It was the morning of New Years Eve 2013 and the normally very amiable Ryan Nicodemus from The Minimalists has just laid down the law with me. I’ve been advised in his kind, but firm mentoring voice that in our next catch-up, something must be removed. It was time to make a serious decision about eliminating one of my many commitments. Studying not one, but two degrees, working part-time, setting up a freelance writing business and trying to jam a fitness and social life in had taken its toll. Amidst the over-achieving clutter of my life, I managed to rummage around and find enough semblances to ping the ‘good-looking’ half (Ryan’s words) of The Minimalists an email. Slowly drowning in an ocean of to-do lists, I needed a life raft, pronto.
The ‘areas of change’ Nicodemus focuses on are: career, personal freedom, simplicity, and habits. I was overcooked in all of them.
Minimalism is by no means a new trend. Gypsies, remote tribes and many nomads lead minimalist lifestyles. Moving towards minimalism is not about quitting your job, donating all your clothes and living in a studio apartment with a spatula and a fold-up-bed-come-sofa. Rather, it is mindfully removing what is no longer serving you, to make space for what you truly need and how you really want to live your life.
The hardest thing? Knowing where to start and the heartache of letting go of ‘stuff’.
Firstly, I had to get real. As a female in today’s society we have considerable expectations to be highly functioning. For me, I had cultivated a superior facade. Juggling competing priorities, I had a spectacular meltdown in December and spent a couple of weeks reassessing my position. By enlisting my minimalist mentor, I spent time tackling each aspect of my life and the desired outcome I wanted to feel in each.
As a result, this is my seven-step guide to becoming a minimalist and maximising your life:
- Keep a schedule of everything you do for one week. From grocery shopping to Facebook and watching reruns of Sex and the City, look at each activity and ask yourself: what is the outcome you desire from each? How is each thing you do adding value to your life?
- De-clutter one room at a time. Don’t make the fatal mistake of deciding to spring clean the whole house. It’s an overwhelming and massive job. Pick one room, decide what to donate or discard, then store hard-to-decide items.
- Make it a project. Allocate one month to seeing how much of your home you can de-clutter. Start with easier rooms and move to the hard to tackle ones, you’ll gain momentum this way.
- Experiment with living with less. Ryan told me that he had a ‘packing party’ where all his possessions were packed up and over a three-month period, he could only unpack things he needed to use. This is radical, and could be fun. On a smaller scale, you could try cutting down your TV time and increase spending time with family or friends.
- Wear less. No, I’m not advocating you strut around naked but we’ve all heard the saying we wear 20% of what we own? How about just that? For one month, try sticking to 20% of your wardrobe and see if you miss wearing your unused clothes.
- Digital detox. Incorporate offline time. Even if it is one day a week to start with, and just social media. Or even a few hours a day. A small digital sabbatical everyday could help you incorporate that run, coffee with friends, read a book or just relax.
- Join or create a Minimalist group. I’m part of a Minimalist meet-up in Melbourne and every fortnight we catch up and discuss a particular topic. Things like money, habits, and productivity are all experiences we’ve battled with. Through our sharing and encouragement of projects, we collectively inspire and pool resources.
In terms of where I am at right now, through various experiments and creating ‘minimalist’ projects – I’ve culled 50% of my wardrobe, am now studying and freelancing full-time (I got clear on my purpose), and sold a whole heap of unwanted items on eBay (and started paying down my credit card). But the biggest one? I rediscovered a whole new way to lead a lighter life, by letting go of everything weighing me down.
Are you a minimalist? What helped you make the change? Would you ever consider trying minimalism?
If you’re interested in minimalism, the following resources may be helpful to you: