What Is Minimalism

Minimalism made simple: a step-by-step guide

Although growing in popularity, Minimalism can be a difficult concept to get your head around and there are lots of misconceptions about what Minimalism is and what it isn’t. To help break it down for you, check out this post on Minimalism Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide to Minimalism and the benefits of a Minimalist lifestyle. I’ve included practical tips and lots of information about how you can live a simple, intentional life that really supports you by getting rid of the clutter in your home, heart and mind to make space for the things that are truly important to you.

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF MINIMALISM?

Minimalism and Minimalist living means different things to different people. There are no rules to follow or criteria to meet in order to describe yourself as Minimalist. There are differing degrees of Minimalism and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of Minimalism that you have to abide by to be a Minimalist.

There is one definition of Minimalism that has resonated with me since the start of my own Minimalist journey and I still haven’t found a better definition that sums up the full meaning of what it is to be Minimalist.

Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist defines Minimalism as this…

‘Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts from it’.

My own definition of Minimalism is even more simple. I describe Minimalism as

‘A life with less of the unimportant and more of the important.’

Minimalism is, of course, about living with less clutter and owning less stuff but there is so much more to it than that.

Minimalism is a paradigm for how you live your life. Making conscious, deliberate decisions to focus intentionally on what’s important and keep out the noise and distraction of the things that aren’t so important in the long run.

This may seem airy fairy and a complicated description of what it means to just live a simpler life but it’s not. Defining Minimalism is helpful because it gives you structure. Keep it in mind each time you make a decision during the day.

Keep focused on your priorities, don’t get swayed by stuff that isn’t important or get side-tracked by things that threaten to take over your time, space and energy. These precious resources are for much more exciting and rewarding things in life!

WHAT IS MINIMALIST LIVING?

Now we’ve looked at the definition of Minimalism, let’s explore exactly what Minimalism and a Minimalist lifestyle is all about and why it’s so popular.

After all, if so many people are searching for ideas about how to declutter their homes and simplify their lives, Minimalism must have some pretty good benefits!

We’ll look at the benefits later, but first let’s look at Minimalist living in everyday life.

Keep in mind the definition of Minimalism that we mentioned before, that Minimalism is about being intentional with what you let into your life and what you keep out. If this is still too broad or too vague, let me give you some practical examples to help explain a minimalist lifestyle.

PRACTICAL EXAMPLES OF MINIMALIST LIVING

Many people start out on their Minimalist journey by decluttering their homes. Getting rid of your unwanted stuff means that you have more physical space, less to tidy and clean and your home is less visually distracting because there’s less stuff vying for your attention.

After decluttering their homes and experiencing the benefits that come from it, many people go on to declutter other aspects of their life. For example…

  • Look at your diary and get rid of any appointments and commitments that you don’t want to do. Create free time or more time for what you want to do instead.
  • Assess your finances and decide whether you’re spending money on things that are important to you, or are you wasting it on purchases that make you feel good in the short term but bring you into debt in the long term?
  • Where are your priorities? Is it to buy a bigger house, better car or a designer wardrobe? Or is it to have fun with your kids, challenge yourself with a new job or train to rock-climb and travel the world with your exciting new hobby?

Minimalism can be applied to all areas of your life – your selfcare, finances, goals, career, calendar, time management, work, relationships and so on.

It’s a mechanism by which you can focus on the important steps to improve and make the most of all these areas without getting distracted by things that pull us off track.

  • How many times do you go shopping and find yourself tempted to spend more because you’ve seen a special offer?
  • How many times have you said yes to doing something but know in your heart, you don’t want to do it and would prefer to be doing something else instead?

Minimalism means every thought, decision and action comes with intention behind it. Is whatever it is REALLY important to me?

Minimalism Made Simple
MYTHS ABOUT MINIMALISM

Before we look at the benefits of Minimalism and just why so many people are deciding to own less, I’d like to just quickly cover some of the biggest myths and misconceptions about Minimalism. Unfortunately, these are the things that commonly put people off before they’ve ever really got started.

