When I was a teenager, I used to read a popular fashion magazine and my favourite part of each issue was the “Do’s and Dont’s” feature on the last page.
These days, I rarely read fashion magazines because they’re a shopping trigger for me (meaning they encourage me to buy things I don’t really want or need) but I still love a good “Do’s and Dont’s” list—so I decided to create one about minimalism!
If you’re new to the minimalist lifestyle or just looking for tips on how to live well with less, then I hope you’ll enjoy this list of 20 Minimalism Do’s and Dont’s.
20 Minimalism Do’s and Dont’s
DO … UNDERSTAND MINIMALISM IS PERSONAL
Despite what you might see portrayed in popular media, minimalism is not about living with as few possessions as possible.
Instead, I believe minimalism is about being intentional and aligning your consumption choices (everything from your physical belongings to the way you spend your time) with your personal values and priorities.
This means my version of minimalism might look different to yours and that’s OK. There are no rules to being a “good” minimalist; all that matters is that you’re being honest with yourself about what deserves space in your life.
RELATED POST: What It Really Means to Be a Minimalist
DON’T … GET CAUGHT UP IN WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING
On a related note, it’s important not to get caught up with “minimalism comparison”, an obsession with decluttering rooted in competition.
The internet is full of images of “perfect minimalist homes” and it’s easy to feel like your version of minimalism isn’t good enough in comparison—but at the end of the day, if your decluttering is motivated by what everyone else is doing, isn’t it just another way of “keeping up with the Joneses”?
Ultimately, decluttering motivated by competition conflicts with the true purpose of minimalism: to remove the excess from your life so you can focus on what matters most to you (and not on what everyone else is doing!)
DO … MAKE A PLAN FOR GETTING RID OF YOUR STUFF
One of my top decluttering tips is to make a plan for getting rid of your stuff before you get started. There are two reasons for doing this.
First, if you put a bit of effort into thinking about HOW you’re going to dispose of your items, you’re more likely to do so responsibly. Remember, just because you’ve gotten rid of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist anymore; it’s still a burden on the planet.
You can try and minimise this burden by researching the best ways to donate and recycle your goods. For example, your local charity shop probably doesn’t need your old worn out towels (which will never resell) but your local animal shelter might be able to put them to good use.
Here is a helpful article with more tips on how to practise sustainable decluttering.
Another benefit of making a plan is it increases the odds that you’ll actually follow through with your decluttering.
I’ve heard so many stories from people who have done the hard work of decluttering … and then left bags of unwanted stuff in their garages or cars for months! Don’t let this happen to you by making a plan before you get started.
DO … PRACTICE GRATITUDE
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ― Melody Beattie (emphasis added)
Do you ever feel like you always need something more to be happy? If so, give gratitude a try and see what happens. Here is an incredibly easy way to get started.
DON’T … USE DECLUTTERING AS AN EXCUSE TO BUY MORE
When you’re decluttering, beware of something I call The One Last Shop syndrome. It goes a bit like this:
I need to declutter the ten pairs of black trousers in my closet, but first, I need to find the perfect pair (after all, if I’m going to have less, it needs to be the best!). So I go shopping and buy a new pair … only to discover it’s not quite “perfect” … and the cycle begins again. There’s always “one last shop” to be done.
Does this sound familiar? I know that when I was getting started with minimalism, my quest for the “best” was actually a form of perfectionism and procrastination. In the end, I had to learn to balance my search for the best with the value of my time, money and energy.
DO … KNOW WHY YOU’RE DECLUTTERING
When we talk about minimalism and decluttering, we often use restrictive language. Phrases like “letting go” make us feel like we’re giving up something, much like we do when dieting (and we all know it’s not easy to stick to a diet!). It requires a lot of willpower and self-discipline, which are hard to maintain in the long run.
This is why it’s so important to know why you’re decluttering and then to use your “why” to keep you motivated.
When you do this, you’re no longer focused on what you’re giving up. Instead, you’re focused on what you’re gaining by embracing minimalism—and I promise you, this mindset shift makes ALL the difference.
