How to Start Being a Minimalist (from People Who Have Done It)

by - Tuesday, January 30, 2018

It's clear that your stuff is keeping you from being happy. Rather than making you happier, you have too much, and now you waste so much time trying to keep it clean or finding what you want. The truth is, if you are an American, you probably have around 300,000 objects in your home. No one needs that many, so many of us share the challenge of too much stuff.

But once you have identified you need to get rid of things, how do you actually do it? Or if you want to live a more minimalist lifestyle, focused on experiences instead of things, how do you get your life from chaos zone to zen clear counters?

All this stuff seems easier said than done, but the truth is lots of people HAVE done it. And they have tons of good advice about what steps to take first.

If you are ready to start decluttering, downsizing, or minimizing, I highly recommend joining a facebook group for support. Living a more minimal life is against cultural norms- we are supposed to want more, not less! So here are some groups I have joined and I really love- Minimalism: Declutter your Life, Minimize to Maximize, Minimalism for the Sane, and minimalism  + motherhood.

You can do this. Now, let's talk about how.

Start in your Closet

"Clothes. Easy. Filled bags and bags. Then kitchen then dvds and books, shed, bathroom, boys toys, and now onto paper."- Veronica

Embrace a Small Space

"Downsizing to 1/2...I wanted to do it before I moved." - Michele

"I started as I was retiring from running a home daycare 8 years ago and selling my 4 bedroom 1700 sq ft 4 level split home to get married and was moving into a 1100 sq ft home that was already furnished-it was my new husbands home. I called American Rescue Workers and donated all the furniture, and household stuff I had no need for. We then sold that house we gave all of those belongings to family members who needed it and the rest to Good Will and moved to a 896 sq ft condo in Florida. We took what we needed when moving -if it fit into our car-we did not get a moving van. Being in such a small place means you have to take a serious look at what is important-needs vs wants. I hate clutter so I have really cut back on what we own-so happy living with less. I have more time to do the things I love-spending time with friends and family, sewing, cooking, volunteering, etc... I will NEVER regret our minimalist lifestyle!" -Melissa

Give Up on Cleaning, Organizing... And Shopping

"The turning point was one day when I was lifting things up to dust and I didn't even like the things I was having to pick up to clean! So getting rid of mediocre decor was easy because it made cleaning much easier. I need negative space among my colorful life so I love open counter space!" - Hillary

" I was looking into organising stuff around the house and came across a quote- if you need organizers to hold your stuff you probably have to much stuff. When the neighbor wanted to do a garage sale over the summer i thought now's a good time. I got rid of duplicates, stuff that didn't fit, not being used etc. I went through the whole house with a box." - Mary Jo

"I minimized shopping first. Then my closet, then the kitchen. Toys, crafts /hobbies /books, and nostalgic things took the longest." - Candace

Love this. If you replace everything you give, you aren't solving the problem The only way to simplify is to stop shopping.

"I have never read a book or watched videos. I picked up a recyclable bag and went from room to room filling the bag. 3 years later and many bags 70+% of what I own is gone and I'm feeling much better. I personally avoided books and movies simply because I dislike being told what to get rid of and how much to keep. Everyone's journey is different." - Jennifer

Be Strategic

"We've used lots of different methods in the past to get started, but nothing has really stuck for us. Last year we started the KonMari Method and it has been really life changing for us." -Emily

The KonMari method really works for some, though it does recommend just throwing things out. Donate it, friend. Celebrate your freedom from stuff by helping someone get what they need. 

"Minimalist challenge.. purge 1 item on the first day, 2 on the second day, etc for a month (so 31 items on the last day). I donate all usable items (mainly to my local charity shop that supports education programs in developing countries - I also shop there as my main source for clothes). I did it in reverse as I found it easier and more efficient to start at 31 and gradually reduce the number of daily purges. I'm currently doing KonMari. It feels very positive to me as my mind is clearer and more able to make satisfying, easy decisions when my space is clearer. I have more peace and productivity." - Cate

Start Small and Specific

"Clean the bathroom. Really clean it. Take everything out of cabinets. Put back only what you need and really use. Toss everything else. You’ll feel amazing." - Tonya

I love this advice, but I will add that this blog does not really go for the "just tossing things" method. I am all about getting it out of your house, but someone else can use it. So even for bathroom, try offering it to friends or on your Buy Nothing Group. If it isn't opened, donate it. 

