Minimalism has become something of a buzz word over the last few years, and it’s one that I am glad has made its way into the mainstream. Maybe it has something to do with how I grew up or the way I’ve lived as a young adult, but I’ve always been a fan of the “more is less” mentality, and seeing this idea of living with less in order to experience a more full life enrapture so many people has got me all kinds of giddy. See, I’ve never really had much — nor wanted much — so minimalism has been a very natural space for me to move into as an adult human. My only issue with minimalism being such a trend right now, though, is that many think it’s a set-in-stone strategy, or that it can be too limiting or too overwhelming. I personally believe that minimalism is moldable: it is a way of living that can adapt differently to any person’s lifestyle. And my favorite part of minimalism? Having less stuff frees me up to do more, to love better, and to experience more of life, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. The minimalist lifestyle might not be for everyone, but being more thoughtful and conscious about what we have, what we really need, and how we consume is easy (and important!) enough for everyone to do. So here are some of my thoughts and tips on why and how to do just that.
How I Got Into Minimalism
A few years ago, I read a book called The More of Less by Joshua Becker that trulty started me on this journey. In reading that book, and then eventually watching the documentary called Minimalism on Netflix, I knew that it was a lifestyle change I wanted to adopt. Not only was the allure of having less stuff to hold me back a big draw, but because I had already been thinking seriously about wanting to be a more conscious consumer, I was quite easily hooked. I started to look at all of my stuff — clothes, furniture, and other bits and bobs — with new eyes and a new goal: to only keep the things that served a purpose or brought me joy.
To be honest, it certainly helps that, for most of my adult life, I just haven’t had a ton of stuff. I went from college dorm rooms to furnished bedrooms for a while, and it wasn’t until I was living in Nashville that I had to buy my first piece of real furniture: a bed. That started my “nesting” phase, in which I slowly acquired things here and there to furnish and decorate the space that was my (tiny) room. A few years later, I moved into the master bedroom where I had more space to fill, and so I accumulated more things to so do. I lived comfortably with a number of cute and cherished items for almost four years while I was in Nashville, right up until just over a year ago. If you’ve followed along with my journey, you know what happened, but if not, let me fill you in: last year I began planning a multi-month long trip through Europe, and thus was leaving Nashville to move back home to California and live with friends while I traveled. So I chose to sell or donate all of my furniture and a good amount of the things I had collected over the years, since the plan was to fit everything I was taking with me in my Prius. So I did just that.
And yet the purging of unnecessary things and then shopping with a more conscious mindset has continued, even while I don’t have a place of my own. I can definitely credit a lot of this to having lived out of a fairly small suitcase for almost five months, because doing so helped me realize even more just how much I didn’t need back home. And I realize that my story and this stage of my life is certainly unique and possible unrelatable — as most adult humans won’t enter into a season where they’ll need to get rid of so much — but to adopt a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to have a similar experience to mine. So while yes, I got rid of my stuff in a more drastic fashion than most might, I want you to know is that — regardless of what may lead you to it — the ultimate goal of minimalism is this: to simplify your life with less stuff, to become a more conscious consumer, and to end up with more space, time, and energy to focus on the more important things of life.
How I Live Minimally — and How You Can, Too
As I mentioned before, my journey into minimalism began with making the decision to toss stuff that I really didn’t want, need, or that didn’t bring me joy. If you think that sounds way too simple, that’s because it kind of is. There were plenty of things in my life that, I realized, were taking up physical real estate yet that I didn’t really need or want: extra decor items, clothes that hadn’t been worn in months (if not years), and other crap that was sitting around for “just incase” moments. So I started getting rid of things that I decided were no longer necessary, and it’s a habit that has and will continue to stick with me. I have found so much freedom in living with less, so here are some of the things I focus on to live minimally that you can easily start to incorporate in your own life:
The first and possibly easiest place to start with minimalism is with the things that take up space in our lives and homes, such as furniture, decor, books, and general knick-knacks. These easily add up — whether they are things we bought ourselves, have collected over the years, or were given as gifts — and they’re often the things that end up collecting dust, With items like this, I recommend first taking their practicality into account: do they serve a real purpose in your home/space, or do they have significant personal or sentimental value? If so, keep it. If not, consider removing it from your space, whether temporarily (like a trial run) or permanently through either selling or donating. When it comes to items like books, I personally try to only keep the essentials: ones that I loved enough to know I’ll want to read again. Otherwise, I have found myself donating most of my books after typing out some notes and quotes upon finishing reading (yes, I’m a nerd). Some people really love their book collections and for their shelves to be full, which is totally okay. But it is definitely an area where — if you want less stuff — you can pare down. To that point, I love to read and have always favored physical books over electronic ones, but have found myself — begrudgingly, to be sure — leaning toward the latter over the last few years. Not only do they take up virtually zero space, but books are so much easier to transport on an e-reader, especially in bulk, so I can’t recommend investing in one enough. One last group of “things” you can look at minimizing are your beauty/bathroom items. The truth is that we do not need all of the crap the collects in our bathroom cabinets and showers, so consider paring down those products that you don’t use, don’t need, or might even be past their expiration date.
