The top 10 tips I’ve learned from minimalists

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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.

 

toptips

 

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.

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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. Great post – as always! For me, letting go of the ‘just in case’ items has made the most difference. We have donated boxes and boxes of stuff in the past few months, and still more to go. My favourite so far – 8 martini glasses used once in 10 years!

    • I hear you on the martini glasses. I gave a bunch away along with (can you believe it?) port wine mini glasses. Who in the heck drinks port en masse?! Ha! I love the “Justin Case” story—have you ever heard it? Google it–it’s cute, but relevant 🙂

    • I’m finding that after starting this whole simplifying thing I am in search of peace in everything. Even the TV seems like an intrusion in my quest for solitude. It began with a kitchen counter and has worked it’s way to wanting quiet as well 🙂

  2. wonderful tips, I agree, one doesn’t need to live out of a back pack , or live in a tent to embrace and reap the benefits of a simpler life, when we learn just what we need and just what want can be far less than we ever thought possible makes us happy, we will reach a more calm and happy life, my husband and I were forced into a pared own life style by his health, it was a struggle / shock for a while, now, I find the calming peaceful surroundings and life style the only way I would choose to live, to be honest it took 5 years to get where I am now mentally, and I learn everyday, freeing our physical life from clutter encourages us to free our minds from clutter, the ripple effect!! In a good way,

    • I’m so glad that through a difficult time came goodness in your lives.I agree that it’s a process that can take a long while to feel natural—It’s been a snail’s pace for me, but I don’t think it would’ve stuck if we’d been impulsive. Intention wins over whims every time!

  3. Soooooo true.

    My personality lends itself to space, light, and unmolested surfaces, so my house is fairly zen-like. People comment on it. Apparently, I feng shui by default. “Hoarders” brings on dry heaves.

    I have a 2-year closet rule: if I haven’t worn it in the last two years, chances are it ain’t gonna touch my bod any time soon, so bye-bye. This goes for jewelry, hats, underwear, sporting goods–anything made of matter and occupying space.

    I found that a simple, yet very powerful tool for decluttering is to reevaluate one’s social life. A lot of people hang onto stuff because they wanna be prepared for any social situation, be acceptable to anybody and everybody who will judge them. But when you get hard-core-honest about who you really want to spend your life on, you’ll find it’s the ones who don’t give a rat’s ass if you have festive holiday napkins or the right hemline.

    Clean out your address book and your house will follow.

    • So well said. I love that last quote. I agree–there’s a lot of thinking about what we visualize our amazing social lives to be vs. being realistic about what actually transpires. Sitting on the porch next to the fam does not require several party-type sundresses. I’m in yoga pants, usually, anyway! RUTHLESS has been the word of the year when it comes to my closet. NO. TURNING. BACK. Great comment–I’m going to check out your blog! Thanks for visiting.

      • We’ll start a new trend: porch wine tastings in yoga pants.

        The big thing I took away from feng shui is that you have to leave some space in your life for new, good stuff to enter, create a positive vacuum. So, never completely fill a book shelf with books, never fill up every day on your calendar with activities, and never stuff a garden full of plants. You never know when someone’s going to give you a rose bush, literally and figuratively.

        PS: All my posts are written in yoga pants. I add the wine afterwards.

      • Yes! Wine in my yoga pants. That does sound lovely. I love that idea–leaving space for some good to come in…like you’re completely expecting it. I’ve received plenty of figurative rose bushes this year and I do believe it’s because I had a spot for them 🙂 Great thoughts–thank you!

    • If you mean the show Hoarders, I think that heaving is a pretty natural reaction 🙂
      This particular part of your comment really struck a chord with me, “…be acceptable to anybody and everybody who will judge them” because I remember being that way, especially in my teens. Then I lived at Ayers Rock for 15 months, it’s arid, everything is red sand and pretty much everything about it is not conducive to wearing make up and sexy dresses. Basically it is about trying to stay comfortable and always being prepared for a sand storm 🙂
      When I moved back to Sydney at 21 I really didn’t understand the friends I had from High School, I really didn’t understand these women I knew to be very intelligent giggling, flipping their hair and pretending to be airheads – this is possibly due to the fact that the guys I had been socialising with didn’t want any part of what they called “Barbies in heels”. It seemed living there gave me the independence to grow into who I was removed from the influences young girls in the city have at that age. I am quite thankful for that now, it helped me discover who I was and I don’t spend as much time trying to impress people with what I wear 🙂

      • Ah, yes, dressing for others and dressing for one’s self. Self-esteem has a style. Here is a quick way to find out which one is yours:

        You are at a crowded party. About twenty feet away, you see a totally hot person looking right at you. What is your first thought? Is it “I wonder if they like me?” or is it “I wonder what they’re like?”

        A person who knows what they want and what they’re worth will scan the room for those who make the grade; they won’t factor anyone’s opinion of them in, they already know who they are. A person who isn’t sure about themselves will suck on your attention like it’s hard candy. Almost any attention will do.

        Which explains why a lot of women wear sexually provocative clothes to buy milk: it’s the lazy way to get attention. Because they need that attention, it’s filling a big hole. But it’s not true power. The queen of England doesn’t go around with a crown on her head–she knows damned well who she is.

      • I loved something I heard at a conference once—an older woman said that pre-40 she used to ask herself (when she would go to a party), “I wonder if they’ll like me.” Post-40 it changed to “I wonder if I’ll like them.” Good thoughts on self worth in your comment. You’ll never find me in heels at the grocery store 🙂

      • Yes, that was the story as I learned it, too. But something about it just felt off, as if the outward judging was simply being rearranged from receiving it to dealing it out.

        Instead, it feels better to ask “I wonder what that person’s like?” because it omits judgement altogether. It feels more open, more playful, and more receptive to rose bushes.

      • well said…I have made prejudgements that weren’t on the mark in the past and as I get older I really leave space to get to know someone. And no matter who they are—they always, always teach me something.

  4. Thank you so much for listing these! I used to every six months do a run through of the whole house, whether it was for a garage sale or just goodwill, it all went. Lifestyle changes have had me not following my own rules. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Reblogged this on burgeonsphere and commented:
    This was quite an amazing blog to read. Lucky for me, I have only been married for almost two years, which means that we have not yet acquired a lot of stuff. Our home is very simple.

    Travel and experiences versus buying fancy cars and second homes, really stood out for me. Why go to the same place for holidays, if you can see a lot of different places instead.

  6. Lara, These are fabulous tips! You’ve really distilled the concept to its essence and provided food for thought to anyone who wants to simplify their life. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed – you totally rocked it! All the best, Terri

  7. I would really like to know how to accomplish #5 especially. This seems to be a life goal of mine, but I am not sure I am even headed in the right direction.

    Thanks for sharing these tips, they really are a great reminder!

    • Amen to that. I’m married to an amazing guy who’s got a job that is very challenging. I try not to sing to loudly about how happy I am with my kiddos in room 302. I found listing (constantly) what I wanted out of life and a career and it finally came clear. Took me years, but it did come. Take heart! and best of luck.

  8. I’ve recently been thinking about how minimalism is not so much what we own or have, but how we view things. When we view things as our own possessions to hoard, that creates clutter within the heart through attachment. When we see things for their usefulness to both ourselves and others, they do not hold attachment to our hearts, and that i think is minimalism.

    • Totally agree—it’s about attachment, for sure. When we allow ourselves to let go of once we thought of as un-let-go-able 😉 Things become so much clearer, don’t they? Thanks for visiting Saunsea!

  9. I did the closet downsizing several years back..funny how I also chanted “have courage”..but it was a fantastic feeling in the end. Be careful though..it can slowly creep back in over the years. 🙂 Great post!

  10. I’m a minimalist myself and it’s not by choice, it’s my OCD that causes me to be like that. I think there are a lot worse things I could complain about but it does become a burden on my life sometimes. I’ve written a post on minimalisim if you’re interested in checking it out! http://youngntwenty.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/180/ because as I wrote in my post, it’s true. Minimalism is an OCD gateway, so beware!

  11. These are wonderful, some I have done for years but many I am itching to try. Thank you for sharing.

    I write about my life changes and choices on Tripping Over Cancer. Stop by if you have a chance. I would love to reblog with your permission.

