A minimalist lifestyle is frequently equated to taking dramatic leaps in lifestyle. Leaps like giving away everything you own or moving to an all-white room with just a mattress and a notepad. Yet in this hectic world, where literally hundreds, if not thousands of times a day we are coaxed into blindly acquiring more, spending more, doing more, and getting more- it is truly refreshing for everyone to seek some form of counterbalance.
Interestingly, creating a ‘dream’ look is often just as much about focus than it is acquiring anything else. Too often people say: “Minimalism is a style I love, but I have too much baggage”. The misunderstanding here tends to be that you are naturally born either a minimalist or someone with hoarding tendencies. But haven’t you, at least one time in your life, had to be organized? Life demanded it from you- maybe through either a house move or a trip when you couldn’t take much? This must have forced you to look at what you actually needed and you probably felt refreshed.
The ability to cut ties to useless stuff and focus on what is important isn’t really a natural disposition, but a skill – a skill you are always choosing whether or not to develop. Every time you stuff something into a drawer or over-schedule your calendar with appointments, you’re making a choice. Making a different choice could be just as easy and could take just the same amount of time- it just doesn’t feel that way, as you’ve developed certain habits and patterns.
For most of us, this runs so deep that it feels normal to spend our lives buried under personal to-do lists that makes everything seem so important (but that somehow leave you under-fulfilled). Or have homes and closets full of stuff that you never use and yet are too scared to throw out. Minimalism, in its essence, however is really a process of being able to release the clutter, in order to see what you actually value and like.
There’s an old proverb that says “To know one thing is to know 1,000 things.” As you master the basics of minimalist thinking in one area of your life it can be transferred easily to other areas. Once you become more discerning, you can begin to create space for things, people, activities that actually light up your life and your home.
Obtaining a real sense of how little you actually need can be very very liberating. Not only do we learn from an early age to equate our “self” with the things we own, but we also have a tendency to blindly acquire more. When in reality, saying yes to something always means you are saying no to something else.
There’s no “right” or “wrong”; we can each have our own vision of what makes us truly happy. Just take the time now to define it for yourself.
THE PRINCIPLES OF MINIMAL LIVING
1. Question your consumption…
Today we are all experts at accumulating more stuff. We do it at lightning speed, with 24/7 access to new shiny things, but here’s something to ponder: isn’t less sometimes so much more?
I discovered this when I was traveling, living out of a suitcase for almost a year. It kicked my default habits to the curb. I loved having a few well chosen items in my wardrobe. I didn’t want or need for any of the extra bits I’d been overstuffing my drawers with for years. It felt liberating and sophisticated. I loved the few pieces I had and said goodbye to anything that I didn’t anymore while packing up.
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood puts it well when she said: “Buy less, choose well.” Note: this isn’t saying ‘end’ your consumption. The principal is to merely question why you are buying things. It’s never been easier to find yourself trapped in the cycle of always needing the ‘next best thing’. You should begin to notice where it’s more empowering to practice restraint.
Bonus trick: try one of two big botanical leaves or flowers in a glass vase and just see if it looks better than a whole bouquet. This can be a great metaphor for minimalism as a whole- spend less, need less, gain more.
2. Realizing less is more
Across nearly seven million years, the human brain has tripled in size, yet it remains hard-wired to focus on shortage in your environment and what and where you are lacking. It’s therefore very, very good at convincing you that more is always better. It’s so good, in fact, that most people go a whole lifetime without ever pausing to fully consider the idea that there could be considerable benefits to owning less.
Did you know that upon choosing to accumulate only the essentials, many people have reported feeling new found financial abundance? They literally use words such as “dizzying” and “exciting” to describe the experience. It’s like a total high. Have you thought about the fact that, by nature, a minimalist home is significantly less stressful to care for? Even simple things like finding things faster in a drawer can have a compound effect on your mood.
Less stuff = less stress, as well as more money, less baggage, more space, more freedom, more newness… the list goes on. Lots of people don’t realize this until they amass all the material goods they’ve dreamed of, but still feel depressed and depleted- more things can be a serious headache, draining your time and energy.
Bonus trick: Write down why and how you want to live more minimally. You’ll be amazed at the answers your mind can come up with. Focus only on creating space for what really lights you up.
3. Use minimalism as a daily practice
Find a simple activity you can “test” practicing minimalism with for 30 days.