Living in such a consumer-based society, it’s understandable that our closets can be the easiest and potentially most mindless space of our lives to fill. Therefore, I think the closet is one of the biggest and best places to work on minimalism, because you’re in it every day. My first piece of advice — and the first thing I do — when going through clothes is to pull absolutely everything out of your closet and/or dresser at once. Then, one by one, go through every single item. It can be a daunting task, but trust me, doing so will shed so much light on the things you really love versus the ones that you can part with. I would even say to take it a step further by trying on every article of clothing, and as you’re doing that, create three piles — definitely keep, maybe keep, and toss — and to be both honest and realistic in that process: have you worn that item in the last 3 months? do you think you’ll wear it in the next 3? is it too small/tight, or too big/loose? does it have holes, pilling, or loose threads? is it really your style? With the “definitely keep” pile, do just that: keep it. Hang those items back up in your closet and high five yourself, because you’ve done the dang thing. With the “maybe keep” pile, stick those items into a box or bag and put it somewhere out of sight, like under the bed or in the back of the closet. The purpose of this is to not jump the gun too quick by getting rid of these items, but rather to keep them for a bit. If you find that you’ve reached for an item once or more during the next 3 months, you might want to consider keeping it for good. But if you find that you either never wanted to wear it or totally forgot about it even existed, it’s probably time to toss it. And lastly, with the “toss” pile, I first recommend trying to sell or consign items that are in good condition to make some extra cash for investing in future items (a good question to as yourself is: “would I give or sell this to my best friend?”) . If you don’t think it’s worth selling, please bring them to a local donation center in your area. There are always places like Goodwill, but keep in mind that more than half of what gets donated to those kinds of places often get thrown away in the long run, so try looking into other local establishments like homeless shelters of clothing banks.
The second part of my minimal attitude toward clothing comes in the form of conscious consumerism: choosing to purchase items that are ethically and sustainably produced. Yes, ethical and/or sustainable items are often more expensive than traditional, mass-produced ones, however I believe that the higher price tag is worth it, and for a few reasons. First, you will find that the products you’re buying are made of quality, sourced materials that are made to last much longer than what you might get from a chain brand store. Here is where quality trumps quantity, for sure. Second, these products are often made in a more environmentally-conscious way, boasting a sustainability factor that fast-fashion will likely never be able to reach. And third, ethical companies are able to employ people who may not have the opportunity to work in good/fair conditions otherwise, as they often teach these people the skills necessary to create the products, as well provide fair-trade wages to help end poverty cycles around the world. Some of my favorite ethical and sustainable clothing and accessory brands are:
ABLE. The majority of my bags and jewelry are from this Nashville-based brand, who employs women both locally and internationally. All of their jewelry is made in house in Nashville, while their leather bags and accessories, as well as an array of clothing and shoes, are made all around the world by women who’ve come out of challenging circumstances. Able is focused on “ending generational poverty through providing economic opportunity for women,” which is a mission I can 100% get behind. But on top of that, their products are beautiful, timeless, and made to last. I can’t speak highly enough of this company and their products.
NISOLO. Similar to Able, Nisolo is a Nashville-based company specializing in jewelry, leather shoes, and other leather goods that employs over 500 people in Peru, Mexico, and Kenya with fair-trade wages and skill training. Nisolo’s vision is ”to push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction — where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price — that not only values exceptional design, but the producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer.” I just purchased my third pair of Nisolo shoes, and they are all gorgeous, super comfortable, and crafted to last for years. Bonus: click here to save $25 on your next order!
EVERLANE. A great brand out of San Francisco, Everlane aims to produce clothing that is of “exceptional quality, [from] ethical factories, and [with] radical transparency.” While their clothes are sometimes a little too far out of my price range (because hello silk and cashmere!), I do have a few Everlane tops that are super comfortable and great for everyday wear.
After all of this, what you ultimately end up with is a smaller closet filled with clothes that you actually love. It makes getting dressed each morning easier and less stressful, and even gives you the opportunity to think of your wardrobe as a curated collection of beautiful and timeless things that bring you joy and make you feel good. Trust me, it’s the best.
Mental Real Estate
And then what about our mental space? What we fill our heads with has the potential to soak up our time and energy, so I have made some decisions in order to declutter that space, and try to put a few simple things into practice each day to keep it so. For one, that has meant less binge-watching. While I was traveling, I lost access to Netflix about two months in, and while it was a bummer at first, I found that not having immediate access to tv shows and movies actually ended up being a blessing in disguise. Instead of spending countless hours binging Stranger Things (again), I had tons more time to read, rest, and explore every day. While I am back on Netflix and Hulu now that I’m stateside, I’ve found that I spend far less time watching things,. and instead fill my days with other, more important activities. Another way that I’ve tried to declutter mental space is by — and I admit that I am not always great at this — doing my best to not open my phone first thing in the morning. My phone is my alarm, so this can be a slight challenge, but I really do try each morning to turn off the alarm and then put my phone away. In doing this, I am able to tune into how I’m feeling, get in some leisure reading, and spend time in prayer — instead of scrolling through Instagram or reading emails — before the day gets going. I also try set to daily goals either right when waking up or when heading to bed the night before, as doing so helps me to start my morning focused on the things that I want to accomplish that day. Clearing up my mental space really sets me up to be less stressed in the day to day, which has been a huge shift in my life. It’s a transformation that I want that you to experience, too — so do you think you can put some of these tips into practice?
The Perks of Being a Minimalist
There are so many reasons why I love living with less, but the biggest is having more freedom than ever before to focus on the things that are truly important to me instead of being weighed down by things. I find that I have more mental and emotional space and energy to pour into the people in my life and the things I’m most passionate about — like writing — when I just have less stuff in my life. And not only can owning less mean more freedom physically, but it can grant you more freedom mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well — and isn’t that something we all kind of long for?
Minimalism, for me, has resulted in a quieter and simpler life in the sense that I have less things clamoring for my attention, I spend less time cleaning and maintaining, and I have far less stress when packing for a trip or preparing for a move. This brings me a great deal of peace in my day to day life, which is why I truly can’t hype it enough. And the beauty is that, as a lifestyle, minimalism is totally adaptable to each and every individual: you can put into practice as little or as much as you’re comfortable with, and thus allow yourself to experience more of life with less things. The numbers and the rules don’t really matter; what does matter is the freedom you’ll experience in living with the less, and yet the most important, things.