Whether you live in a tiny studio apartment in a hustle-and-bustle city or a fairly spacious home in the ‘burbs, clutter likely follows you. It’s innate that we want “things” to better our lives — be it furniture, clothing, food or supplies — but it’s also true that having too much stuff can be counterintuitive, leading to more stress than any peace of mind it could provide. That’s why more and more people are embracing a lifestyle known as minimalism — ridding your life of excess stuff, in a nutshell.
“Minimalism helps me make decisions from a place of actual need and not from a place of lack or competition to look or feel cool or an attachment to be or have something to soothe a ‘want’ or craving that I could fulfill in some other way,” explains Dillan DiGiovanni, integrative nutrition coach, speaker and writer. Considering adopting the minimalist lifestyle, but aren’t sure where to start? To help, we asked experts to share their best-kept secrets for how to become more of a minimalist.
Take the time to explore who you truly are and your values
Understanding yourself can help you rediscover the areas of your life where you can find meaning, explains Benjamin Ritter, M.B.A, M.P.H., Ed.D., Chicago-based social entrepreneur, coach, consultant and leadership development expert. “The next step after exploring your values is to define and align your values to your life. What does each value really mean to you, and then how can it be applied throughout your life, job, and relationships?” He recommends evaluating whether or not you are living true to who you are or if, instead, you’re spending time and money doing things that don’t serve you in the end.
Let go of everything you can
Yes, this is far easier said than done, but this is one of the very first steps to becoming a minimalist. Rhea Becker, journalist and founder of The Clutter Queen, recommends sorting through everything in your home, handling each object and making a decision about whether to keep it or toss it before organizing everything that’s left. This is a big undertaking, known as decluttering. “If you don’t first declutter — let go of all the things you don’t need or want (things that need repair, things that are out of style, things that are not ‘you’ anymore — it may be difficult for you to live minimally,” adds Becker.
Keep what keeps you comfortable
While decluttering can be comforting in and of itself, becoming a minimalist doesn’t mean ditching things that hold meaning for you and bring you comfort. “Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you have to live like a hermit but it does mean you have the minimal amount of something you need to live a comfortable life,” explains DiGiovanni. “Truly consider what you need to cook and store your food. What fills your drawers and cabinets that is really more about convenience or just accumulated clutter? Would some elbow grease get the job done differently? How about furniture?”
Make mindful purchases
Before you buy yourself something, stop and question whether or not you really need it or simply want it. “Even when I have plenty of money, I buy from a place of practicality, making purchases mindful of what I already own, what I once owned and gave away (and probably don’t need to buy again) and what I may need in the future,” says DiGiovanni. “This makes me value what I have even more than when I just consumed to fill a void.”
Ditch your grocery list
We often don’t think of food waste when it comes to leading a life of minimalism, but minimalist and mom of 6, Gina Bell, thinks we should. “Take one week and practice going to the grocery store every day and only buying what you need for that day and nothing extra and take time while preparing your meal to notice how much less cluttered your pantry and refrigerator are after this little experiment,” she says. “Have a conversation with the people in your life about food waste and the journey our food makes to find its way to our table.”
Commit to a minimalist lifestyle
“Minimalism is easier to embrace when it’s a lifestyle, something that evolves sustainably over time for the rest of your life,” explains DiGiovanni. “When minimalism is your lifestyle and not a passing fad, it becomes easier to make decisions in small increments,” he says. “Develop the mindfulness with each shopping trip or every time you open your calendar and ask yourself what’s the minimal amount you need or want to thrive? Use each day as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, your needs, your habits and shift where it feels best.”