The top 10 tips I’ve learned from minimalists


I’m not going to covet other minimalists’ lives anymore.

I don’t travel the world with a single backpack.

I haven’t packed up my family to travel across the country in an RV for a year.

I am not a single woman with a futon, a suitcase and a laptop.

I didn’t choose 600 square feet of dwelling space with a hobby farm ‘round back.

YET, I adore reading about these amazing people and their even more intriguing journeys toward transformation. In perusing books and blogposts, these characters seem like old friends. We’re all rooting for them. Their triumphs and courageous leaps of faith provide the inspiration for our own stories. However, through all this story following, I have found there is not one formula for choosing a simple life…it is not a one-size-fits all t-shirt. No matter what our life looks like, I do believe each and every one of these intentional & devoted people can teach a lesson worth learning.

A kind of minimalism for the rest of us sort of thing.




1) Clear surfaces and uncluttered spaces create calm in the soul.

Disorganization in my environment used to create brain chaos for me. I learned the how-to’s of de-cluttering from almost all of these experienced minimalists and formulated a day-by-day plan to clear out. What a huge difference this had made!

2) Unplug and partake in digital sabbaticals regularly.

I’ve blogged about this before, but I can’t say enough about what this practice has done for my sanity, my kids and my marriage. Here’s a great podcast about what it can do for you.

3) The habit of saying NO can vastly improve your life.

With each and every post I read on this topic from various bloggers, I gain courage and inspiration to say it loud (yet, politely) and often. No to commitments that aren’t passions…no to stuff from family members and friends…no to social situations that make me feel stressed or uncomfortable. This allows the yes’s in that bring mindfulness and happiness.

4) Be realistic about how much entertaining you do in your home.

I got rid of all of the doubles in my closets and cabinets. I found that my army-sized set of champagne glasses all had dust, except two. Party themed decorations are only items taking up real estate in needed cabinet space. I also found that if there happens to be a need for party gear, people are more than happy to lend it to friends.

5) Choose work that you love and your life will improve overall.

At the moment I am not self-employed like many of these simple living experts. I owned my own photography business for 13 years and found it wasn’t fitting my personality. I didn’t have the gift of separating the hustle of entrepreneurship from family life. I’m in awe of people who live on both of those planets successfully—-and even more impressed with people who can do it on the road! After making this realization that I didn’t like working for myself,  I decided to go back to teaching. ‘Turns out I adore inspiring 3rd graders—I’ve never been happier in a job. This change alone inspired a lot of my paring down (goodbye closets of equipment!) and simplifying (hello, weekends spent with family). I think the act of simplifying can help you be honest with what is and isn’t working in a career and give you the courage to take the leap required to make it right.

6) Put limits on spending when it comes to offspring.

Although the whine-o-saur-us is alive and well in my house, I do believe my girls will thank me later. They are responsible for the “extras” with their own allowance. I communicate a price I’m comfortable with when it comes to clothes shopping. If my teens want the Cadillac of jeans, they must pay the difference. We show them what our bills are and talk about how important a budget is and have managed to squelch “the gimmees” with service oriented experiences. Somehow the new Nike Free Runs don’t seem as alluring when there are visions of the destitute and neglected in one’s head.

7) A closet with 33 items really can make your morning (& your life) more efficient.

Who knew? Thank you, Courtney, for informing the masses of this little gem. When I first read about Project 333, I hemmed and hawed as I visually took in my overstuffed closet. I whittled it down in the course of a month. I just got real about what was actually being worn and I made up a fantasy 3 month Airstream itinerary and pulled out all the items I thought I could fit in our Twinkie’s small closet. With the items laid on the bed, I had to laugh because it consisted of all my favorites…my 20%-worn-80%-of-the-time clothes. Then I gave myself a “have courage” speech–it’s all going in a box, not the Goodwill pile, for crying out loud—and I stood back to admire the extra space.

8) Choose quality over quantity.

The juicer, cutting knife, running shoes, winter coat, purse and lipstick (among many other things) were condensed down to one quality purchase per category. Less stuff, but stuff that will last. Joshua Becker’s The Simple Joy of One  is a great post that I took to heart.

9) Food and exercise can be simplified for maximum health.

I let go of the the gym membership in lieu of my nifty efficient work-out space in the garage. All expensive “healthy snacks” (which are really just pre-packaged fare camouflaged in a Whole Food setting) were banished. We eat raw food–nuts, dried fruit, jerky, tons of veges & fruit–and it has really kept us well this year. As an elementary school teacher who’s been back in the classroom for one year, I’ve gotten one cold. I believe in green juice and I’m doing my best to help everyone in our home believe it too. Love The Minimalists take on diet and exercise.

