Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff in your life? Sure, it’s lovely to fill your home and life with pretty, shiny, new things. But whether it’s responsibilities, social obligations or an overstuffed wardrobe, there’s always a point where having too much leaves you feeling drained.
If the success of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, tells us anything, it’s that minimalism is having a serious moment right now. From Scandinavian-inspired interiors and monochromatic fashion to the ‘no makeup’ makeup look, the ‘less is more’ ethos is everywhere.
However, minimalism is more than just a trend: it’s a mindset. It’s about de-cluttering your life and making room for the things that are important to you. The benefits are countless: a cleaner home, bigger bank balance, less stress and more time to do the things you love. Where do we sign up?
But there’s no need to immediately sell all your belongings and become a monk just yet. Minimalism isn’t about living with nothing, it’s about living with only what you need. It’s important to take your minimalism journey slowly, otherwise you might end up getting too excited and chucking out things you actually require.
Luckily, there are 10 simple steps you can take to get you moving in the right direction.
1. Do a digital de-clutter
Think of your electronics like your desk or workspace: you’re going to be a lot more focused and productive if they’re not cluttered with useless junk. Start by going through all your apps and programs. If you haven’t used it in the last six months consider getting rid of it. Go through your social media feeds and unfriend or unfollow anyone who doesn’t make you feel inspired or empowered. Do the same with your bookmarked pages and email newsletters (you can use a program like unroll.me to do this within minutes).
2. Travel light
How often do you pack to go on a trip and find you only wear 3 of the 15 outfits you’ve brought? Us too. Next time you’re going away somewhere, pack for only half the amount of time. It sounds difficult, but you’d be surprised by how easy it is to make do with what you’ve got. This little experiment will prove that you can live with less and pave the way for a serious spring clean once you’re home.
3. Create a clutter-free zone
Pick just one spot in your house and apartment, whether it’s your kitchen table, bedside cabinet or desk. Declare it your clutter-free zone and remove everything that you don’t absolutely need. That means throwing it out, selling it or giving it away, not just moving it to another spot! Each week, pick a new clutter-free zone and before long, your entire home will be a minimalist haven.
4. Practice ‘one in, one out’
I have a thing for magazines. I absolutely love them and some months, I can buy up to five or six. Sadly, they accumulate very quickly – as I learned when I moved house last year and had to get rid of boxes and boxes of them. That’s why I now employ the ‘one in, one out’ method. As soon as a new magazine enters my home, an older one has to go. This simple rule can be applied to just abut anything, whether it’s books, shoes or clothing.
5. Simplify your meals
With all the different food and drink trends out there (we’re looking at you, mushroom tonics), knowing what to eat is often far from simple. Did you know the average person makes around 200 food-related decisions each day? Talk about decision fatigue! We know variety is the spice of life, so we would never suggest eating the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Instead, pick two or three go-tos for each that are healthy, simple and quick to prepare. It’ll save you a lot of mental energy and leave your fridge and pantry a lot less cluttered. Check out the Instagram account @minimalmeals for inspiration.
6. Try the ‘buy nothing new challenge’
Of all the reasons we’re tempted to buy things, “because I actually really need it” is usually at the very bottom of the list. Often, it’s boredom or trying to fill some other void that urges us to pull out our credit cards. Commit to buying nothing new (apart from essentials like food, transport and toilet paper) for just one month. It’s a great way to save some cash and it forces you to get resourceful with the things you already own. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy it so much you’ll make a habit out of it.
7. Put your wardrobe on a diet
Ever heard of Project 333? It’s a fashion challenge started by minimalist blogger Courtney Carver. Every three months, you pick just 33 items from your wardrobe, including clothing, accessories, jewellery, outerwear and shoes (things like underwear, sleepwear, your wedding ring aren’t included). You can only select your outfits from the 33 items and everything else gets boxed up and put out of sight. At the end of the three months, consider giving away, throwing out or selling everything in those boxes.
8. Create a style uniform
Yes, we know you’ve heard it before. Plenty of successful people, from Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama to Vera Wang have ‘style uniforms,’ meaning they wear the same thing to work day in, day out. While we’re not suggesting you don a grey t-shirt with a black hoodie every day a la Zuckerberg, having a go-to look will save you so much time and energy. Find something that makes you feel like the best version of yourself, invest in some duplicates and cull some of your other, less inspiring outfits.
9. Evaluate your time
Spend a week recording everything you do (even things as simple as grabbing a coffee) and how they made you feel, whether it’s excited, anxious or miserable. Then, at the end of the week, look through your notes and acknowledge any patterns. If there’s something that routinely brings you down, like a long, boring commute, figure out whether there’s a way you can minimise it or cut it out completely. Then, look for the activities that brought you joy and see where you can add more of that to your day.
10. Start single-tasking
Minimalism is all about simplifying, and multi-tasking is pretty much the opposite of simple. When you’re trying to do too many things at once, your brain is overloaded with information. Plus, research shows that multi-tasking increases stress and lowers productivity. Instead, partake in the lost art of ‘single-tasking.’ Focus on completing one task at a time, doing it well, then moving on to the next. You can use the Pomodoro technique to help you out.