You might think minimalist living has a particular look to it: clean white counters or a closet holding exactly 30 items, for example.
But a minimalist lifestyle isn’t about fitting all your worldly possessions into a single backpack (though if that’s your goal, here’s how to pack your backpack like a minimalist) — it’s about clearing the clutter from your life and adjusting your mindset so you can live with more purpose and peace.
So rather than tell you how to create the perfect capsule wardrobe or 007 Go Box, we’re going to break down the principles of minimalist living so you can experience the sweet freedom of living with less — on your own terms.
1. Evaluate your space and examine your priorities.
The first step to minimalist living is stepping back and observing. Examine your home, your belongings, your lifestyle, and your attitude from an objective perspective.
Do you own multiple versions of the same items? Do you feel stressed about trying to find a place to store the blankets your grandma knit for you?
Is your closet overflowing with clothes you never wear and can’t keep track of (here’s how to solve that bedroom closet problem)?
Do you spend five minutes in the kitchen searching for the right lids to go with your plastic containers (try these clever and easy kitchen organization ideas)?
The more you’re able to view the details of your life through an unfiltered, objective lens, the more clearly you’ll be able to see what it is you want to change.
2. Declutter every area of your home.
This one goes without saying. To live with less, you have to get rid of a lot, which can sometimes feel overwhelming and impossible.
The good news?
Starting is the most difficult part.
Once you commit to clearing out your space, the actual nitty gritty decluttering process will begin to feel manageable — maybe even fun.
Here’s how to start decluttering: Start simple and get rid of any duplicate items you own.
Next, get rid of everything you don’t use or see on a regular basis. The stack of magazines you never read? Toss them.
The fuzzy socks you wear approximately once every two years? Say goodbye.
As you go through your belongings, focus on eliminating not just the items you don’t use, but also the ones that don’t bring joy or meaning to your life.
Free Bonus: Check out our handy decluttering flowchart for tips on how to declutter like Marie Kondo — the most organized person on the planet.
3. Think before you buy new things.
One of the biggest components of minimalist living is giving adequate thought to the things you buy or bring into your home.
Before you scoop up the powder blue scarf you see for sale at your local boutique, stop to ask yourself why you feel the impulse to buy it.
Do you need a scarf to keep warm or brighten your wardrobe for winter?
Did you pick it up because you saw the red sticker with a 50% discount? Is the discount reason enough to buy it?
Ask yourself the hard, decidedly un-fun questions before you add more stuff — and potentially more chaos — to your life.
Free Bonus: Here are 12 creative ways to store scarves, hats, gloves, sweaters, coats, and more.
4. Seek high-quality stuff.
That being said, when you do need or want to buy something, go out of your way to make sure it’s a quality item. Investing your money and time into finding things that are built to last will ensure you don’t have to shop as often to replace your worn-down or broken belongings.
5. Be grateful for what you have.
Minimalist living is largely about the search for contentment, and contentment begins with gratitude for what you have. Focus on the beauty, convenience, and ease your stuff brings to your life, whether it’s a painting that makes you smile or a French press that jumpstarts your morning routine.
When you feel grateful for everything you own, the desire to own more gradually disappears.
6. Purge on a regular basis.
Regularly evaluate your stuff to see what (if anything) has become a burden or unwelcome distraction in your life.
Depending on your lifestyle, the purge process can take different forms. You might want to comb through your closet at the start of every season to eliminate clothes you no longer want. Maybe you like to walk around your house once a month and put everything you don’t need into a big donation bag.
Or you might have a firm “one in, one out” rule like 90-square-foot-apartment dweller Mary Helen Rowell, meaning that for every item you bring into your home, you get rid of another.
7. Let go of guilt.
We all inevitably own items that we don’t use or cherish, yet feel obligated to keep out of guilt — either because they’re expensive, sentimental, in excellent condition, or hardly used.
But minimalist living has no room for the unattractive thrift-shop tea cups your aunt bought you, let alone the massive guilt that comes with wanting to get rid of them.
You can assuage your guilt by giving your unwanted items a new, better home. Simply schedule a MakeSpace pickup, pack your stuff, and leave the rest to us.
Not only will we pick up and store pretty much any household item, but we’ll also drop off anything you’d like to donate at a local Goodwill for no extra charge.
If you want to donate your things to a charity of your choice, check out DonationTown.org as an easy option.
8. Disassociate from your material belongings.
Minimalist living means learning to detach yourself from what you own. It’s completely fine to treasure your favorite book (and get rid of books you don’t love) or feel serious appreciation for the jeans that fit you just right, as long as you realize that these things are temporary sources of joy.
The stuff you own doesn’t fuel your happiness.
You know what does?
Experiences and relationships.
So go declutter, then get out there and live!
Top image via Ollie
This article was written by Paige Smith, a freelance writer from Orange County, California who specializes in lifestyle, wellness, and travel topics.