If you’d like to learn more about this mindset shift (and how it changed my life) then I invite you to download a copy of my free decluttering guide and workbook, Mindful Decluttering.
You’ll learn step-by-step, exactly how I decluttered my home and life, plus there are also tips on how to troubleshoot your biggest decluttering challenges!
DON’T … MAKE IT ALL ABOUT THE STUFF
Decluttering your home is an amazing feeling. On a practical level, you spend less time, money and energy caring for your possessions and on an emotional level, there’s just something so freeing about living in a clutter-free space.
But as wonderful as it to clear the excess stuff from your home, the truth is the real benefits of minimalism come when you start applying the lessons you’ve learned to the rest of your life.
In my case, this led to changes to my career, my relationships, and so much more. You can read all the details in this post about how minimalism changed my life.
DO … BE REALISTIC ABOUT “JUST IN CASE” ITEMS
One obstacle I hear a lot of people mention when it comes to decluttering is that they want to keep things “just in case” they need them in the future.
Now, I have to be honest with you. This might go against mainstream minimalist advice but I’m a realist and I have no problem with people who want to save things for the future. (After all, getting rid of items you’ll actually use one day isn’t good for the environment or your wallet!)
Having said that, the key is to be realistic about what you might need or use in the future. Consider how easily you could replace the item if needed and compare this with the cost of keeping the item (cleaning, storage, mental weight, etc.). Challenge yourself to be honest about your needs and your ability to replace items when (if) needed.
DO … REMEMBER DECLUTTERING REQUIRES SELF-KINDNESS
Someone recently asked me why I think so many people keep clutter that they know isn’t adding value to their lives.
My response is that decluttering is painful. I write about this in-depth in this post but in short, I think that often the items we own represent fears, insecurities or hard truths. Letting go means looking inwards and it can be hard to do.
For this reason, I think it’s important to practise self-kindness while decluttering. You need to forgive yourself for your mistakes (perhaps a dress you bought to cheer yourself up after a relationship ended or an expensive handbag you bought in order to impress others) so that you can learn from the past and move forward.
DON’T … PUT OFF STARTING UNTIL YOU’RE “READY”
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ― Karen Lamb
If you want to simplify your life, then the time to start is now. Remember, you don’t have to declutter your entire life overnight. Even if you’re busy, there are small things you can do right away to get started. Here are three ideas to help you begin.
DON’T … OBSESS OVER WASTED MONEY
Speaking of forgiveness, try not to obsess over wasted money.
I know this is easier said than done because trust me—I’ve been there. For those of you who don’t know my story, I was a shopaholic for well over a decade. I was obsessed with clothes, shoes and bags and although I never kept tally, I’m pretty confident that I wasted well over SIX FIGURES on fast fashion before I turned 30.
For years, I felt guilty and ashamed about my spending and this made it really hard to declutter. Every time I tried, my thoughts would turn to the hard-earned money I wasted (this was especially painful when it was something really expensive!).
Eventually, I realised I had to draw a line in the sand. You can’t change the past, you can only decide to do better in the future. Keeping my unworn items wasn’t saving me any money—the money was wasted long ago—but it was costing me peace of mind.
I wrote off my losses as an investment in my education and committed to stopping my mindless shopping habit moving forward.
DON’T … FORGET MINIMALISM IS A REPEATED CHOICE
When you’re first getting started with minimalism, it’s easy to think of it as a one-off project: declutter your home and then you’re done! Yay!
I’ve definitely fallen into this trap in the past but what I’ve learned is that minimalism is not something you can check off your to-do list. Instead, it is a repeated, daily choice to be intentional about what you allow into your life. No matter how much you’ve decluttered in the past, there will always be new “stuff” competing for your time, energy and money so you must continue to be mindful.
DO … DEFINE “ENOUGH” FOR YOURSELF
I think that at its core, minimalism is about enough-ness; finding that sweet spot where we have exactly what we need to be happy—nothing less and nothing more.
