Marie Kondo didn’t invent minimalism, but her best-selling books and Netflix series have definitely put her face and unmistakable stamp on the concept. Who couldn’t be behind a lifestyle in which everything you own is meant to spark joy, Kondo’s signature phrase. Honestly, though, there’s so much more to minimalism than just getting rid of your old junk, and the benefits are much broader than a tidier house. Simplifying your life—starting with your daily routine—can help you clarify your goals, reduce stress and anxiety and save both money and time. These daily habits can help you get started on the journey to a simpler, more fulfilling life—and stay on the path once you get there.
What Is Minimalism?
Minimalism conjures visions of spare, bare apartments and clean, uncluttered lines and spaces, but it goes deeper than that, and you don’t have to adopt minimalist home decor to live a minimalist life. One of the best definitions of minimalism is this one from Becoming Minimalist:
minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it
When you start thinking of minimalism as a way to focus on what matters to you rather than on the idea of giving up your stuff, it all makes so much more sense. By winnowing away the things that make it harder to pursue your dreams and goals, it becomes easier to live your best life, be your most authentic self and treat the things and people who really matter to you with the value and attention they deserve.
Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s look at some tips for going—and staying—minimalist in meaningful, positive ways.
Okay, you may feel silly picking up each item of your wardrobe and asking yourself if it sparks joy, but forget joy for a minute. There are lots of ways to decide which clothes to keep and which to donate. My personal favorite is this golden oldie: if I haven’t worn it in more than a year, it probably goes in the donate pile.
What works for you may be different. Pick out the clothes that make you feel spectacular, those that are most comfortable and that make you feel cozy and warm and at home. Ditch the clothes that you wear only when you’ve run out of clean laundry. However you get there, simplifying your wardrobe pays off in a bunch of benefits:
• You have less laundry to wash, fold and sort. That saves you time and money.
• You free up storage space for other things, or get rid of clutter.
• You save time (and anxiety!) picking out your clothes for the day.
• You’ll always be wearing clothes that make you feel fantastic.
Once you’ve minimalized your wardrobe, these habits can help you keep the clutter from creeping back.
• One in, one out. When you buy a new wardrobe item, put one item in your donate basket.
• Avoid impulse buying. True confession time: I’m an online impulse shopper. I used to see something that struck my fancy and hit the Buy It Now button. Now, I add it to my shopping cart—but it stays there for at least 24 hours before I click “Buy.” If I don’t still love it enough to spend that money, it drops to my “save for later” or “favorite” list. Every few weeks, I go through the list and delete about 90 percent of those items that would have ended up on my doorstep a few months ago—and get a nice glow when I realize all the money I saved by not buying.
• Lay out your clothes the night before to reduce decision stress in the morning.
• If you have a washer, drop your clothes directly into the tub when you take them off, and run a load when it’s full.
Throw out your pots and pans? No, not exactly. As Taste magazine explains, minimalist cuisine isn’t just about simplicity: “the simplicity of the finished dish belies the thought and effort that went into it.” Like everything else, turning to minimalism in the kitchen means making conscious choices about your values, your tastes and your time. And like everything else, it means different things to different people. The basic trick to is to consider everything that goes into feeding your family or yourself, then decide which aspects are important to you.
It may mean that you sign up for a meal delivery service to reduce time spent shopping and choosing ingredients, or that you stock your freezer with prepared meals that you can heat up while you do something you really enjoy. On the other hand, it may mean joining a CSA, or community-supported agriculture organization, because you support local food and it’s important to you to reduce your impact on the environment. You may want to plant a small garden to harvest your own greens and fresh vegetables. The point is that you should be as conscious and intentional in your eating as you are in every other part of your life.
Plan your meals ahead so that you can have all the ingredients you need on hand. It’s easy to adapt space in your Passion Planner for menu planning and shopping lists. You can even use the free, printable Calorie Tracker to add to the back of your planner, which is useful for a lot more than counting calories.
Minimalist Social Life
Don’t panic! You don’t have to give up your social life in pursuit of living a minimalist life. Instead, minimalism encourages people to focus on the social interactions that are the most important to them. In the rush and tumble of everyday life, it’s far too easy to focus on superficial connections and overcommit to events you don’t enjoy, and it’s even easier for the interactions you truly enjoy to get lost in the shuffle. If this sounds like your life, these tips can help.
• Remember that your time has value, and spend it in the ways that meet your needs and priorities.
• Make a list of your priority relationships and activities. When you plan out your week or month ahead, schedule those first. Make that game night a priority. Put lunch with mom on your weekly schedule. Build your other errands and commitments around those that are most important in your life.
Faith Janes, who writes the Minimalist At Home blog, has a list of 20 simple ways to save money by being a minimalist family. Some won’t work for you. You’ll come up with others on your own. There are some obvious financial benefits to living a minimalist lifestyle: you spend less money up front, for example, and less money on maintaining all your stuff. The real key to saving money, though, is to figure out exactly where you’re spending money on things that don’t truly give you pleasure or fulfill your needs. That means tracking your money, at least until you get into the habit of spending only on important things.
Passion Planner’s free Finance Tracker insert makes it easy to do that — just print the pages and tape them into the Space of Infinite Possibilities each week, so you can jot down your spending each day. You’ll probably be surprised at how much money you spend routinely without even thinking about it. More tips:
• Opt for experience gifts, and choose those that don’t necessarily involve spending money.
• Choose one credit card to use for your expenses, and start paying down all the others. Their balances will come down a lot faster when you’re not adding to them, and it takes a lot less time to check and reconcile one credit card bill than four or five. Check out Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Payoff method for some serious inspiration.
It may take a little effort to get started on becoming minimalist, but once you start simplifying, it’s much easier to keep it up. Every little step you take will bring you that much closer to fulfilling your goals and living your best, most fulfilling life.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer living and working on Massachusetts. She writes frequently about health, wellness and lifestyle topics.