I’ve considered myself a ‘minimalist’ for several years now, but if you’ve read my story, you’ll know I tossed around the idea of minimalism for a very long time before I started making real changes to my lifestyle.
I knew that minimalism would be good for me, I knew I was unhappy and I needed to make a change, and I could clearly see the benefits of becoming a minimalist … but it was really difficult to
get started stay motivated. One day I’d get a crazy burst of energy and clear bags of clutter, but then the next weekend I’d go on a mindless shopping spree. It was a case of one step forward and two steps back and I struggled to make sustainable change.
So how did I eventually break the cycle and start moving forward on my minimalist journey?
I realised minimalism is not about decluttering, just like a healthy lifestyle is not about dieting. Of course, owning less things is part of minimalism, but binge decluttering without fundamentally changing your mindset is like crash dieting – it doesn’t last and ‘stuff’ will creep back into your life (spoken from personal experience!!)
Real change started when I stopped thinking about minimalism in terms of what I couldn’t have (a mindset that relies on willpower) and switched to thinking of it as an intentional choice to have more of what really matters.
If this resonates with you and you’re struggling with minimalism, here are 6 tips to grow this mindset and help you on your minimalist journey.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT MOST
If you want to have more of what really matters in your life, then you need to start by knowing … what really matters in your life.
Spend some time thinking about your values: strip down to the bare bones of your life and ask yourself what’s important? What makes you feel happy, proud, and loved? What fuels your heart and gets you out of bed in the morning?
There are no right or wrong answers – it might be family, art, education or stability; everyone has different priorities and that is absolutely okay. But, whatever your answer is, make it your daily focus and use it to frame your minimalist decision making in a positive light.
- Instead of saying ‘no’ to shopping, try saying ‘yes’ to less debt and financial freedom.
- Instead of saying ‘no’ to going out every weekend, try saying ‘yes’ to more time with your loved ones.
- Instead of saying ‘no’ to perfectionism, try say ‘yes’ to self love and care.
PRACTICE SELF CARE
When I’m feeling insecure, worn out, or overwhelmed, I catch myself going into survival mode. This means I’m not thinking intentionally about life choices (or even small choices like lunch); instead I’m floundering about and looking for any quick and easy way to make me feel better – like snacking on junk food, snapping at other people, or the good old “buying things to cheer myself up.”
In other words, when I don’t take care of myself, I don’t care about minimalism.
The solution? Prevention. Regardless of your feelings on minimalism, I’m a big believer that we all need to practice self care: drink water, eat healthy foods, make time to read or do activities that nurture your soul, stretch and move, write – whatever keeps you grounded and well. (More ideas here.)
When you take care of yourself, you’re better able to make good decisions and less likely to give into unhealthy habits – so make taking care of yourself a priority in your life!
SPEND ON EXPERIENCES
One of my biggest tips for new minimalists is don’t be too frugal (especially in the beginning.) Instead, use at least some of the money you’re saving by buying less things on fun activities like weekends away, nights out with friends, or unique experiences (wine tours, art classes, etc.)
I completely understand that many people choose minimalism to improve their financial situation, but I think in the early days it’s really helpful to make small splurges on experiences because it:
- positively reinforces experiences over things
- teaches you to have fun without shopping (as a serious shopaholic this was a big one for me)
- reiterates that minimalism is about intentional living, not restrictions
Consider holding off on aggressive saving plans until you feel more comfortable with minimalism.
RELATED POST: 7 Things You Will Never Regret Spending Money On
Have you ever thought “All I need is _______ and I’ll be happy?”
Well, I definitely have and this mindset was one the biggest stumbling blocks on my journey to minimalism. I was always telling myself that I needed one more thing (new shoes, a new winter coat, a dining set) and then – finally, I’d have everything I really needed and I’d be ready to start my minimalist journey.
(You may recognise this as the “last meal before the diet starts” syndrome.)
But as I’m pretty sure you can all guess, there was always one more thing I really needed and it was a nasty cycle that never seemed to end. Why? Because I wasn’t being present; instead of paying attention to my behaviour and feeling gratitude for everything I already owned and loved, I was focused on an imaginary future (a fantasyland where a new dress would magically solve all my problems.)
I broke free of this cycle by learning to practice mindfulness. I started meditating, gratitude journaling, and I made time (and prioritised) doing activities I love (such as painting and yoga.) This helped me to feel content with the life and things I already had, which in turn made it easier to stop wanting more.
DON’T EXPECT EVERYTHING TO CHANGE OVERNIGHT
If you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you’re serious about wanting to change your life. And I understand – you want change yesterday, not tomorrow, or next week, or next month. You’re ready for your life to look and feel different.
But let me tell you a story.
At twenty two I rather impulsively packed everything I owned into a backpack and travelled the world for two years. Although I didn’t consider myself a ‘minimalist’, I embodied a lot of the characteristics (namely, I lived with very few possessions.)
So what do you think happened when I finally ‘settled down’ after two years on the road?
I moved into a gigantic three bedroom apartment, drove a moving van to Ikea, and turned one room into a gigantic walk in closet (which I promptly filled to the brim.)
The moral of this story is that real change takes time. Even if you somehow managed to declutter your entire life overnight, you’d still be mostly the same person the next day. The truth is embracing minimalism is a journey and it takes time to unlearn a lifetime of habits. Everyone’s timeline will be different, so be patient and kind to yourself.
REFLECT ON YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Finally, if patience isn’t your strong point (it certainly isn’t mine) learn to reflect and revel in your achievements.
Celebrate your small victories: when you resist browsing the clearance rack, or when you donate your unused ski gear to charity, or even when you say goodbye to an unhealthy relationship.
Turn your focus towards how far you’ve come, instead of how far you’ve got to go.
Because, to be honest, I don’t believe there is ever a finish line. Minimalism, to me, is about making room in your life for what you want most and I don’t think this is a task that ever gets completed; instead I think it’s a constant cycle of reviewing your values, assessing your life, and adjusting accordingly.
I’d love to hear any of your stories or tips you’ve learned on your minimalist journey. Let me know in the comments! x
photo credit : Rowan Heuvel // Used with permission