The problem is that most people have no idea what that sweet spot looks like. They haven’t defined what “enough” means to them, so they are stuck in an endless cycle of always wanting and needing more.
One way to break the cycle is to start asking questions like:
- What does success mean to me?
- How much time do I spend working? Does this reflect my values?
- Where am I spending my money? Is this in alignment with what matters most to me?
- How do I feel in my home? Does caring for my home feel manageable?
These types of questions will help you define what you really need to be happy and in turn, you can clarify your definition of enough.
If you’re struggling with this, one of these resources should help.
DON’T … FOCUS ON WHAT YOU’RE GIVING UP
“Decluttering is infinitely easier when you think of it as deciding what to keep, rather than what to throw away.” ― Francine Jay
Remember that minimalism isn’t about deprivation. Instead, it’s about clearing the clutter from your life so you can have MORE of the things that matter most to you.
DO … DECLUTTER YOUR SCHEDULE TOO!
Don’t forget that your time is your most precious resource! You absolutely can (and should) declutter your schedule. Check out this post for some tips on how to get started.
DON’T … LET PERFECTIONISM GET THE BEST OF YOU
I believe it was Winston Churchill who said: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” I’d argue that perfection is the enemy of minimalism too.
Why? Because perfection is an illusion; you can never be or achieve “perfect” which means that if you spend your life chasing it, you’ll never be satisfied.
Instead, you’ll always be searching for something more; you’ll never feel like you have enough or even worse, never feel like you are enough.
DO … TAKE YOUR TIME WITH SENTIMENTAL ITEMS
Another category of stuff that people struggle to declutter is sentimental items—items from our past that hold special memories.
Personally, I don’t believe that you should force yourself to declutter these items if you don’t want to. Instead, I think it’s OK to give yourself some grace and take your time.
My favourite technique is to put all my sentimental items into one spot (I have a box in my closet). Then I set a regular reminder in my calendar to review these items: old newspaper clippings, photos, cards, etc.
What I’ve found is that when I do this regularly, there are almost always a few items I naturally feel ready to give up. I’m not sure exactly why but if I had to guess, I’d say that handling my items often must help me process my emotions and memories. If you’re struggling with sentimental items then I’d definitely recommend giving this a try.
DON’T … EXPECT MINIMALISM TO SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS
One of the hard truths about simple living is that owning less will not magically solve all your problems. No matter how much you declutter, there will always be bills to pay, hearts to mend and dishes to clean.
However, minimalism DOES clear the clutter from your life, which in turn gives you more time, money and energy to tackle your problems.
DO … TAKE THE NEXT STEP TOWARDS INTENTIONAL LIVING
One of the most important things I’ve learned about minimalism is that it goes hand in hand with intentional living. As you learn to become more intentional with your “stuff”, you’ll learn you can apply the same skills to be your time, money, energy and more.
If you’re new to intentional living, check out this introduction or sign up for my free intentional living challenge!
DON’T … WAIT TO ENJOY THE SIMPLE LIFE
When I first started experimenting with minimalism, I had a picture in my mind about what my new “simple life” would look like―but at the time, my reality was a million miles from my vision for the future.
My home was still cluttered, my schedule was still busy and it felt like my dreams were too big. Often times, I was tempted to give up.
Fortunately, I eventually learned is that minimalism is not a destination. Instead, it’s a way of living and it IS possible to enjoy every stage of the journey.
The secret? The small decision every day to have more of what matters (connection, family, love) and less of everything else. A cuddle on the sofa, a few pages of a good book, a few minutes to watch the sunset … some days our choices will seem less remarkable than others but everything little we do matters.
With time these decisions add up and before you know it, you’ve cleared the clutter, achieved your minimalism goals and created a life you love. ❤️
What do you think? Do you have any minimalism “Do’s or Don’ts” to add? Let us know in the comments! x Jen
11 thoughts on “Minimalism Do’s and Dont’s”
Hello, I’m late but I’m French… maybe why ?? French joke !
As I was reading I learned a lot and understand so much what I’m leaving throught. Your links to Sam’s blog help me much with her night routine !!
Thanks a lot and be safe !
