Do you ever look around your house and just think: Why do I have so. much. stuff? You’re not alone. The minimalism movement continues to be a hot one, and it’s not going anywhere — for good reason. Wondering if it’s for you? Here’s why becoming a minimalist could change your life for the better.
What is Minimalism?
First, you should know that minimalism can mean something different for everyone. It’s not a restrictive club where you have to count your possessions on the daily. Instead, it’s more of a state of mind, requiring you to be more conscious of what you’re buying/bringing into your home and the environment you surround yourself in. Maybe you’re more of a Marie Kondo “does this item spark joy?” minimalist, or an environmental minimalist who is progressing on your journey toward a zero-waste lifestyle. The point is, there’s a place for you within the wide spectrum of people who practice minimalism, all of whom are reaping the benefits that come with simple changes to their lifestyle.
Surrounded by Clutter
Since joining the movement, the biggest benefit I’ve noticed in my life is the reduction of clutter. Clutter comes in different forms, manifesting itself physically as piles of stuff lying around or a jam-packed wardrobe so full you can’t even find something to wear. Clutter can even be a mental state where your to-do list is longer than your memory, and it can really start to increase your stress levels. Trying to “keep up with the Joneses” in America’s materialistic culture can take an emotional and financial toll. Breaking this cycle can set you on the path to leading a happier life. Read about how The Minimalists began to make this shift in just 21 days.
Benefits When You Reduce Your Clutter
You’ll immediately feel lighter — in the mind and the wallet — once you begin to de-clutter and stop the buying cycle. The earth will thank you too. When you buy less, you generate less waste, spend less time cleaning, and keep more money in your pocket. All of this brings with it the added benefit of less stress and an overall improvement in your mood.
Sometimes it’s hard to realize what an effect clutter is having on you until you take the time to make it go away. Once it’s gone though, it’s like a breath of fresh air. You really begin to realize that all those piles of junk were just unmade decisions or tasks that needed to be taken care of. Deciding what is actually important to you — what items you keep in your house, what commitments you make — helps give you more time to focus on those items.
Once you realize you don’t always have to have the latest and greatest, you’ll begin to notice more money in your bank account to save toward an emergency fund, pay off debt, or to buy a higher-quality item down the road.
Once you’ve found a way to make minimalism work for you, it’s an easy lifestyle to maintain. You can start small, then continue to apply it to additional areas of your life. Sometimes beginning the purging and reducing process over again can also be helpful — you may find that you’ll make more progress after reassessing some of the items you kept the first time through.
For me, minimalism allowed me to realize I don’t have to buy items to make myself happy. Instead I could sell items I no longer needed or wanted to recoup some of the value. My husband and I were able to pay off both of our student loan debts and the loans for our two cars. Most recently I was able to change jobs, taking on a new role that paid less but also greatly reduced my stress levels. Now we’re expecting our first child, after four years of trying and multiple fertility treatments, and I believe a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am happier and less stressed than I’ve ever been before.
Where Do I Even Begin?
It might seem daunting, but there are many simple ways you can start your minimalist journey. Even taking just baby steps in the right direction can help to put you on the right path.
Look around your house. What is it that is stressing you out the most? Is it your wardrobe? Can’t find anything in the kitchen? Does your living room look like it was hit by a tornado? Whatever it is that is weighing on you the most is a good place to start. Take time to really focus on the items in the space, and ask yourself whether those items mean anything to you. Items that serve no purpose should be removed. Keep your focus on this one area for a week or a month. Then reassess how you feel.
If your closet is too full of items you hardly ever wear, try Project 333 or a capsule wardrobe. Or, if you need help choosing what to get rid of, try this trick: turn all of your hangers around. Then, once you wear an item, turn the hanger back to its normal position. Look at your closet again in a few months — are there items that you never wore during this period? If so, maybe it’s time to get rid of them.
For other areas of your home, you could try the “moving technique.” Go room by room or spend a weekend tackling the whole house. Box everything up like you’re going to move and take items out as you use them. Yes, this may sound crazy and will take a lot more effort on your part, but it’s an easy way to show what you actually use and enjoy. If you have a fear of letting go, this is also a great way to break those initial ties you may have. You don’t actually have to get rid of the stuff, just keep it boxed up until you use it. Then when you come back to the boxes in a month or two to reassess your items, maybe they won’t have as much meaning to you anymore. Plus, everything will already be boxed up for you ready to be donated.
Marie Kondo has also been making waves with her “sparking joy” technique. Consider reading her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” or watch her show on Netflix. It just might give you the motivation you need to start your own journey.
How Do I Get Rid of My Clutter Without Just Throwing It Away?
But if I already bought an item, isn’t it better for me to just go ahead and keep it instead of it ending up in a landfill? Minimalism isn’t about taking every item you no longer enjoy to the dump, and I wish the process of getting rid of items was talked about just as much as the process of going through items.
There are actually a number of ways to get rid of your old items while still benefiting the environment. For starters, anything with a tag or still in its original packaging can be taken back to the store you purchased it from. Anything in like-new condition or good can be sold on sites like Poshmark, Mercari, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. You may be surprised by what some people will pay for items that you no longer consider valuable. Or you can donate these items to your local charities — women’s shelters, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Items in not-good condition should be sorted for recyclable purposes.
Realizing where you spent — and wasted — your money in the past has just as big an impact for your future purchases. Now you will — hopefully — be more conscious of the items you are buying.
Lauren Bowman is a travel enthusiast, book lover, and minimalist based in Georgia. She loves experiencing new cultures, trying new foods, lending libraries, and learning about the world around her. Follow her on Instagram/Twitter @lbowmantravels.