Happy Herbivore Blog

June 18, 2012

Minimalist Monday: How to Become a Minimalist

I've been getting a few emails asking how one becomes a minimalist and if there are any books to read. I'm sure books on minimalism exist, but I haven't read any. And although I've titled this post “How to Become a Minimalist” know this: There is no special formula or guideline or process you have to take to become a minimalist. 
You only have to decide to become a minimalist – opt for a life where “less is more” then start minimizing things in your life as you see fit.
Step 1: Reject Consumerism. Accept Minimalism. We live in a society based around consumerism, keyword: consume. Consumerism leads us to believe that more is better and that whatever we have isn't enough. This is a prescription for disappointment. This kind of thinking leads to unhappiness – and you have to reject it to begin a minimalist journey. You have to stop thinking, against every message around you saying otherwise, that big is not better. You have to realize the keyword in possessions is possessand that possessions possess you. You have to think “downsize” not “supersize” when thinking about your material life (but by downsizing your material life, you'll get to supersize your spiritual and personal lives). You have to reject consumerism and accept minimalism – vote for simplicity. (Read this post: Get What You Want (Anti-Consumerism) 
Step 2: Remove Clutter. I started with my kitchen then moved on to every room in the house. The goal (initially) is “out of sight, out of mind.” Don't worry about whether you're keeping something or not, just put it away. Away Away AWAY. If your closets and drawers are filled to capacity, put the clutter in boxes and bags. The goal is to be free of clutter and have everything tucked away in a place, rather than scattered everywhere. Start with your desk. Do it. Right now. This post will be waiting for you when you finish. (No desk? Remove the clutter from your car). Step 2b – Keep the clutter from coming back. Make a date to survey your surroundings each week (schedule it on your calendar, do it now) and tuck things away that have been left out. As the weeks progress, try to remove even more – work towards less and less clutter.
Step 3: Remove Nonessentials. Remove nonessential physical belongings one small project at a time. For example: Go through your closet and remove all clothes that you haven't worn in the last 6 months (A great way to monitor this going forward is to face all your hangers in the opposite direction, flipping the direction when you wear it, so every 6 months you can easily identify what clothes were not worn). List personal belongings that are nonessential on craiglist or ebay. Most of what we own is nonessential. If it's nonessential but you use it often (at least three times a month) keep it for now. If it's collecting dust (be honest!) get rid of it. You can take it one item at a time. Start with putting one item up for sale each week. If you can't sell it, donate it or recycle it. Remember: You do not need two irons, even if they both still work. 
Step 4: Simplify More. Take your projects in Step 3 a little further. For example, I've consolidated my clothes and shoes down to a small box of shoes and about 20 tops, 10 pants/skirts & a few dresses, but since I stuck to a color palate, I can easily create 40+ outfits or more from those pieces. Likewise, if you've gotten rid of all you nonessential personal items, start consolidating your furniture. Each piece should have a purpose and be used. If you have a chair that no one sits in, sell it. Donate it. Most people only use about 20% of what they own. The goal is to get down to that 20% so you use 100% of everything you own and you own less. Remember: less is more. As you continue with your minimalist journey you'll find you need even less than you thought you did and you'll continue to simplify more. (Read: Cooking Necessities) 
Now get to it you minimalist!
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