Large changes are usually too overwhelming for most people to undertake. While they might talk about making them, they don’t usually ever start because they’re too busy or because they feel intimidated by the scope of the change.
We often have an initial burst of enthusiasm for something, but that dies out quickly and we stop doing it because life gets in the way. To counteract this, start with a small change you can do daily. Pick something that usually takes two seconds. Pick something that you could actually dedicate way more time to, if you wanted to.
This will allow you to actually start practicing the philosophy of minimalism and keep that initial, excited energy going for much longer! This will incorporate actual change into your lifestyle.
Bonus trick: Eliminate one unnecessary item you own per day. Over the course of a year, that’s 365 fewer items than you had before. Or, one that I enjoyed- cut one thing loose off your to-do list and take notice: does the world end or was it not so bad?
THE PRINCIPLES OF MINIMALIST DECOR
This is often the action of minimalism that strikes fear into the heart of folks. Start slow and intentionally- do your bed stand or just a drawer. Throw out or donate everything you obviously don’t need first.
Keep reminding yourself that ‘less is more’ and that by stripping away as much stuff from your life as you can, you will be making space for clarity and freedom.
If you’ve become used to an excess of creature comforts for a long time, you might not be ready to take the minimal plunge all at once. Don’t force yourself to be. Consider having a ‘to-go’ box full of things you are not sure if you want to part with or not. If you haven’t missed the contents within a month, ditch everything.
2. FIGURE OUT WHAT’S ESSENTIAL
Deciphering what to keep and what to throw is tricky business. Stuff can be very convincing at appearing totally necessary or enjoyable to use when in reality it isn’t. The most liberating simplification breakthroughs often come from thought experiments. Consider such scenarios like ‘if I had to immediately vacate my apartment due to a massive fire – what would I grab?’ or ‘if I had to live on an island with one suitcase, what would I take with me?’
We frequently learn this lesson when moving homes during the packing process. What are the things you reach for first? Everything else is probably superfluous.
3. UNIFY YOUR COLOR SCHEME
Clean space has a cleansing energy to it that opens and purifies the mind. Using one color while decorating creates a feeling of unity that’s effortless. Normally a strong neutral palette is very conducive to minimal living. Pure white, the color perhaps most associated with the look, has a quality of purity that exceeds most others. However, all-black looks modern and sassy, blue is very calming, neutral is on trend.
The downside to this is that one color can make a space seem cold, sterile, and unwelcoming. To offset this, use natural materials like wood flooring, a textured rug, or cozy throw in conjunction with your color scheme that will warm and ground the space.
Also be mindful as to where you use a white color scheme, if you use it. When something is white, we notice the details way more. Did you know creases look more prominent on white bedsheets? Or any bit of dirt on plain a white or black surface will be magnified?
4. USE THE “DO I REALLY LOVE THIS” TEST
Train yourself to ask “Do I really love this?” And ask yourself it all the time. So many of our purchases are done out of habit, but as the question sinks in, you might find yourself realizing you don’t need most of the items you impulsively buy.
When it comes to the things you already own, consider what makes you feel your best self. What truly lights you up when you see it? Begin to chip away at anything that gets in the way of those feelings.
It’s also worth noting that human beings have a tendency to view what they own with a very exaggerated sense of responsibility. All items are special in the eyes of a hoarder. You feel because it was given to you, you must keep it forever.
Understandably, emotional ties (especially when people close to us pass on) can make it hard to let go of items that are associated with an individual or items that someone has given us. The key is to articulate what is truly special to you and whether or not you are keeping something simply because you feel you have to.
The memories of a person or a past event lie deep within each of us, not in our things. Sometimes a photo of an item can trigger the same memories just as well as the actual thing. I keep lots of little notes and cards people I love gave to me, but there are also some I’m ok letting go off.
5. USE TEXTURE AND STATEMENT PIECES TO CREATE DEPTH
Texture makes a space feel cozy and complete – adding depth to even the most sleek and minimalist of spaces is important. It completes the room and makes you feel genuinely at peace.
People often describe needing more personal clarity and balance. Think about your home as a living, breathing entity that wants to feel the same. When you clear the counters and decks, reintroduce a centerpiece will create a crisp visual focus and accessories that organize the room in a new way, helping it to appear more settled and streamlined.
Because when you release, you are always creating space for newness.