A Beginner's Guide to Minimalism: Live More While Owning Less

Laura Ahring

Today, the word “minimalism”  has become such a trend, that you’ve probably already read about it in the newspaper, seen the word pop up on your Netflix frontpage and maybe you already know a so-called "minimalist". If the line “an item should spark joy” sounds familiar to you and you’ve binged the petite Marie Kondo help people tidy up their endless piles of clothes and trinkets, you are probably already pretty familiar with the concept of downsizing and minimalism. If you haven't, here is artil’s beginner’s guide embarking on the concept of minimalism. The first thing we will need to ask is how do we "become" minimalists, is it an all or nothing approach, and where do we even begin this journey?

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok from Pexels

“Minimalism” is nowadays a buzzword that can sneak its way into almost any aspect of our lives - our clothing, our interior design, our art. We hear stories about how it has brought numerous people a significant amount of peace and tranquillity in their lives. However, minimalism has almost become an all or nothing approach: that to become a minimalist a person must get rid of all their worldly possessions and live in a cloud of nothingness. However, minimalism does not have to be a radical life choice where you only live with less: being a minimalist can also be about living life with more. More purpose. More time to yourself and your loved ones. More joy. This may seem abstract and a bit contradicting for now, but let’s take a closer look at minimalism and what it can do for you both mentally and physically.

One step at a time 

So how do we start this journey of “becoming a minimalist”? There are a few simple steps to follow that can help you decide whether or not minimalism is something for you to try out:

  1. Awareness. Take a look at your surroundings and try to feel your space. Do you feel peaceful and relaxed? Or feel a bit overwhelmed? Trying to take a closer look at your surroundings is a good place to start. Then we can begin to figure out why we own the stuff that we do and why we placed it in our lives in the first place. 
  2. Purpose. Try to think practically. Do all your things serve a purpose? Furthermore, do you use these things daily or weekly? Or is it something that you use once every six months? Maybe even annually? If you use it, that’s great! However, perhaps these things are taking up space that you could use for numerous other things: meditating, playing the guitar, dancing around in your underwear. If you are left with this feeling of needing space, it may be time to reconsider how these things snuck their way into your life and why.
  3. Sentiment. We all have belongings that serve us a great amount of meaning without it being a useful or practical item - it is just a memory that is ours and brings us joy when seen. Something that we got from a special person at a special time in our lives when we needed this specific item to remind us that we are unique and worthy. Try to take a moment and think about an object that awakes this special feeling in you and that you can’t be without. Now try to locate the things that fit into this category of unique and meaningful things - and take a look at anything else that doesn’t. Following the minimalist road is about differentiating the truly sentimental items from all the other things that we may only hold on to out of fear of losing memories attached to them. Having sentiment for your items is good - but if you have a cluttered room full of “sentimental” objects it may be time to take another look at this. 
Photo by Kübra from Pexels

Let's declutter (which is not the same thing as organising)

Organising is great! It allows us to arrange our stuff, and nothing is as beautiful as an organised kitchen drawer and a clean desk to work at (am I right?). However, we need to allow ourselves to let go sometimes. As humans, we collect things throughout our lives and letting go means other things can enter your life - space to be creative, spend time with loved ones, and more room for self-improvement. Here are a few simple rules of decluttering that you should try. 

  1. The three month rule. Pack up a t-shirt, put it away for three months, and check in after the three months are up. While it was packed away did you notice its absence? If no, then it might be time to let go. Try to do this with other things. A quick rule of thumb: if you don't like it, miss it, or feel great and beautiful in it, then let it go and donate it to someone who will get a lot of use out of it.
  2. The “spark joy” rule. Kondo makes an excellent point here: if you pick up an item, for example, a pair of boots, and you find that you only hold on to them out of practicality and that you don’t feel anything about them, neither good nor bad, then let them go. If you want to go all out then take a moment to thank the item for your time together and send it on to someone who will love it.
  3. The sentimental items rule. Now, this is going to be a hard one, and you may need a helping hand from a sibling or friend. Start by making a pile containing all of your important items that you can’t be without. Now make a second pile of things and follow the three month rule: pack the things away and take a look at them later. The last pile you’ll make contains all the things you hold on to for the memories, but you know that it is time to say goodbye. If this is very difficult, then take a picture of it before you say your goodbye - that way you can always revisit it if you find yourself missing it. 

The most important thing: don't ever try to be like other minimalists or feel ashamed to own too few or too many things. Minimalism is not a destination or a label to put on ourselves. It should not be just another way that we can compare ourselves to others, and it should moreover be a way for you to think more clearly and feel less stressed. It takes time to let go - but that is okay. Take the time you need, be patient, and live intentionally. (Ohh and most importantly: when decluttering, make sure to recycle your things and donate them to a friend or thrift store - your past can always become someone else’s future.)

Need more inspiration? Here a few great podcast/ YouTube channels and films I genuinely recommend and that have helped me. Check it out if you find yourself tempted, like me, by this phenomenon called “minimalism”.

Podcast: The minimalist

Youtube: Madeleine Olivia, Jenny Mustard, Matt D'avella

Netflix: “Minimalism - a documentary about the importance of less” 

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