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.

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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! 🙂 I guess I could call myself the borderline minimalist. With some things I like to keep everything to the bare minimum, with other things I want to keep things the way they are. make sense? Anyway, it’s funny, in the house especially, as my other half likes to KEEP things and I’m like “No we will never use it; give it away; sell it; throw it away” etc. I haven’t been shopping for make up, shoes, bags, clothes for about 2 years simply because there is no need. And it’s great. I just think how awesome it is that by not buying all the stuff i don’t need I will create less landfill. It’s amazing, indeed, how you will get used to not needing all the stuff around you!

    • I totally agree that it is a very freeing feeling not being on the prowl for the next purchase—especially with makeup and clothing. I just don’t go into stores anymore and have stopped the lurking in magazines. Glad you’ve found the same freedom! Best to you!

  2. I really like the idea of minimalism as a way of life, but it is somehow not working in mine: I live in a house full of all kind of things: the guitar we bought for my daughter, our ski equipment, all kind of electronics, travel memories…I am still haunted by the idea that what if we will need them? Big family means more things, and to collect them seems to be so natural. Does anyone know how to start the “minimalist journey” in these conditions?

    • Start small and with your own stuff – your bedside table, your wardrobe, your music. Figure out how it works for you, let it expand organically through the house. Tempting as it is to do a major purge, it’s pretty satisfying to just let it happen over time too. Less worry about getting rid of something you’ll need, because you can start with the unimportant.

      It’s just that as time goes on more stuff becomes less important, so it’s easier to let go. You just need the time to have that experience of letting go of stuff. And everyone’s stuff is different too ^ point of the post really, minimalism looks different to everyone.

      • That’s such good advice. It’s really true about the “practice makes it easier” thing. I started this whole process with my napkin/tablecloth drawer of all things. When I realized I had used cloth napkins or tablecloths in two years I wondered what else was lurking in my house unused. Thus began the tirade with my Goodwill-bound boxes. It’s getting easier and easier to let things go. And you’re absolutely right…this simplicity thing is unique to each person and that is a lovely thing.

    • I hear ya, Jay. When I started getting the bug to pare down, my family was so resistant. I think they began to see what it was doing for me personally (my own closet, fitness/diet routine, job,etc) and slowly began to make changes themselves. The sports thing is a bugger—so much equipment! But don’t kill yourself eliminating all at once. Even if it’s one thing a week, you’re on your way, right? My best to you!

  3. I recently moved, and at the same time a friend of mine was traveling the world on a motorcycle. I was envious because I had to rent a garage to house all my stuff that wouldn’t fit into my new, smaller apartment. I’m going to try Project 333 and see where they takes me.

    • I envy fellow Airstreamers who are on the road for months at a time. I realize that just is not our life right now. I think you’ll find 333 really helps to open your eyes to what’s excess and what outfits are really your “I feel like a 10 in this”. I’m trying to have a wardrobe full of “10s” so that I never have to do the closet loitering thing looking for something to wear. Have fun with it–best to you!

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  6. I’m trying Project 333 right now, and so far I admit that I’m not killing it. I think my overall clothes are about 33, but add on shoes, accessories, etc. and I’m way over. But like you said, it’s not one size fits all. I believe I still benefit from the conscious act of simplifying my wardrobe, and I’m also hopeful that as I go through this exercise, I realize I didn’t actually need some of the things I have, and I’m courageous enough to put them in a box as well. We’ll see!

    • I think you’ll be surprised at how much you actually forget is in the box. I had to laugh after the first season of trying 333, because when I opened my “box of forbidden items” I didn’t even know what what was in there. Obviously, they weren’t near-and-dear to me items and worthy of the garage sale pile. Here’s to your journey in your own closet!

  7. Awesome! We can be so compulsive about buying “stuff” we use one or twice. Ever since I asked my wife to get experiences instead of items…. gifts have rocked! Her on the other side… still working on it.

  8. Great article! I’ve often thought of myself as a “not quite there yet minimalist” and just wasn’t living up to the ideal despite the fact that my house has been massively decluttered. Love that I am not alone!

  9. I think there for I am. To exist is to come to a understanding that it is what is contained in your flesh that defines who you are not what you have. Do you envy the homeless or resent them for taking what you have? Except for the lord there go I. There is a balance, a truth, a minimal life that is with little stress, illness, full of happiness compassion and love. Only the brave thinkers and the tested will see. Jesus and his decuples where homeless and John the Baptist was a possible bi-polar dirty homeless guy. Can you think for yourself or are you brain washed by American white picket fence Christianity? Seek truth not what you are told to think!!! Thus is minimal!!!!! Just thinking out loud.

  10. Well hello Lara, love how you started out by clarifying that minimalism is not some sort of weird cult but rather a personal journey to a simpler and more wholesome life.

    I like your 4th tip, when I moved into the house I shared with my now former wife, I took one look at the mantlepiece and decided it had to go. The reason was simple, the lack of a glorified shelf in the house meant that buying unimaginative ceramic or glass based presents was no longer feasible as there was no where for them to gather dust.

    As for food and health, I spent some time looking at the nutrition count for several foods and selected a daily diet based upon the least number of foods to hit maximum nutrition.