    • I love the term tripping over cancer—I just stumbled across it with a friend recently–breast cancer stage 3b. She’s doing well, but it was incredible to watch her strength through all of it. By all means, reblog–I’d be honored. Thinking of you and your recovery over here in Washington. Best to you–

  12. Numbers 2, 3 and 10 I’m now finding to be particularly important and applicable in my life… thank you for writing this, we just don’t stop to think about how little things like these can make such a massive difference in our lives! Now number 7 has my attention, that’s certainly a challenge!!

    • yes…number 7. It’s been a struggle over here, but I’m getting used to it. I don’t even remember what I put in the box in my attic! That’s good news, I guess 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  13. One of my favorite articles is the one about the couple who trimmed their belongings to 100 things. It changed my life.

  14. A note about food-a lot of food products we spend money on at the grocery store can be really easily made at home. I’ve gotten in the habit of collecting my vegetable scraps for homemade vegetable stock, which is stupid-easy to make, and recently fermented my first batch of sauerkraut. I think a minimalist lifestyle is about living in the “here and now,” and preparing food from scratch is a very “here and now” process.

    • Totally agree. We’re gearing up for our garden adventures this spring. I use my juice remnants for fertilizer. I love the “here and now” philosophy—It’s hard to do it all the time, but I’m working on it. Thanks for visiting!

  15. Reblogged this on Geokult Travel and commented:
    This lovely post talks about simplifying your life – there are some great ideas in this article about how you can minimise your wardrobe – great advice for would be travellers and weekend escapees 🙂

  16. Hubby and I are currently building a house, as we cannot afford rent and mortgage at the same time my parents have allowed us to move in with them until the house is finished. Going from a small 3 bedroom house to 2 bedrooms to house all our stuff was a huge wake up call and we definitely had to take a minimalist view on things. We got rid of so much and honestly I think we need to go through it all again. WHen we finally get in to our new 4 bedroom place it is going to be very minimalist hahaha.

    • The moving thing really opens your eyes, doesn’t it?! I moved to NY with 16,000 lbs of stuff (!) and moved back to the NW with 17,000 lbs. What the hell happened!? My husband almost had a coronary. 😉 I finally got rid of all of the photo props and whittling every day. Feels good, doesn’t it? Good luck on your new house–exciting!

      • I have no idea how that happens! Especially when the the second sock of every pair I buy never comes back once you send it to the washing… how does that happen? I believe all that extra weight you had could likely be attributed to single socks 🙂
        Thanks! Can’t wait, it has been years in the savings process and we are very excited!

      • Ha! I’m seriously thinking about putting one of those cheesy “Looking for a sole mate” bulletin boards up in my laundry room. Where in the heck do they travel to?! It’s a great mystery that I’m sure will unfold some day. For now…I will purchase socks for my spouse that are ALL. THE. SAME. No mystery in that, no sir-ee 🙂

      • Nice. I figure there is an alternate Universe completely made of single socks, it is the only rational explanation 🙂 The divorce rate of socks is incredibly high (I have no idea why I feel like writing a ridiculous post about socks now haha).
        I do this too! He gets black cotton trouser socks, if he wants anything else he has to put in a special request.

  17. This was a wonderful pairing down of great simplifying ideas that can be overwhelming. I culled my closet last Oct. and (aside from the weeks that laundry is on the back burner) I adore living that way. I also simplified our schedule so that we had time to just be. I stopped shopping a lot and caring about the latest fashion. I recently flipped through a People magazine and was so overwhelmed and horrified that is what I used to read for entertainment. I am loving my journey to simple.

    • I hear you on the “People” thing. I got a pedicure the other day and was almost embarrassed reading the crap-ola they had on the table. So shallow and silly. ‘Made me want to avert my eyes at the grocery store! Thanks for visiting—I love your blog name. I have a necklace that says the same thing 🙂

  18. Love these principles, much needed when ur starting out and have no clue how to declutter or reduce. Thank you. Let the declutter bring. Lol

  19. Great blog, its a process I am going through myself. I’m trying to find that middle ground of ‘just enough’ and finding out what is right for me. I’m beginning to realise that living simply is about maintaining a clear head, and not over complicating life. It feels great to smash a few of the plates I’ve been spinning for the last few years!

    • I love that visual—smashing plates. I would like to choose to smash them rather than have them fall into a million pieces—thus the change in my life. It’s so much easier to avoid burn-out when you are intentional about letting stuff go. Feels good, doesn’t it? Here’s to not overcomplicating things! Thanks, Lisa!

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