Beginners Guide to Living a Super Minimalistic Life
If you’d like to change your lifestyle from high-consumption to a happier and less material driven way of life, a minimalist lifestyle could be the answer.
In this guide, we’ll equip you with an understanding of minimalism and the basic principles of a minimalist life. We’ll highlight the benefits of this approach and provide you with a five-step plan to a super minimalistic life.
WHAT IS A MINIMALISTIC LIFE?
Minimalistic life is often misunderstood as a wacky fad. When people hear someone is living a minimalist life, they think the person doesn’t have a TV, a computer or almost any other household item (if they even have a house!).
Furthermore, people who lead a minimalist lifestyle are considered idealistic hippies, who don’t understand their privilege.
But none of the above is actually true. So, what is minimalism about?
What is minimalism?
In essence, minimalism is a lifestyle to rid yourself of life’s excesses in favour of focusing on the aspects most important for you.
Therefore, minimalism doesn’t have an ultimate list of things to discard. Each person defines minimalism differently and the excesses and areas of focus can differ from person to person.
Minimalism does typically, however, result in a lifestyle with the following characteristics:
- Less: clutter, time commitments, negative thought patterns and toxic relationships
- More: time, space and energy to focus on things that are meaningful to the person
To some, minimalism might mean living in a tent without a TV and a smartphone. But minimalism is also for the people who live a perfectly ‘normal’ life with work, family and hobbies, but who just want to cut down on the non-essentials. To them, owning many clothes, having the newest sports car and eating out can be non-essentials, while the person in the tent might consider even a house a non-essential.
A minimalistic life will give you happiness once you know your life’s purpose (see slides)
It’s easy to assume minimalism is all about possessions. To a certain extent, this is true, as you’ll most likely reduce the amount of physical possessions once you choose to lead a minimalistic life. But it’s not just about the possessions, but also about the people and activities in your life that are of no real value.
Ultimately, minimalism is about finding freedom in life. Living a minimalistic lifestyle is the freedom from guilt, consumption and worry, for example. It’s about figuring out the things, people and activities which provide you the most value and happiness, and removing the things, people and activities from your life which you don’t actually need.
Minimalism is about making choices consciously, rather than letting other people or society tell us what to do or value. It can help add more intention to your everyday life, as you’ll consciously think about your choices and focus on the most important aspects of life.
A Swedish proverb highlights the ideas behind minimalism quite well:
“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.”
This is the story of how two guys created a rich life with less stuff.
The basic principles of minimalism
While a minimalistic life will look different from one person to the other, there are certain guiding principles you should use to get started. You should focus on three things: removing needless things, nurturing the essentials, and making your actions count.
Removing needless things
As mentioned above, removing needless things doesn’t equal to omitting everything or throwing away your possessions. The focus is on the word ‘needless’ and the definition you apply to this word. You need to identify the things and actions in your life, which you need and value.
In minimalism, you want to objectively look at each item and consider its true meaning and value to you. To some it might mean removing possessions such as fancy furniture or downsizing to a smaller apartment, while others might focus on reducing their wardrobe or shoe collection.
Identifying needless things might not be as easy as it sounds. We tend to place a lot of sentimental value to things, as well as think about the future possibilities. For example, it’s easy to look at your bread maker and convince yourself you might need it in the future. The key is to identify the reasons you value the specific item and understand whether you actually need it.
Notice that having less doesn’t mean you can’t have things or even add new items to your life. It’s only about identifying the things you actually require and which add to your overall happiness.
Here are some things you could leave away.
Nurturing the essentials
Minimalism’s basic principles also include nurturing the essentials. These naturally include life’s necessities such as food, water and shelter. But you’ll also have other essentials important to yourself.
Identify the essentials by asking yourself:
- What is important to me?
- What makes me happy?
By making a note of the things that have the biggest impact on your happiness and wellbeing, you can start nurturing these aspects of your life more. You’ll most likely also identify the needless aspects of your possessions and actions.
Remember to look at the above questions through both your private and work life. Minimalism isn’t just about living a minimalistic lifestyle at home in your private space, but also about identifying the essentials in your career.
