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Starting a minimalist journey can feel overwhelming. When you’ve lived your entire life amassing possessions and stuff around you, suddenly reducing those items down to the essentials can feel like a totally impossible task.
I always hear people say that they’d love to start living with fewer possessions, but they simply don’t know where to start. Sound familiar?
I was the same. A while back, due to poor organisation and some miscommunication errors, I was left with about a week to clear-out my entire home and reduce my belongings down to just a few bags.
The mass panic that followed convinced me that minimalism is a lifestyle that I always want to keep. Living with less makes me happier, allows me to recognise the things that I truly value, and places the emphasis on enjoying experiences over possessions.
What’s more, minimalism is about so much more than living with less. It brings intention into your life. It allows you to clear your mental clutter, look at your spending habits and the way you live, and ultimately be more aware and more able to make changes in your life where needed.
However, I definitely wouldn’t recommend you start your journey with minimalism the same way I did!
Read Next: How to Become a Minimalist: 8 Steps
Start slow. Clear out a room at a time. Make minimalism a habit.
Below, I’ve put together some of my best tips for getting started with minimalism. You definitely don’t need to do all of these at once – consider this more of a checklist for a slow, meandering journey towards a new lifestyle!
While you’re here, make sure you grab my free total declutter checklist. I cover every element that I recommend clearing out from your home for a more minimalist environment, one step at a time.
Scroll down to the end of this post for my ultimate book recommendations to guide you through minimalism.
1) Make Your Intentions Clear
First, you need to know why you want to make this lifestyle change a reality.
Living with less is immensely liberating, but it is also a big change – and it can be easy to fall back into old habits in no time. Whether you are making this change as a family, or as an individual, right down some of the key reasons you want to make this change. Reasons could include:
- You want to save money to get out of debt
- You want more space around the home
- You want more time to yourself and your family
- You need more peace and simplicity in your lifestyle
- You want experiences over things
Your reasons for wanting to live more simply could be anything – the most important thing is that you are clear with yourself and your family why you are making these changes. When you start feeling overwhelmed or like this lifestyle change is a whole lot of work without much reward (yet!), look at this list and remind yourself why the change was needed in the first place.
2) Pick One Room to Declutter First
Ultimately, minimalism is based on the principle of living with fewer possessions. Less clutter allows you to really focus on the things that make you happy in life, and the things you really need.
However, transitioning into a minimalist lifestyle from scratch often means a lot of decluttering needs to take place first.
Pick one room, and focus on decluttering that one space before moving on to another. This is the best way to avoid overwhelming yourself and totally giving up at first!
Again, if you haven’t downloaded my declutter checklist yet, I highly recommend getting your hands on it for a clearly outlined approach to decluttering your home.
3) Stick to a System
Some people start decluttering and end up with a messier room than you started with (guilty!). I used to try to clear out my wardrobe only to end up with piles of forgotten clothes that I wanted to keep ‘just in case’.
Getting out of this thought process is essential!
Now, I stick to a decluttering system. I have three piles:
Have a look at my declutter guide for more information on how to decide what to keep, what needs donating, and more.
4) Have a ‘Capsule’ Closet
Capsule closets are essential items of clothing that can’t go out of fashion, and that go with any other item in your wardrobe. Sounds great, right? Until you take a peek at Asos and see a new top that doesn’t quite look like anything else you have…
I’ve put capsule in quote marks because I know a lot of people look at capsule wardrobes and find that the suggested styles and pieces simply don’t suit their style. I feel the same – I’m not a skirt or dress wearer in my day-to-day, but I do like having a few items always in my wardrobe for special occasions.
Instead of building a traditional capsule closet, I try to live by these rules:
- Never keep anything you feel uncomfortable in.
- Follow the old rule of throwing up (or donating) anything you haven’t worn in 6 months.
- Avoid multiple items of the same style
- As much as possible, stick with a similar, flattering colour palette to make sure all your clothes coordinate.
I’ve also written up a full guide on how to declutter your wardrobe based off the exact strategy I followed when minimising my clothes from an entire wardrobe to just a backpack (plus a few winter items that went into storage).
Check out Leya Daniel’s Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe Guide for some great advice on forming a capsule closet that works for you.
5) Go Paperless
I’m big on going paperless. Read Going Paperless in 5 Simple Steps!
Send emails, not letters. Avoid printing when you can. Shred unimportant letters – don’t put them in a drawer to be forgotten for months on end. Going paperless not only adds towards a more minimal lifestyle, but it massively reduces your carbon footprint too.
6) Spend on Experiences, Not Possessions
Check out this post I wrote on choosing experiences over money. Enrich your life with new skills and adventures, not with a new car that loses value the second you start driving it.
For birthdays and Christmas, my family and I are big fans of ‘experience’ gifts over material ones. They’re often a far more memorable gift, can be a fun group activity, and obviously, help a lot at reducing the number of things you have after the holidays! Check out RED Letter days for some amazing experiences you can gift a loved one – my brother and Dad are particularly fond of the racing days (I wonder why!)
7) Create a Minimalist Mindset
For me, creating a minimalist mindset is even more important than the physical process of decluttering the environment around you.