#1 Minimalism means going without

On the surface, Minimalism means getting rid of your stuff, but Minimalism actually only means getting rid of the things which you don’t need, don’t love or aren’t important to you in order to create space for things that are most important. If you’re getting rid of the right things and are making a conscious effort to change your thoughts and relationship with your stuff, you’ll never feel like you’re going without.

#2 Minimalism is only for certain people

As I mentioned before, Minimalism (like people) comes in many shapes and sizes! You just need to find a form of Minimalism that works for you and incorporate it into your existing lifestyle. If you have a young family, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to streamline your belongings into one solitary back-pack. Remember that Minimalism is about focusing on what’s important to YOU. So, for example, if you have a family, it’s likely that toys are important. Minimalism is for everyone, you just need to find a style of Minimalism that works for you.

#3 Minimalism means I’m going to have to follow rules

Who said there has to be rules? And if there are any, then you can make up your own rules for your family and on your terms! One person’s Minimalist lifestyle is different to the next. Just remember the definition of Minimalism that asks you to intentionally focus on what’s important and let go of the rest. This is the only rule (if you can call it a rule) that you need to remember.

#4 Minimalism means I have to throw away all my stuff

Decluttering their homes is often the first place people begin when they start exploring Minimalism but that’s because it’s the most obvious place to begin and it also has the biggest and quickest impact on most people’s lives.

But it doesn’t mean that you have to throw away everything, just the things that aren’t important to you! As you become more familiar with Minimalism and how it can impact on other parts of your life, you’ll find that there’s so much more to Minimalism than getting hung up over the clutter in your home and what you own.

BENEFITS OF MINIMALISM

Now we’ve looked at what Minimalism is and also what Minimalism isn’t, let’s have a look at some of the benefits of living a life with less.

As a mother I firstly turned to Minimalism because I wanted to reduce the amount of stuff and clutter in my home. I didn’t want to constantly be playing catch up, overwhelmed by the mess and forever moving, tidying and cleaning it. I wanted to enjoy my kids rather than being frazzled by them!

However, my path to Minimalism turned out to have so many more benefits than what started out as a simple declutter:

  • Less time spent doing housework or looking after my home because there was less stuff generally
  • More time to spend on looking after myself, my family and those closest to me
  • More money and a better financial situation because we spent less and were intentional about what we did buy
  • More appreciation and gratitude for the things that money can’t buy but also what we had already
  • More purpose and intention because we focused on what was important to us and cut out the rest
  • I set a better example for my children because I was happier, less overwhelmed and, as I had taken action to make our life better, I felt I could be a more positive role model
  • Less stress and feelings of overwhelm because I had more mental space and clarity
  • More memories and experiences because we were able to do so much more together
  • More freedom to play with my kids or go out for the day on a whim because I wasn’t tied to looking after the home or doing things I didn’t want to do
  • More room to explore new opportunities in life and create a life on my terms

In a nutshell, Minimalism led to a life with less clutter and much more free time, fun and focus on the things that are most important to me.

Minimalism means a fuller life for me, just with less stuff. I have more of the things that I value and less of the things that I don’t.

Putting it simply – less stuff, more life.

For more information read my post on the unexpected and life-changing benefits of Minimalism.

Minimalist Living
HOW TO BECOME MINIMALIST

The key to becoming Minimalist is to find a way of incorporating Minimalism INTO your life. To find a way of weaving it into your existing lifestyle rather than making massive, profound changes that neither you nor your family can adapt to and sustain.

Most people get into Minimalism by clearing up and getting rid of their unwanted stuff. To use the popular term at the moment, it’s called decluttering!

Then they start to think about the difference minimalising their stuff has made and go on to simplify other areas of their lives by applying the same principles. For example, to their calendar, their finances, what they choose to eat, what they choose to wear and so on.