Making your actions count
The final principle deals with making your actions count. You want to start avoiding things that don’t matter to you or add to your wellbeing and happiness.
Every action you take and every purchase you make should have a meaning behind it. These actions should have a positive impact on your life.
Making your actions count is largely about sustainability as well. It’s not just about the short-term impact or happiness, but the long-term impact.
A new car might make you happy for a month, but after a year, you might be sick of the sight of it.
Instead of looking for the short-term reward and impact, you want to find the items and actions that continue to have an effect long into the future.
THE BENEFITS OF A MINIMALISTIC LIFESTYLE
The above is interesting and great, but you might be wondering why you should embark on a minimalistic lifestyle? Is there any benefit to getting rid of needless things and focusing on the essentials? After all, what harm can that extra bread maker do in your cupboard?
There are three big reasons for choosing minimalism:
- It helps define what is important and meaningful for you. By understanding what you are truly interested and passionate about, you can direct your life towards these goals. You’ll start pursuing your passion and spend your time and energy on meaningful activities.
All of which can help eliminate discontent. You’re not spending your workday mindlessly calculating profits, but you go out and develop ideas and concepts you are excited and passionate about.
- It provides you more freedom. Minimalism can free you from pursuing things that aren’t essential for you. You stop seeking things and actions with artificial status. For instance, you don’t feel compelled to buy the car just so your neighbors would consider you rich, as you understand this doesn’t provide you real happiness.
Furthermore, you can often enjoy deeper financial freedom. You’ll stop buying things and participating in activities that require money, yet don’t provide you happiness and meaning. Extra money might lead to you working less, as you don’t require money to stay happy and pay for things you don’t even need or value.
Minimalistic lifestyle is a key concept of the early retirement extreme movement. The movement is about people who want to retire in their 30s and 40s, and spend the rest of their time in pursuing other meaningful routes in life.
- Your experience of things and actions is different. Minimalism can help you live in the moment. Instead of chasing the future where your dreams have come true, you focus on the here and now. We’re often too focused on thinking if we’d only do this and buy that, we’d be happy, when most of us would feel blessed if we just looked around us.
Since the focus is on wellbeing and happiness, you are also going to focus on your body and mind more. You’ll feel happier and healthier living in this moment.
Check out the below video’s interesting take on minimalism and the advantages it has.
THE STEPS TO A SUPER MINIMALISTIC LIFE
If you’d like to embark on a minimalistic lifestyle, you need to first understand the journey will not always be easy. You’ll struggle at times and you might even fall back from your minimalistic lifestyle.
But don’t let minor sidesteps distract or discourage you. A minimalistic lifestyle is a journey that involves revision and rethinking.
You can use the following five steps as a guide to starting out. They will help you focus on the basic principles of minimalism and define the kind of minimalistic lifestyle you’d want to achieve.
Step one: Become content with what you have
The key to starting a minimalistic lifestyle relies on the acknowledgement that you already have enough. This isn’t so much about giving up things, but the understanding you don’t need to keep acquiring things in order to feel satisfied.
You should identify the things you need and which make you happy. You want to break out of the consumption cycle, which tells you that if you just bought those shoes or went to a dinner in the fancy restaurant, you’d be happier or more content. Look at the things you are wishing to have; do you need them to be happier?
It’s important to learn to be content with what you already have. To find happiness in the things you already have and the actions you are able to do. By breaking the cycle of needing and wanting more, you’ll start moving towards minimalism because you understand the truly important things in life.
Learning to be content with the present will help you identify the essentials and the needless things in your life. For example, you can realise you love running and it gives you happiness, even if you aren’t wearing the newest running shoes.
Some inspiring insights from Mark and Kym on how to be happy with what you have.
Step two: Understand what are your personal real necessities
When you are content about the things you love, you can also start identifying the personal necessities. In essence, people need food, water, basic clothing, shelter and love to survive. All the other items we gather around us are an additional bonus.
This doesn’t mean you need to just have the above items and get rid of everything else. It just forces you to examine the importance of things more carefully.
It’s easy to overestimate the value of items or actions. We can think, for instance, that we need to be at work an hour before others just to get things ready. But is this a necessity? Does it provide you meaning and happiness to do so?
