grocery items are ALWAYS ON SALE.  I guarantee you if you need toothpaste tomorrow I can find a store in your area that has it on sale.  And with most stores offering price matching you don’t even have to run all over the city to take advantage of the deals.  (Check out the Flipp app if you’ve never stumbled across it.)  So instead of getting 10 tubes of toothpaste that will take up an entire basket or drawer in your bathroom, buy one, or max two if you have a big family.  Then keep a running list somewhere central and easily accessible in your home, and whenever you notice you’re almost out of something, put it on the list! 

Not only will this method save you space in your home but at the end of the day you’ll have less waste, less guilt, and more money saved!  It’s a win win.

4. Pick the least daunting area of your house.

After tackling the above steps I recommend keeping the momentum going by picking one area of your home that you foresee being relatively easy to declutter, and starting there.  Common places that don’t tend to hold a lot of sentimental value are the bathroom, linen closet, or junk drawer.  

You know yourself.  Whatever causes you the most anxiety when you think about sorting through it – leave that to last. 

If everything causes you overwhelming anxiety, start small.  Smaller.  Babier than that even.  I’m talking one drawer.  One shelf.  One shoe box.  It should be something you can tackle in under 15 minutes.  The more bite sized you make this the less chance you’ll have of getting overwhelmed or making excuses to not do it.  

5. Other strategies

Everyone is different.  If you don’t feel the “one area at a time” strategy will work for you, THAT’S OKAY. Here are a few other commonly talked about methods for helping you declutter.   

The Mins Game

The Mins game was originally established by The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus).  It’s a month long game where you find 1 item to declutter on the first day, 2 items on the second day, 3 on the third, and so on and so forth.  In this way you slowly build up your momentum and “decluttering muscles” and by the end of the month you’ll have decluttered 465 items. 

The Packing Party

Also made popular by The Minimalists is the Packing Party method.  This is a more drastic and potentially daunting method, but for some “all or none” types of personalities it might just speak to you.  It involves boxing up everything in your home in one fell swoop as if you were moving.  Then, over the course of the next few months (or whatever period of time you choose), only taking out the out the items that you need to function in your daily living.  At the end of that time you donate or sell everything that’s left in the boxes.  Even if you don’t hold yourself to this as a hard line, it can be a very enlightening way to see just which items we really do use, and which we might be convincing ourselves we use, but don’t really.

The KonMari Method

Made popular by Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (insert hyperlink), this method advises you declutter based on category, rather than room or space.  So for example, starting with clothing, the idea is to get out every item of clothing you own from every closet, dresser, nook and cranny of your home and put it all in one place where you can see just have much you have.  Having tried this I’ll warn you the shock value here is not to be underestimated!  Once you have it all in one place, you then proceed to pick up each item in your hands, one by one, and decided if it sparks joy.  Items that spark joy are to be kept and those that do not are to be decluttered.   

I have read the book in it’s entirety and did enjoy it and find it useful and motivating, especially at the start of my minimalism journey.  However there are few things I couldn’t fully identify with.  For one, I don’t ever foresee myself taking every single thing out of my purse every time I come home – that’s just not practical for my lifestyle.  The other is I think there are SOME items that are unlikely to spark joy but that are inherently useful and need to be kept around.  I’m looking at you toilet plunger.

Whatever way you choose to go about it the key here is just to START. Start somewhere, anywhere. In a nod to Mel Robbins (love that lady), 5 4 3 2 1 … GO!

xoxo

Laura

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