When you think of a minimalist, what do you see?
I picture a single guy in his 30s. He’s got a beard, a man bun, and a bag of granola in his back pocket.
He probably made that granola himself, and he probably foraged the ingredients by “living off the land.” He doesn’t have a job, a house, or a family. He lives in a school bus he converted into some sort of weird RV – kinda like Frankenstein but without the monster.
Based on this image, I do not want to be a minimalist. (I have nothing against man buns or granola. I just hate school buses.)
But what if minimalism is a bit different than what I’m imagining?
Definition of minimalism
There are many different definitions of minimalism, but I have my own.
Minimalism, to me, is getting rid of nonessentials so you can focus on essentials. And it doesn’t just apply to stuff; it applies to absolutely everything: thoughts, relationships, finances, activities – and, yes, stuff.
The benefits of A MINIMALIST LIFESTYLE
But why would anyone want to be a minimalist? Isn’t the point of life to acquire more stuff? Aren’t we meant to travel, make friends, learn, and work? After all, you want to get as much as you can from life, right?
I personally don’t think so. In fact, I’d argue that the typical American lifestyle makes us unhappy.
Sure, you can work hard your entire life and make a ton of money. But will your kids appreciate that money? Wouldn’t they rather have you around more often?
You can own a closet full of clothes, but wouldn’t you rather have 10 outfits you really love?
Do you like living in a 2700 square foot home? (That’s the average in America, btw.) What if you had a 1,200 square foot home, but it took you less than half the time to clean, organize, and maintain?
What about that friend that always seems to take but never give? Are you really happy with that relationship, or would it be better to just let it go? What if you gave up five unfulfilling relationships and focused on finding one true friend instead?
I don’t think we were ever meant to live the way we do now. Sure, I love my Target runs just as much as the next person, but do I really need $30 worth of random crap from the Dollar Spot every time I go? Probably not.
I’d rather be less stressed with fewer responsibilities, thankyouverymuch. And that’s why I’m pushing towards minimalism.
The Basics of the Minimalist Lifestyle
So, what does a minimalist lifestyle look like, exactly? Is it monochromatic with no decorations and a mattress on the floor? I sure hope not.
1. Minimize possessions.
You will need to minimize your possessions when you embrace a minimalist lifestyle. To be honest, I haven’t completed this step yet, though I’m working on it.
Have you heard of the KonMari method? That’s minimalism. It’s not hugely minimalist, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
With this method, you get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” I honestly thought that phrase was ridiculous until I started decluttering my own home. Turns out, my life is a lot better when I’m surrounded by things that make me happy.
Now, you can take this a step further if you want. So far I’m just cleaning all the nonessentials from my 1,200 square foot home, but I gotta tell you, it feels good.
2. Minimize expenses
Next, you’ll need to cut your expenses. That means getting rid of all the nonessential things you pay for each month.
Here are some ideas:
- Get rid of subscriptions (Do you really need Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video? Probably not.)
- Use the food you have in your pantry instead of buying more groceries.
- Sell your car and buy a much cheaper one so you don’t have a monthly payment.
- Sell your boat, RV, or camper because the maintenance is brutal.
- Tame your shopping habit. Only buy things you really love. (Did you know you can stick a whole bunch of stuff in your shopping cart and then close the browser without completing the purchase? It will change your life.)
3. Be Intentional with your time
Time is the one resource that’s not renewable, but almost no one treats it that way.
In fact, most people seem to value money over time, which makes no sense at all. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.
That’s why I’m being much more intentional with my own time.
There’s a drawback to this: People don’t like it.
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked for small favors, saying, “But it’s just 5 minutes.” (Side note: It’s never just five minutes.)
Or they give me that look – you know the one. It’s the look of disappointment and disgust mixed together.
And don’t get me wrong; I love to help people. In fact, I’ll do pretty much anything for you if I think it’s important and worthwhile. But I’m not going to waste my time on things that seem impractical, unfulfilling, or against my moral values.
How to Be Intentional With Your Time
What does that look like in everyday life? Well, I’ll tell you.
- I put my phone on silent from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. Why? Because that’s my “me” time. I relax before bed, sleep, and complete my morning routine before I allow any interruptions. Granted, my close friends and family know how to reach me if there’s an emergency, but case workers don’t like it much.
- I refuse to make plans on Sunday. I’ll make the occasional exception for fun things with friends and family, but my goal is to relax on Sunday afternoons. If I feel like something interferes with that goal, I’ll simply say “no.” If I don’t stick to my guns, my whole week feels out of sync.
- I prioritize things that matter to me – without guilt. If a friend calls to grab coffee at 8 p.m., I’ll probably say yes. If my parents plan a family vacation with only two weeks notice, I’ll drop everything to go. Why? Because I value my friends and family. They’re priorities to me. Unless something more important stops me, I’ll always make efforts to spend time with the people I love.
4. Maximize gratitude
Do you want to know a secret about depression and anxiety? (I’m going to tell you either way.)
Here it is: It’s hard to be depressed or anxious when you’re grateful.
Now, please don’t think I’m downplaying depression or anxiety. I’ve had both, and I know that it’s next to impossible to be thankful when you’re struggling to get out of bed.
But, I do believe you can change your mindset just a little bit at a time.
In fact, there’s a technique called “grounding” that helps. Whenever you start experiencing the racing thoughts that precede a panic attack, you try to ground yourself in the moment.
There are different ways to do it, but the general idea is to focus on the five senses: what you hear, what you smell, what you feel, what you taste, and what you see. That helps calm your thoughts.
Now, maybe I’m strange, but when I try the grounding technique, I notice that it feels a lot like gratitude. I’m not just noticing these things; I’m actually welcoming them into my consciousness. I’m happy they’re there.
With a minimalist mindset, you apply that thinking to every aspect of your life.
As I start to embrace minimalism, I’m getting rid of that “hipster in the woods” mindset I had earlier. (Though my husband would totally love to be that guy. Too bad he has a wife and kids.)
I put a lot more thought into everything I do, from the things I buy to the way I spend my time.
It’s still a work in progress, but it’s probably the best change I’ve made for my own mental health so far. (Well, that and my prescription. I love you, anxiety medicine!)
Anyway, I highly suggest you try it, too. Worst case scenario, you throw out a bunch of stuff you don’t really like and spend less time with annoying people. I call that a win-win situation.