    Now for one final thought which will scare many people silly, I have not washed my skin ‘properly’ in over 6 months, for the simple reason that I got tired of having to moisturise my dry skin. So I stopped stripping oils from my skin with shower gel and now only wash with water and a sponge to scrub the skin which means I no longer have to buy 2 unnecessary products and my skin feels better, also none of my friends have started to avoid me 😉


  11. Thank you. Number 5 is something I’ve thought about lately. It reminds me of a cartoon circulating around the internet about how you should just do what you love because your life will have more meaning than trying to rise some imaginary ladder that others think you should climb.

  12. I agree with you, minimalism looks different on each of us based on family size, health issues, jobs, and desires. For example, I cannot climb ladders so living in a tiny house with a bedroom loft is impossible for me. However, I espouse most of minimalism using intentional decisions to do, make, buy, etc based on my goals and desires.
    Your post clearly was great

  13. I’m with you 100%. I do need space, but we do keep a bunch of extras around. I’m also not ready to make the minimalist shift. However, after spending two hours today with my young kids tidying up, we clearly have an issue.

  14. “The queen of England doesn’t go around with a crown on her head–she knows damned well who she is” I copied this line because i like it how you emphasis a self worth, and that’s totally true, we don’t need to dress up, or cover ourselves with clothes, with matching colors from head to toe in order for us to fit in a socialized crowd or to get noticed. What we have available and we fill comfortable wearing or anything we have we can used it, and we can make difference because we know to ourselves that whatever we have from outside it doesn’t define us what is the inside of our heart and mind.

  15. I love your tips.
    I recently read the 4-Hour Week and one of the tips was batching: turned off the announcements for Words with Friends (have since shut it down completely) and turned off the announcements for email (check it twice a day).

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  17. Oh, I like this post. I’m going to track down all the links in the post. Two things I do to live simply: I am a voracious reader but I don’t collect books; I give them away or sell them. Move all the music on your CDs on to a hard drive and sell the disks.

    • I haven’t been able to do my reading on a device. I just love pages too much (I dogear them like crazy). I am, however, learning how to loan and give books to everyone I know. I like letting people know I’m thinking about them when I read a certain book.

  18. Wow, this is one of the best posts I’ve ever read, I think partially because I am working on becoming a minimalist myself and all 10 of these aspects are things I am working on. I am looking forward to tuning in regularly to read.

    XOXO You are amazing!

    • Thank you, Karissa! Such sweet words. It’s such a process isn’t it? I’m trying not to be impatient with how slow it comes, but I think the main points in the post were what it boiled down to for me. As much as I would love to live in our Airstream, being realistic wins every time. Thanks for reading–I appreciate you following along! Best to you!

  19. Reblogged this on Life and commented:
    I completely envy the way in which people can make life so simple and so basic in order to create a more fulfilled, open and adventurous life. It’s amazing that in a society that encourages the masses to think we constantly need to buy more on order to have the newest items, because ultimately without them you won’t last. That people are starting to find it easier to clear away possessions and focus on simpler times.

    I have seen a lot of post recently about the small houses people are creating, allowing them to save money to spend on experiences. It is ironic to think the majority of people believe the bigger your house the better off your life is whilst praising those who can live in such a small space with total enjoyment.

    I have never been one for material objects, especially the branded ones, if the more expensive option is not a vast improvement on the rest of the market then who needs to spend the money for a logo, for a meter of fact if the item is not a necessity don’t buy it in the first place. Many people assume that this is because I do not appreciate the finer things in life. But that’s where they are faulted. I appreciate the finer things to an extent I will wear them till they are falling apart, I will use them till they can’t turn on any more. There is the question does this benefit life? Yes because buy appreciating what you’ve got not what you want it has allowed me to save money and go to places, see different things than many materialistic-money spending people have not.

    Choose experiences not objects

    • Well said. I think people would be incredibly surprised by how much life is added by subtracting stuff and replacing it with experiences. It has made a HUGE difference in my family’s life. Now I’m on a mission to go all the way with it.

      • Sorry for the late response, I have been away. Infact had I not choosen experience over possession’s I would have replied quicker, but I trust that its acceptable haha.
        I hope you have every success in your mission, I am assuming that your family includes children and this could potentially be a hard concept for them. But persevere I am 22 and it has allowed me to do things many others have never dreamt of!

  20. This is a really inspiring post! I’m a maximalist trying to become minimal, and like you, I’m never going to be a small backpack traveller. That doesn’t mean there’s no middle ground for me though. Thanks for reminding me of that!

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  23. Reblogged this on A Little Slice of the Heavens and commented:
    I had to reblog this post I came across today. I am absolutely obsessed with minimalist living. If you haven’t already noticed, all I’ve posted on my blog so far is simple recipes. I focus on simplicity. I truly believe we create our own traps of complexity. Everything can either be simple or everything can be complicated. As this author wrote in the article, I am fascinated by those who choose to live off-the-beaten path. It may be extreme, but there is something so inspirational about being able to live in the world with nothing. Only you and a backpack. There are endless options. As you get older, you accumulate more stuff, but before you know it, the things you own end up owning you. Your options become smaller and smaller and you don’t see the world as a big place to explore because you’ve put your own limitations on your life. We all like to have nice things, but when your life is over are people going to remember you for your nice things or are they going to remember the effect you had on them as a person? If you have a lot of “stuff, you tend to pay more attention to the “stuff” than to the people who are around you. Honestly, I would rather make a human connection than a connection to my “things”.

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