"I started with my kitchen. I was overwhelmed by mismatched and single pieces of Tupperware and too many place settings. I had a lot of duplicates *just in case I needed extra.* In reality, I never used those extras because they were shoved in the back behind my favorite things. So I started there. I paired down an 82 piece silverware set to 24 pieces. I kept one set of new pots and pans and donated my old set. I kept the bare minimum, and told myself, if I truly missed something that I had gotten rid of, I’d reinvest in a quality piece. I never have. Not once have I EVER missed what I got rid of. I mean really? Did I need 5 spatulas? Nope." - Erynn

I started with the easiest thing to part with... trash. Expired coupons, junk mail, lots of paper stuff and cardboard boxes.  📦 Everything seems to come in a box. The next thing was clothes my children have outgrown. Things I will never use again. And anything broken. I needed to replace my can opener and hand mixer." - Tammy

"I accidentally found this group, over the holiday season, and reading peoples posts and seeing their examples of letting things go, really challenged the attitudes around me and within me. I started to see my home and belongings with a new perspective;
It was OK to let things go. Yes, you are allowed to remove them
permanently, give yourself permission.
Enjoy your home.
Free the space.
Live in a home you enjoy with possessions you love.
Release the guilt of no longer wanted gifts and purchases.
Deal with your stuff now, dont create a burden for your family.
I was so inspired to start, but not being at home, i reached for the nearest thing, my purse. I threw away old receipts, old store cards, expired coupons.
The purse felt lighter and so did i."

Love the advice to JOIN A GROUP- there are so many out there and you can find TONS of inspiration and support! 

"I was on vacation in Europe, and my big suitcase was stolen out of the trunk of our rental car. I'd had one change of clothes with me in my daypack; I had to buy a bathing suit, but otherwise did fine with almost nothing!" - Chris

Focus on Helping Others

"i met a woman, a lovely woman, who is a Veteran of our country...and life led to homelessness. i have gifted her over fifty percent of my closet and accessories, etc etc. i cannot wait to help her into a real not one to 'throw away' anything bc i feel there are humans who would love what i would toss....this journey has been the best part of my 2017-2018 so far. pay it forward!" - Suzanne

"I grew up Mennonite (still am), and though we are a pretty modern version, there is an underlying principle of doing without extras so others can have the basics. So, I suppose that is minimalism in a way. Also grew up with solar panels, chickens that ate scraps, gardens, etc. The terms "minimalism" and "zero waste" came later and were useful descriptors." - Ryan

Think About What We Leave Behind

"When I began cleaning my dad-in-law's stuff after his death and my mom-in-law's clutter around the same time. I didn't want to leave a trail behind for my kids to clean up. The massive amounts of things we simply accumulate was overwhelming at that very moment. Since then, I detached emotionally from everything and began donating and discarding big time. And then I happened to read about Swedish death cleaning." - Gayathri

Lean on a Friend

After being credited with starting someone else's journey "I started out following Courtney Carver’s project 333 for my clothing and then everything else fell into place Courtney and Elesha are my decluttering hero’s!" - Judy

"A year ago I moved in with my partner whose ex-wife took almost everything in the divorce. That made me realize how much unnecessary stuff I have. So here I am on the minimalism journey I have wanted to do my whole adult life." - Mandy

Get Out of Debt

Elesha wrote me to talk about how becoming a minimalist helped her pay off her debt. You can read all about her journey here if this sounds really good to you!

What advice is missing from this list? If you have become a minimalist, how did you do?

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  1. These are great tips, I am slowly trying to make it there! One box to good will at a time!

  2. We are preparing to move so I am taking the opportunity to declutter and rid my life of the unnecessary stuff. Great tips for me to keep in mind

  3. You have written such an inspirational post. For me getting rid of stuff at home is like getting rid of feelings and emotions. So much of attachment with every small thing. But I need to learn and de-clutter the house of stuff that are no more required.

  4. This was a really interesting read. I definitely need to start decluttering our house! Small steps!

  5. What great tips! I just starting packing before our big move it has helped go through all the stuff we don't need.



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