You may have picked up this book hoping for ideas about decluttering your house. You’ll get them.
The payoff isn’t just a clean house — it’s a more satisfying, more meaningful life. Minimalism is an indispensable key to the better life you’ve been searching for all along.
Minimalism Your Way
You might be feeling some relief too as you realize that you don’t have to worry about anybody else’s expectations of how you pursue a minimalist life. Perhaps at one time you were reluctant to try minimalism because you were afraid it would force you to do something you didn’t want to do. But now you know that’s an unnecessary fear.
It’s not just that you’re free to shape your personal approach to minimalism based upon your own preferences. More importantly, shape your minimalism based upon your purposes. As best you can, identify the life you want to lead, and then pursue the kind of minimalism that will get you there.
Whatever we do, let’s not start getting rigid about minimalism. It’s easy enough to become doctrinaire, but staying focused on our purposes will keep us from falling into that trap.
The Fog of Consumerism
We desire to live the life of those who seem to have it all. In our hearts and in our affections, we praise those who live with excess.
But we are making a big mistake.
Success and excess are not the same.
Possession of riches is often arbitrary. Sometimes people achieve financial gain through hard work and dedication. But not always. Sometimes financial wealth is a result of heritage, dishonesty, or just plain luck. In those cases, the rich have earned no praise for their wealth.
Besides, regardless of how the wealthy have come by their riches, purchasing excess is rarely the wisest use of money. Just because we have the financial resources to afford something does not mean it is the best option for us. So why do we keep celebrating those who use money selfishly?
Our world checks the wrong scoreboard. Those who live in excess are not necessarily the ones who have the most fulfilled lives. Often it is those who live quietly, modestly, and contentedly with a simple life who are the happiest. Those are the choices we should be celebrating and the lives we should be emulating. Yet this definition of success is foreign to most of us.
How are you making material excess out to be something it is not? What does it reveal about the hold that consumerism has on your heart and mind?
Admire success. But do not celebrate excess. Learning to know the difference will change your life.
So will wising up to the strategies implemented with the sole purpose of convincing you to buy more than you need.
Take It Easy
Your definition and practice of minimalism is going to look different from mine or anyone else’s. But there are some common methods we can all use to get started. You’ll find them so easy to grasp, so easy to use, and so encouraging that you’ll want to start today.
#1 DECLARING YOUR WHY
First, let’s review what minimalism is. It is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them. Even though we’re now talking about decluttering, the ultimate purpose is to put ourselves in a position where it’s easier to fulfill our life’s goals.
This leads the first baby step in your minimizing journey before you remove even one item from your home.
Sit down and articulate one or more reasons why you want to minimize. Take time to think about this, if you have not already done so. The possibilities are endless — and will be entirely unique to you, your purpose, and your values.
Before any of us can minimize our homes and lives, we must be convinced the lifestyle is worth our effort. Your statement of purposes for simplifying will remind you of what you want out of the process you’re starting. And it’s so easy to do.
But that’s just the beginning.
#2 QUICK GRABS
After creating a list of your goals and turning to face your surroundings, where do you start in actually clearing out all that stuff you own?
It shouldn’t be hard to find a place. Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? It’s a generality, but it’s proved true in many areas of life. As applied to our possessions, it means that we use 20 percent of our stuff 80 percent of the time, and we use the other 80 percent of our stuff only 20 percent of the time. So within that 80 percent of your stuff that mostly just lies around, there should be plenty of easy pickings when you start to minimize.
Living rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms, in particular, are great places to start. Typically, they are easier and take less time to declutter than kitchens, offices, or attics. But more importantly, because you use these rooms often, you will quickly experience the benefits of minimalism by making a difference in those areas. Removing clutter from your living room allows for a more peaceful, less distracted time of relaxation or family bonding. A minimized bathroom will make getting ready in the morning easier. A decluttered bedroom offers benefits both day and night. As you remove the excess from these places in your home, you will notice the positive effects almost immediately.
Remember, right now you’re focused on choosing easy battles, scoring quick wins, and establishing momentum in your decluttering journey. Do the obvious tidying up in the areas where you spend most of your time.
#3 ROOM BY ROOM
Remember that you don’t have to figure it all out at once or get the whole house done in a hurry. Focus on one specific area at a time: a room, a closet, or even something as small as a drawer. Again, work easiest to hardest. If you’re just not sure what to do with something, let it go for now. We’ll be getting to your hard choices in the next chapter.
As much as possible, with each new physical space you tackle, create three piles:
- Things to keep
- Things to relocate within the home
- Things to remove
After sorting, return your things-to-keep items to where they belong best. When possible, store these items out of sight, because this will help remove physical distraction. Also, when putting things away, place your most-used items at the front of shelves and relegate your less frequently used things to the back.
Next, deal with your things-to-relocate pile by taking those items to their proper places in your house. For example, if you picked up toys from the hallway, deposit them in the toy box. If you found your teenager’s clothes draped over a chair back, they probably belong in the laundry basket. Come to think of it, make her put them there herself.
Finally, sort your “things to remove” pile into four subcategory piles: donate, sell, recycle, and throw away. Then deal with each of these piles in the appropriate way. Don’t let them sit any longer than necessary, because if you do, they’ll get scattered and turn back into the clutter you’re trying to escape.
#4 ELIMINATE REDUNDANCY AND GET RID OF REPETITION
Many people fear that if they remove an item from their home they will regret it in the future. So they keep it “just in case.” This is a major cause of clutter, even though we rarely find ourselves needing the thing we have kept “just in case.”
If the fear that you will regret removing things is hindering you as you go from room to room to declutter, try this easy method to get around it: get rid of duplicate items. The beauty of eliminating duplicates is that you know there will always be one available “just in case.”
As you begin removing extras, you will notice something unbelievable. Your home will suddenly be filled with only your favorites of every object. You will also naturally begin to take better care of your belongings, because it will be easier to notice items that need to be repaired or replaced.
#5 SHARE YOUR STORY
The practice of sharing good things with others improves their lives by allowing them to discover the same joy we have. It also enhances our lives by confirming our happiness and reinforcing the positives of the course we’re on.
You will find that people may be excited to try minimizing for themselves. Even if they aren’t, they will cheer you on in your own process of learning to live with less. They will motivate you by holding you accountable and asking how things are going the next time they see you. As an additional benefit, when you share your story, you will be reminded again of the reasons why you decided to declutter in the first place.
These, in review, are the baby steps to owning less:
- Write down your goals.
- Start decluttering with the easy targets in your lived-in areas.
- Then go room by room, tossing out and tidying up.
- Eliminate duplicates as you make your circuit.
- Share your story with others to keep yourself motivated during and beyond the first steps.
So go ahead. Start your decluttering journey with the easiest step. Before moving on to the next chapter, just pick one drawer or closet — whatever seems achievable — and clean it.
Your first step in the right direction should be an easy one. Take it today.