They get rid of the things they no longer want, need or love (to do, spend money on, eat, wear etc) and instead focus on what they DO want.

The important thing to remember is that decluttering is only PART of the process to becoming Minimalist. It’s just a tool to help you get rid of your stuff.

The real value in becoming Minimalist lies in what happens afterwards. What does decluttering your home and your life REALLY give you?

For me, it’s more time, space and freedom to do the things that I and my family WANT to do, by making it quicker and easier to do the things I NEED to do. Life is happier, freer and far less stressful.

For a practical step-by-step guide to becoming Minimalist, check out this post on 7 easy ways to start becoming Minimalist.

MINIMALISM AND DECLUTTERING

Decluttering is a vital first step to becoming Minimalist and the easiest way of seeing the greatest impact in a short space of time. But as we’ve looked at, there’s so much more to Minimalism than decluttering your home.

Decluttering is just one tool or action to help you live a Minimalist lifestyle.

Think of it this way…

It’s possible to declutter without being a Minimalist but it’s not possible to be a Minimalist without decluttering.

Read more about the relationship between Minimalism and decluttering.

THE MINIMALIST MINDSET

To understand and experience the benefits of Minimalism and make it sustainable over the longer term, you need to change the way you think about the stuff in your life. Not just physical stuff but diary appointments, difficult relationships, negative thought patterns, unhealthy habits and anything else that fills your physical, emotional and psychological space.

Minimalism isn’t about throwing everything out or stopping you taking in anything new. Minimalism IS about thinking differently and more intentionally over the longer term about what you have and what you need to make you happy.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE THE ONLY MINIMALIST IN THE HOUSE

It doesn’t matter if you’re a total convert to the benefits of Minimalism or whether you’re new to the whole thing and just finding your feet. Living in the same home as others who aren’t quite as keen on the lifestyle or haven’t yet discovered what a difference it can make, can be frustrating and de-motivating.

There are plenty of ways around this though and it’s a very common problem that many people experience in the beginning!

Here are a couple of tips to try if the rest of your family isn’t on board:

#1 Map out areas – Work out which areas of the home are more under your control and agree which areas are more in your partner’s. Where do you each spend the most time, for example, are you mostly in the living room and your partner’s in the garage? Or maybe he’s in the kitchen and you’re in the garage! Declutter and minimalise the areas that are yours but leave your partner’s stuff alone until s/he’s ready to either do it themselves or ask you to help.

#2 Implement the one in/one out rule – Make this a habit for all of you. If you buy something new then swap it out for something old. If you like clothes shopping but still like the idea of a minimalist wardrobe then buy a new bag by all means, but maybe give one of your existing bags away to charity? That way you still get to go shopping and enjoy a new bag but your wardrobe doesn’t get bigger in the process.

It may take time to find what works for you and your family.

Go slow with them if you meet resistance, be persistent and use every opportunity you can to help them understand and feel the benefits of a more Minimalist life.

Check out this post for some more helpful, practical tips on what to do if you’re the only Minimalist in the house. It’s a very popular post so I know that it’s a common problem!

Minimalism and motherhood
MINIMALISM FOR YOUR FAMILY

You may be starting to understand more about the concept of Minimalism and some of the benefits but what about Minimalism as a lifestyle for your family?

The obvious benefit is, of course, when you declutter your home and create a Minimalist home with less stuff and more space. It’s easier to keep clean and tidy which means more time and energy for you to do other things.

But Minimalism for your family goes beyond just decluttering your stuff. It applies to lots of other areas of your life as well.

Here’s a practical, tangible and real-life example and benefit of Minimalism for your family with regards to your time – our most limited resource!

I used to fill my time with loads of activities for myself and my kids. I used to say yes to everything, worried that if I said no to an invitation to going out, that nobody would ask me again! I didn’t want my kids to lose out on opportunities either, so I was also saying yes to every after-school activity.

