Minimalism is a concept that is gaining increasing popularity today and why it is so great for our wellness. I confess I am literally the worst person when it comes to buying a lot of things and I really need to declutter my home. However, I try to incorporate minimalism as much as possible in my daily lifestyle.
I truly believe there is a strong connection between minimalism and wellness, as setting limits, avoiding extras, using only the bare minimum, and other minimalist approaches are amazing at improving our environmental, physical, emotional, and social well-being.
And being a minimalist does not mean living with fewer than 100 things, selling your car or your home or your tv, moving to a remote island in the middle of the Pacific and live your life writing about the happiness of life. Minimalism is not about restriction. It is about finding freedom. Real freedom.
So join me in this short journey to understand this concept and its importance.
What is minimalism?
Soon after the end of World War II, the conditions in which people lived in made them buy as much as possible as soon as possible. It was a period in which maximalism and consumerism flourished.
In the 60s and 70s, artists all over the world started using simple shapes and lines and only the smallest range of materials and colors possible. What started with painting and sculpture, soon moved to architecture, product design, and later on interior design and nowadays to lifestyle.
Minimalism is synonym with simplicity, utility, and elegance. It follows the principles “less is more” and “quality over quantity.” Minimalists make the most of everything in their lives, thus enhancing their experiences. They only purchase what they really need (not only want), thus improving all aspects of their life. Reducing stress, increasing focus, and improving decision-making skills are only some benefits minimalism can have on your general wellness.
Remember though that being a minimalist is more of a state of mind rather than a set of rules or harsh restrictions.
“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need”(Vernon Howard, American spiritual teacher and philosopher)
Minimalism lifestyle and wellness: How they are connected
I am the classic example of a maximalist, while my boyfriend is definitely a minimalist. So we meet each other in the middle (even though I do make some impulsive purchases without consulting beforehand sometimes).
Although we are opposites regarding buying things, I am also the one that is not getting attached to them. I buy them, I use them, I throw them away. I am also a master at hiding them and playing Tetris with stuff in my home, so it occupies as little space as possible. Having too many things around me is distracting and overwhelming. And I end up doing nothing and feeling anxious and dissatisfied. And it is not only me. There is scientific evidence that clutter elevates cortisol levels and disrupts focus.
This is why even though I still cannot make myself stop buying stuff, I love a minimalist interior design.
Here are some ways in which minimalism lifestyle is connected to wellness (in no particular order):
- Reduces stress by eliminating excess;
- Encourages mindfulness (being present in the moment) and meaningfulness (focusing on what truly matters);
- Encourages personal growth and self-reflection;
- Creates a sense of purpose and meaning in life;
- Increases productivity by reducing distractions;
- Promotes creativity by eliminating clutter;
- Helps prioritizing what is important in life;
- Reduces decision fatigue by simplifying choices;
- Promotes healthy eating habits;
- Creates a sense of calm and peacefulness;
- Promotes better sleep by reducing clutter in bedroom;
- Improves mental health by reducing anxiety and depression;
- Reduces stress about fashion and getting dressed each day;
- Encourages physical activity by simplifying the schedule;
- Reduces financial stress;
- Helps the environment by reducing waste and consumption;
- Encourages gratitude and appreciation for what we have;
- Helps create a sense of freedom;
- Promotes healthy relationships and a sense of community by promoting connection instead of materialism;
- Encourages self-care and self-love;
- Reduces the negative impact technology and social media have on our mental health;
- Gives you more free time for things you love;
- Increases energy and clarity;
- Creates a different perspective on life;
- Helps you save money;
- Promotes a more sustainable and ethical way of life.
Practical tips for practicing minimalism as a lifestyle
Regarding practicing minimalism, I am a beginner, but I feel like I am making progress every day. The tips I try to follow are:
Practice saying no.
This goes not only to others, but also to our own person. Saying no to everything that is not in accordance with our priorities is important. Also, rewarding and treating myself with the things I want is so easy, but having discipline and self-control is equally important.
Use it or lose it / donate.
I have so many things in my home that I usually forget about their existence. When I clean a drawer, I may find some unused things I impulsively bought because they are really nice, but I never actually used. For instance, I recently found a hand warmer from Sephora that I never used, and I had it near my bed for the last two years.
I try to follow this rule: every time I clean the house, if I find something I never used in the last period, I put it someplace where I can easily see it and remember about it. If the second time I clean it is still untouched, it means I do not need it, and I donate it.
It is hard to give away some stuff I am emotionally attached to, but it eliminates clutter. But I realized we aren’t our stuff, and eihter are the people and memories we hold on to. Those emotions live inside us, not in the things we keep and that we only see when we try to clean the house.
And I stopped using “what-ifs” and ”just-in-case” arguments for keeping stuff around. It just gives a false security. If I didn’t need it for a few months, I will not need it in the future.
When I quit my job, I realized my way of living far exceeded my purchasing power. I had to start cutting my expenditures. First thing I did was opening an emergency fund, that functions really easy. For instance, each time I buy something that costs $1.25, the remaining of 0.75$ until the closest full number goes directly to my savings account.
Also, I started doing bulk shopping. I spend significantly less money and buy less products if I plan my meals for a whole week and then buy everything in only one visit to the hypermarket.
And I have a new rule: I do not buy anything unless at least 48 hours had passed since I decided I want that thing. 90% of what I want to buy is impulsive buying and I forget about them the next day, so it is a great money saving strategy.