I’ll be following you from today !
Thank you for this article. After my divorce I went from a 3400 sq ft one level home to a 1200 sq ft apartment 2 bedroom, then to a 900 sq ft apartment. In the 2 bedroom I had my deceased mothers bedroom suite. I came to the decision that mom’s furniture was not her it was just furniture. A family was in desperate need for bedroom furniture in order to keep their foster child from being taken back into the system without her own bed. I can’t tell you the happy feeling I had giving this furniture to this family in need. Words cannot express their tears of joy. Mom would have been so happy.
Minimalism has provided much peace in my and others lives. I now live in a 857 sq ft apartment and I am surrounded with things I love and make me happy..
This is such honest writing. As one grows older there is the tugging need to harmonize lifestyle, belongings , inner peace and spirituality, health, work ethic, responsibility towards the planet, ……in essence the quality of life. Minimalism gives me that answer and helps it all come together somehow.
Hi Swarna, thank you for your kind words about my writing. And you’re so right, our needs and values certainly change as we get older. I’m always learning but minimalism certainly helps guide me on my journey. Take care!
I love your article. I can relate to it in so many ways. Its like being truthful to oneself on why we chose this path of minimalism, or why we chose to declutter our stuff . Yes, its so much easier to focus on things that we wish to keep ang what we gain rather than what we are going to letgo. Its a journey and that is why its so personal. One might be at the start of the path while others might be already on it…of course its different. I started this 4 years ago, struggled with it and I would not have the same feelings to certain issues in minimalism, then and now.
Thank you so much for reading! I’m so glad to hear it resonated with you. Take care!
Thinking about what I want to keep rather than what I want to remove is so much easier when I look at my possessions. If I look into a cupboard or drawer and take out all of the items I love and bring me joy I know that the rest can go. The money I have spent has gone and I know keeping this item is not going to bring it back. I like to use Buy nothing sites so give my items away and a second chance at life. This stops more landfill. I have recently gotten rid of items that I received as wedding gifts 20 years ago. The marriage only lasted 2 years but I had held onto items I never used because of there “value”. Having the space back is the true value.
I’ll be honest with you, I came into this expecting this article to be pretentious & obnoxious (because let’s be real here, so many minimalism articles are), but instead it offered actual useful advice. I especially liked how you talked about how it’s very individual, & not to get wrapped up in being perfect, or like everyone else. In my experience, unfortunately when it comes to online communities (not just mininalism, really any topic), movements, etc., it’ll often times start out great, then progressively get more & more elitist & puritanical, with some acting like their way is the only ‘real’ way.
Thank you, this comment really means a lot to me because it’s something that I’m very mindful of. I think that anytime you try and preach “one best way” about (almost) anything, it comes from a place of privilege and it ignores the complexities of real life. I try my best to offer a realistic and inclusive version of minimalism. Thanks again for your comment 🙂
Those first two tips are so important. It can sometimes seem like minimalism turns into a competition on social media of who has the least or who has the tidiest space. Glad to see it re-emphasized that minimalism is on everybody’s own terms, and we can all support each other in pursuing whatever our version of minimalism is.
“I wrote off my losses as an investment in my education and committed to moving forward.”
Oh, I love this! I find that with clothes especially I feel guilty over money spent because, while I don’t have an entire bedroom as a walk-in closet, I struggle with defining my personal style as it relates to my lifestyle and figure. For instance, I have three utterly gorgeous – and expensive – flouncy wraparound skirts. I never wear them because trying to go to the loo in them is an Olympic sport. I have other custom-sized tops from shops on Etsy that I don’t like because the model was taller and slimmer than me and the pattern just doesn’t translate to a large bust and short waist. Note how I use the present tense here; I haven’t gotten rid of any of these clothes because they were expensive and they’re pretty clothes (and in the case of the tops, I’m not sure anyone’s going to want clothes tailored to a figure that the style doesn’t suit).
Treating these expenses as an investment in finding what actually works for me – without the need to repeat the experience – will hopefully help me declutter my closet for good this time!