10) Invest in experiences instead of things.

As a family we have made a decision to travel as much as we can. Whether it’s in our Airstream or by plane, I believe it’s important enough to require a separate travel savings account. Luxury cars and second homes were never going to enter the picture with our family—it has always been going places and doing things (that and good Thai food eating experiences). I like this Huffington Post article on the subject.

* * *

What tips have brought you joy in your journey to simple? Which ones made the most difference?


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295 thoughts on “The top 10 tips I’ve learned from minimalists

  1. Pingback: The top 10 tips I’ve learned from minimalists | Undeniably Andi

  2. This is excellent, Lara. Clear, concise, and highly effective. I can attest to the power of an organized, uncluttered life.
    What’s been the best experience that you and your family have invested in?

    • Thank you! So glad you stopped by. The best thing? I’d have to say unplugging…it makes such a difference in making human connections with each other and people outside our family. What about you?

      • You’re speaking my language! The zombification of our culture will be remembered as one of the hallmarks of our era…like the plague was a hallmark for the Middle Ages.

        My best investment? Reading the book “Gaining Favor with God and Man” by William M. Thayer. Out of all the literature that I imbibe, this volume in particular absolutely revolutionized my life. It was a great conviction, a wake-up call. It lit a fire in my bones. I haven’t been the same since!

  3. These are some of the same things that I’ve been learning the past few years, also, but your version is quite inspiring and includes a few things I hadn’t heard. But all true. I need to give myself another have courage speech now!

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  5. I LOVE this post. We are working towards a “minimalist” lifestyle and I keep trying to fit it in the same one size fits all you discuss. I need to rethink the way I am envisioning our changes. Thank you!

  6. Reblogged this on homesteadchic and commented:
    Just a little thought on the minimalist lifestyle I thought I would share. I love that she has broken this down and reminded me that my goal isn’t necessarily going to fit in a particular box.

  7. I’m a huge fan of the minimalist movement. I really enjoyed how you categorized these tips! And Josh is my favorite. My family of six is far happier living intentionally, with less, than we ever were living chaotically, with more.
    Best~ Julie

  8. I am a minimalist. Here are a couple of thoughts:

    a) Living room horizontal surface to objects ration – 2:1. There are four surfaces in my living room and two objects – a globe and a flower vase. Two surfaces remain empty.
    b) I do not own a television.
    c) I lap swim daily; back to the gym three times a week. In my free evenings – when not with friends, family, etc., I play mandolin, read or listen to classical music while cleaning.
    d) In my bedroom I have four objects: bed, nightstand with clock, floor-lamp, antique table (empty.)
    e) There are two paintings per each room – on walls. Otherwise, nothing is affixed to the walls.
    f) In the entire house there is not a single photograph.
    g) The refrigerator door is free of all objects, décor, magnets, etc.
    h) The guest room has one object: a bed
    I) On the horizontal bathroom counters there is one item: pump hand soap. On the wall is one item: a towel.
    j) On the kitchen counters there are three items: pump hand soap, roll of paper towels, and scented candle.
    k) Preparing my own meals to restaurant and fast food ratio – 40:1 (not a precise number, but you get the idea.)
    l) Clothes are rotated through my closets, with ‘daily outfits’ – already ironed/pressed, arranged days earlier. When I need an outfit, I already have half a dozen waiting for me to choose from.
    m) Cleaning supplies are organized by classification.
    n) I find joy in cooking, cleaning and ironing – these are times for reflection.

    • the laptop replaces most of this stuff (tv, paper books, photos). the digital age has really made minimalism so much easier especially as you can scan most documents that you do not need originals of.

  9. This is great. As a single girl moving to the other side of the world, I’m taking one suitcase and a carry-on bag. My possessions weigh 30kg. I will have to buy a warm coat and good shoes at my destination, but as someone who plans to travel a lot, I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible.

  10. Reblogged this on Student of Life and commented:
    I love this! I’d like to think I’m a minimalist, but reading this then looking at my surroundings and how I live doesn’t prove me right. But this is a nice little guidance…

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  12. Awesome post. I am trying to implement similar things at home and work. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law live in a small duplex with enough rubbish to fill a convention centre. They never get rid of anything and love shopping. When ever I visit them it makes me more determined to be more of a minimalist. The more clutter in your immediate environment the more anxious you feel and the more prone you are to getting sick. People value those material items that they collect so much that they just cannot part with them.

  13. I love the advice but I am not sure I could do only 33 things in my closet. I have such a random personality that I express in what I wear and accessories I choose. This would be tremendously difficult. Kudos to you! JM

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