Making minimalism a habit, and an essential part of my life is the only way that I have stuck to this lifestyle and truly know that this, for me, is the best way to live. Creating a minimalist mindset is all about living with awareness. You need to bring intention into your daily actions and know why you make the choices you do.
I know, this all sounds very meta and impractical – but it’s really just about making a few changes to create a habit. Try out one of these routines to start clearing your mental clutter as a first step.
8) Replace, Don’t Add
Try to resist adding to your possessions by simply replacing things when they’re too old to use. This has been a big part of my travels – I recently purchased a new pair of trousers, but I’d picked the pair that they will replace before even trying them on, and knew the reason why (the old ones are far too hot for Asia!) I was considering buying a new pair in the first place.
Think about all the items you have in your wardrobe that are worn on average once a year (I’m thinking of all those pretty summer dresses I used to own that made an appearance on the very few days the UK has sunshine!), and what you could have done with the money spent.
Resist as many new purchases you can buy waiting until you have something that needs replacing – then, and only then, go crazy.
9) Consider Alternative Living
Check out these amazing alternative lifestyles that many people are opting for instead of the traditional mortgage trap. By living in smaller spaces, your possessions suddenly become essential. There’s no room for ‘maybe one-day’ items of clothing and clutter – space is at a premium, and anything that doesn’t have a use will quickly become a nuisance.
Tiny living covers everything from van life (my personal favourite!) to building your own tiny home. Would you consider any of these alternative ways to live?
10) Cut Down on TV
TV encourages us to be lazy, to spend on material things we see advertised in between programs, and can slowly dull the creativity in our minds. If you can’t bring yourself to throw your TV out, at least try to cut down on it.
The average UK person spends 24 hours watching TV a week! An entire day of your life, per week, lost on television. That thought is utterly, utterly depressing. Think of all the things you could be doing with your life without the distraction of the screen.
Limit yourself to one hour a day in the evenings. A better idea would be to cut yourself off at the source by cancelling your cable altogether. A subscription to a service like Amazon ShowTime is not only far cheaper but will mean you only watch TV when you want to watch something – not just because it’s there!
Read my list of productive alternatives to watching TV.
11) Travel Light
My minimalist journey started with clearing out my possessions in order to travel the world long-term. Having been one of those backpackers that lugged a 20kg bag plus hand luggage around with me for 5 months, I knew that the next time I travelled the world, I wanted to carry much, much less.
You’d think this means wearing the same outfit for days at a time, permanently smelling, and living on the bare essentials, but it’s actually a lot easier (and a lot more pleasant!) than that. Read my full post on how minimalism helps me travel the world for longer.
12) Plan your Meals
The average UK households waste an insane £470 worth of food per year, and this mainly falls down to not planning correctly. In my opinion, your approach to food shopping and cooking each week can have a huge impact on your attitude towards the rest of the things in your home.
If you find yourself throwing out excess food every single week, it may be time to consider creating a meal plan for you or for the whole family.
Planning what you’ll eat in advance will take more time, and can be frustrating at first if you’re like me and like a bit of spontaneity! But if you plan just 5 days out of 7, you can save yourself a lot of money, and reduce the clutter and waste in your cupboards. Write out an ingredient list to take to the shops with you and stick to it – check out my top 10 meal prep recipes for some mouth-watering inspo!
How Has Minimalism Affected Me?
Sometimes, I barely feel like I’ve scratched the surface with minimalism. I think that’s a good thing, though. Constantly being aware of the way you live is the only way to can continue to make conscious decisions about your lifestyle.
In 2017, I cut down nearly 90% of my possessions and took my entire life in a carry-on bag. Laptop, clothes, toiletries, everything (well, alright, the big backpack had all our climbing gear -but to us, that’s an essential!).
Now that I’m in a more settled routine back in the UK (for now, at least!), that mentality has stuck with me. I think about what I need, what I want, and I bring that awareness into my spending.
Adapting to a minimal lifestyle has made me far more aware of how I spend my money, and what I spend it on. Every purchase I make (on clothes or physical items) is justified and reasoned with. Not in a picky, penny-pinching way, but as a careful consideration of what I need, and whether the additional weight is really worth it.
You Might Also Like These Articles
- Why I Choose Experiences Over Money
- Not Prioritising My Debts – And Why That’s OK
- Easy Budget Hacks that Could Save You £9,500 in One Year
- Fail-Safe Ways to Save Money on Holiday
Minimalism has made me value experiences. I’ve always been one to live for the moment, rather than the material, but minimalism has amplified that. Now, my money goes towards making life richer – adventure and exploring, and less on stuff for my wardrobe.
Here is the book’s I’ve mentioned in this article, plus a few other resources I’ve found extremely useful as I’ve looked more into how to get started with minimalism. If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide, these eBooks are a great help.
- Simplify by Joshua Becker
- Inside-Out Simplicity also by Joshua Becker (only $2.99!)
- The Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe Guide by Leya Daniels
- Minimalism: Living a Meaningful Life by Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists!)
- The Joy of Less by Francine Jay (one of the pioneers of simple living – this is a must read!)
How has your journey towards a minimal lifestyle affected you? Do you feel like it’s made a positive impact on your life, or you’re still struggling to live more intentionally?
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