In the end I was a 24/7 taxi service, constantly busy and on-the-go, but with no free time to do the things that I actually wanted to do!

What I actually wanted was to take an online course from home, read some of the books I’d been dying to read and watch my kids muck about outside coming up with their own imaginative games of make-believe instead of having things laid on for them all the time.

Unstructured free time was what I was craving but I’d lost all of it by filling my diary with other stuff.

So, I started to say no to a lot of things, choosing only to let myself or my kids do things that we really, really wanted to do and would add value to our life.

Click this link to read my post on how to simplify your calendar and be more intentional with your time.

I created loads more free time by being minimalist about my calendar!

And there you have it. That’s the basis of how Minimalism can work for you and your family.

Only let into your life (whether it’s stuff, diary appointments or anything else) what you and your family really want, love and need – the things that are most important to you. Just let the other things go.

Remember that quote by Joshua Becker?

‘Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.’

Well, hopefully it’s beginning to make sense to you now!

IS MINIMALISM EASY?

I’d be lying if I said that Minimalist living was easy. It comes more naturally to some people than others. For example, I’m ultra-organised and prefer simple over plain any day so decluttering my home and my life of unnecessary clutter was easy once I’d worked out my strategy. But many people find it difficult in the beginning.

Some of us place more attachment to possessions than others for a variety of reasons:

  • Emotional attachment for sentimental reasons
  • Underlying vulnerability where we feel our stuff keeps us ‘safe’ from the outside world, or
  • Associating material possessions as a measure of success and status

None of this is uncommon and, in fact, my post on decluttering tips for hoarders is really popular so many people must struggle!

Apart from the logistical side of decluttering your home, Minimalism as a lifestyle requires you to be intentional, deliberate and purposeful. We’re not always used to being like that as often we just wing it through life, hoping for the best and seeing what comes up!

Minimalism becomes second nature over time but may need practice and perseverance to begin with but the benefits are well worth it.

Life is also for living so sometimes you need to be intentional about throwing caution to the wind and just doing something or buying something because you want to. But that’s ok and still in the ethos of Minimalism. Remember that you don’t have to say no to everything, just the things that aren’t important to you! If you want something really badly, buy it. Just be mindful about what you’re buying and why!

MINIMALISM AND SIMPLE LIVING

Minimalism is the defining principle of my life because I believe that we’re here to make our lives count – for us and the people we care about. Minimalism helps me do that.

I let in what’s important and keep out what’s not and that’s how I can fit in everything that I NEED to do and still have time, energy, freedom and money to do what I WANT to do.

My Minimalist life means that I live quite simply. I don’t like fluff or empty padding. I like to take action, solve problems, chase dreams and make things happen. I don’t like things that detract from this.

But life isn’t often so clear cut! To help me live a life more on my terms, I’ve learnt that simpler is often easier (although not always easy) so my Minimalist lifestyle is also a simple lifestyle.

Simple living for me is the key to getting everything done and still having time for me and my family.

Read more about ways to simplify your life.

CONCLUSION

Minimalism isn’t about making you live with nothing. Instead it’s about enabling you to focus on the things that are most important to you and not getting side-tracked with anything that’s not important.

By filling your home, mind, heart and life with stuff that’s not important and shouldn’t be there, you’re blocking out the space for anything that should.

Minimalism has huge benefits and I hope this post has explained Minimalism in simple terms. It really is a lifestyle that can benefit everyone. It’s just a question of finding a way to incorporate it into your life and changing the way you think about the stuff in your life. Not just physical stuff but all the different elements that make up a rich and fulfilling life.

Minimalism, decluttering, simple living, and being intentional are all tools and lifestyle approaches than can help you create a life that supports you.

There are the practical tips and methods of decluttering and simplifying your life, but these are just a springboard to help you create a better life.

Minimalism helps you create a life full of the things that mean the most to you.