How To Become A Minimalist?

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Are you thinking about becoming a minimalist but aren’t certain where to start?
Just remember that the opposite of minimalism is materialism. Your ultimate goal may be to simplify your space and your life!

Considering Becoming a Minimalist?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, minimalism is defined as: A lifestyle and design philosophy characterized by simplicity, functionality, and a deliberate reduction of unnecessary elements. It advocates for focusing on essential elements while eliminating excess, whether in physical possessions, design aesthetics, or lifestyle choices.

Did you notice the word deliberate? It is, in fact, an intentional process.

Let’s start with a backward design, or better known as an end game. How would you like your space to appear? Once you’re aware that decluttering a room will also unclutter your mind and allow you to have more clear, positive thoughts, and greater creativity, you will be motivated to begin the reinvention of your space. The mess is no longer looming over you; you control it, it no longer controls you. Releasing your unneeded stuff and recreating the space can feel both healthy and liberating.

If you are not yet convinced you own too much, let’s use moving as an example. Whether you moved across town or across the country, you probably took notice of just how much you have accumulated. Did you question the largesse of your empire? Did you feel like lighting a match and watching it all go floof? Alas, we are slaves to our belongings. But… did we get to this point?

It’s not your fault, BTW. Anyone born after World War II was swept up in the pursuit of accumulation. Having more stuff makes us feel more secure.

When we’re in our 20s and 30s, we really do need to fill our space with items that create comfort and productivity: Home furnishings, technology, cookware, bedding, etc. The list is exponential if we have children. Whether we are filling the nest or trying to keep up with the proverbial Jones’, sooner or later we run out of space. If we aren’t ready to upgrade to a larger home, we fill our garages, attics, and basements with our excess acquisitions. If our cars are parked in the driveway or on the street, it’s an outward indication we can’t afford to move up in lifestyle. While you may not care what people think, your spouse or teenage kids might. So embarrassing, Dad!

Whether we agree or not, we are judged by the following: the market value of our home, vehicles, and other trappings of upwardly-mobile social status, our clothes, accessories, and having the latest iPhone. Trying not be outdone, we are competitive. Maybe the quantity and quality of our possessions is our scorecard. It’s a form of insecurity. Most of us are unaware of it because it lives in a dusty, cerebral file cabinet we rarely access, but insecurity is one of the root causes of our excess.

If our parents were immigrants, for example, we felt even more scrutinized, and made to feel somehow inadequate. The pressure to advance socio-economically is ever-present. After all, there is little hope for upward mobility in some of the countries our parents or grandparents came from. Our job is to get there fast, and we need to show everyone we are just as capable, by displaying outward signs of an emerging middle-class lifestyle.

Or, if you come from wealth or an upper-middle class strata, it is even more effort to uphold the standard, for it wouldn’t do to downgrade. There is more pressure to display or at least conserve the status quo. Also, many possessions are valuable, and would require a sale rather than an endowment. So, donating just means that the gown from last year’s charitable fundraiser would be anticlimactic to ever wear again, and must be nobly donated or auctioned for charity.

But like many of us, regardless of our social position, we are trapped in our excess, which has created opportunities for truck rental companies like U-Haul and Penske, which conveniently have storage spaces adjacent to their truck rental lots.

Storage facilities are popping up all over the country to accommodate our surplus belongings. Retirees who are downsizing and those who lack the courage to dispose of their grown children’s memorabilia are among the types of customers retained.

Another example: Let’s say your spouse is being deployed (again) and you have to move in a hurry. Some of the unwanted items are quickly given to neighbors, friends, or thrift stores, but sadly, the bulk of it winds up in the landfill.

The good news is that there is help for it. All kinds of help.

  • For inspiration, I suggest watching an episode or two of Netflix’s Tidying up with Marie Kondo. It is both entertaining and actionable. Some of it may be downright shocking.
  • You can also read The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning that highlights the joy of giving away your cherished belongings meaningfully to family, acquaintances, or even a complete stranger. It’s gratifying and gives a sense of freedom and relief. When your spaces are less cluttered, so are your mind and your mood. Don’t worry about the book title; You needn’t be an empty-nester or retiree to do the big purge.

Ready for the first challenge?

Here’s what you can do today to get started:
Take the post-it note challenge.

Pick a room and gather 5 boxes or trash bags. Label them with a Sharpie or Expo marker as follows:

  • Keep
  • sell
  • Donate (religious or charitable organization, family, friends, coworkers, or acquaintances)
  • Recycle
  • Trash
  1. Now, take a look around the room at all items you have not used in the past year – slap a post-it note on each item. After some reflection, you can relegate it to a specific box disposition.
  2. Then ask yourself: Do I really need this? Do I use it? Could I sell it or give it away? Who do I know of that would benefit from this item?
  3. Next, load the Donate and Recycle boxes/bags into your car. You can either take them to the Donation Center and Recycle Center right away if you live in a metropolitan area, or if you live in a rural area, you can take them next time you go into town, and at least they are already in your vehicle ready to be unloaded. That’s measurable progress.
  4. Repeat. Next weekend, choose a different room to reorganize. Good luck!

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