Food could provide another example. A number of people consider meat to be a necessity, even though there’s evidence to suggest you can get the required nutrients elsewhere. Furthermore, even if you don’t want to cut down eating meat, you could consider whether it is necessary to eat it five or seven days a week? Perhaps, eating meat on two days of the week would be enough to make you content.
Create a list of the things and actions that have the biggest impact on your health and wellbeing, both in your personal and business life. This will provide you clarity to start stripping off all the other unnecessary things and actions from your life.
Step three: De-clutter your life
Once you are clear about the necessities and you have a list of the most precious things and actions to your happiness and wellbeing, you can start removing the non-meaningful items.
De-cluttering your life can sound like a big thing to do and you definitely don’t want to overwhelm yourself by trying to sort out everything at once. Consider clearing your possessions one room at a time, for example. With actions, try to get rid of the most meaningless and unnecessary actions first.
When you are thinking of removing an item from your life, use the following questions as a guide:
- When have you last used the item? Why did you use it then?
- Does the item make you feel stressed or happy?
- Does the item help you save time or use your time better?
- Is it expensive to maintain or store this item?
The answers can help you understand whether the item has meaning or need in your life. If it causes stress, costs a lot to maintain and doesn’t serve a purpose, there’s no point in holding on to it.
The above questions are helpful whether you are cleaning the house from clothes, accessories, furniture or even re-organizing your office.
Once you start de-cluttering, you are likely to encounter items you find hard to let go, even if you haven’t used them or they don’t have a specific purpose. If you are afraid to let go of an item, analyze why you feel this way?
- Do you feel anxious because you think you might need the item?
- Does the item have a lot of sentimental value to you?
- Did you spend a lot of money acquiring the item and by throwing it away, you feel you are wasting the money?
Once you understand the reason behind your need to hold on, you can find a solution to the problem. For example:
- Have a special box for items you think you might need. If you don’t take the specific item out in the next six months, you don’t need it and you should get rid of it.
- If the item has sentimental value, consider writing down a short description of the item, perhaps behind a photograph of it. You can write down the memories you have and the importance of the item. This way you can still have the memory and enjoy the item, but you won’t have it gathering dust in the attic.
- If throwing away an expensive item feels like wasting money, consider selling the item forward or giving it to charity. Think how you’ll be able to make someone else happy with your purchase and you won’t feel as bad.
Step four: Simplify the things you do
As well as de-cluttering your life from unnecessary possessions, you should also simplify the things you do. You don’t want to lead a complicated life, with commitments you don’t find meaningful and tasks that don’t add to your happiness.
Start by reducing the amount of commitments you have, both in private and business life.
In work, define the most meaningful aspects of reaching your goals and objectives and focus on them. For instance, not all business meetings are necessary for achieving a goal. Whenever you are about to add a new commitment, consider whether it truly brings you closer to the end goal. Is it meaningful?
The same applies to your private life. Is it worth going to the family gathering, if you always return feeling anxious and depressed? Does going out with friends to drink provide meaning to your life? Perhaps you could limit the family gatherings you go to or meet your friends without also drinking.
Remember, the aim is to focus on doing things that provide you meaning and happiness, not the things society or friends expect you to do.
You also need to clear your schedule from events and actions that have no meeting. Ensure your schedule has empty space for doing the things you love the most and which are the most meaningful to you.
This also includes including relaxation time – a moment when you do absolutely nothing but gather your thoughts.
Clean your to-do list by using the principle of focusing on only the essentials. For each day, pick three tasks that are essential and have high-impact on making the day a success and moving you closer to achieving a goal.
Step five: Reassess your approach regularly
Finally, as mentioned above, a minimalistic lifestyle requires constant evaluation and readjustment. This isn’t even down to you necessarily failing or doing something wrong. Our lives can simply take new turns and our own passions might change from one to another.
Evaluate your approach to minimalism once a year. Go through the above steps regularly to ensure you don’t lose sight of the essentials or gather too much needless possessions and actions. If you feel things have changed, simply adjust your approach and keep moving forwards.