Start fresh and declutter.
I recently decided to change my life path. Gave up my teaching job and started writing. I wanted a fresh start, and this was actually also the first step towards bringing minimalism in my life. As I emotionally gave up what was not right for my wellbeing, I realized I also need to declutter my house. I had around two hundred Geography books that I almost never used and no longer needed. My office desk was full of teaching materials. My balcony was a deposit for maps I sometimes (actually almost never) needed in school. All stuff I removed from my home to start fresh filled four truckloads. In their place, I put some stuff I love (such as my makeup and skincare products), and a few plants.
While doing this declutter, I realized minimalism starts inside the mind, but you also need to take active steps afterwards and declutter the home too. When you see how much space you actually have in your home and how many things you actually never used, you will find a sense of freedom. And you will feel like you are finally on the right track of reaching your best potential. Mental declutter will be followed by physical and emotional one without even realizing what is happening.
I recently started practicing yoga and I realized how difficult slowing our minds down is. And I realized how much easier it gets to slow my mind down when I have fewer things around me. This further motivated me to stop acquiring stuff and to declutter.
Minimalism is a lifelong mindfulness practice and not seeing it as such will only make you give up this way of living after a short period of time.
Digital declutter is equally important.
I switched from paperback to Kindle and got a Bookster account. This way, I stopped filling my house with books.
But the most progress in decluttering my life is what I did digitally: organizing everything on my phone and computer in folders, closing social media notifications (so I only see new messages and notifications when I want and have time), decluttered my email and messaging apps (I had over 2000 unread email, most of them from subscriptions I never read).
Also, I stopped sleeping with my phone in the same room. I put it in another room one hour before going to sleep, time in which I do my night skincare routine and read a few pages.
Minimalism lifestyle misconceptions
Minimalism means throwing everything out.
This way, you gain nothing. Minimalism is about letting go of things that bring you stress and that are impractical. Throwing away everything will not help you rediscover yourself and live a more meaningful life.
Minimalists don’t buy new things.
Everybody needs to buy things. The difference is that minimalists buy only stuff they really need (not only want). And they also try first to repair stuff before replacing. The only difference is the clack of impulsive buying.
Minimalism happens overnight OR Minimalism takes a lifetime.
I put those two together because the explanation is the same. Minimalism is a process, and it occurs differently for everyone. No two people are the same, so adjustment periods will be different for each person.
Minimalism is a number.
This needs to stop. Honestly, I do not understand why anyone would try to follow those people that promote living only with 50 or 100 things. Minimalism is not about numbers. And this approach to a minimalism lifestyle is extreme. People end up living on the floor and often lack some basic things we need daily, such as furniture.
Try to close your eyes and visualize your home. Now remove all furniture from the vision. No sofas, beds, tables, chairs, wardrobe, fridge, etc. It might feel freeing, but for me it is also incomplete, uncomfortable, and limiting. Yes, we can eat directly on the floor if we want to, but do we really need to do this?
Minimalism should not be about going to extremes but finding a level of comfort with minimal clutter. And also consider the fact that by owning less than 50 things we become dependent on other things. For instance, I cannot imagine cooking with less than 50 things in my kitchen. Sink, plate, bowl, pan, oven, knife, fork, tablespoon, salt, napkin. Already 10 objects. And I cannot cook only with those. I would be dependent on eating out or using my parent’s kitchen and utensils, which defies the purpose of minimalism.
Minimalists have no style.
Actually, minimalism is about focusing on timeless pieces instead of following trends. Instead of reacting to mainstream recommendations and using things people can immediately relate to, minimalists buy and use those things that are permanently fashionable. For instance, instead of ten different evening dresses of different colors for each occasion, one classic black dress is more than enough and perfect for any situation.
Minimalism means deprivation.
This cannot be more wrong. If you want to practice minimalism as a lifestyle and end up deprived of anything, it means you are not practicing it correctly. Minimalism should be about adding more wellness and well-being benefits into your lifestyle by decluttering your mind, body, and environment from things you no longer need. It does not mean to get rid of things we actually need.
Minimalism Lifestyle in a Nutshell
Instead of rewriting the benefits and tips for a minimalist lifestyle, I will present some definitions of minimalism that may motivate you to incorporate more this practice in your life:
“The secret of happiness… is not found in seeking more but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” – Socrates
“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” – Epicurus
“Live simply, so others may simply live.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation.” – Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)
“What Minimalism is really all about is the reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life.” – Colin Wright, founder of Exile Lifestyle
“What starts out as an external journey (giving things away, cutting the cable) becomes very personal, intentional and more meaningful. You start to think of “stuff” as not just things but obligation, debt and stress. Then you see how this “stuff” is getting in the way of your LIFE and decide to make a bigger change. It’s at this point that minimalism becomes more about who you are instead of what you have.” – Courtney Carver, founder of Be More With Less
Minimalist lifestyle challenge
Lastly, I will try for the next 30 days that I spend home to get rid of 465 possessions. The challenge goes like this. First day – get rid of one object. Second day – get rid of two possessions. Third day – get rid of three possessions. And so on.
I found this challenge on The Minimalist Vegan website and I think it will help me further declutter my life. I will start it on April 16, and I will also take a break at some point as I will also travel for a few days, but I will count each of the first 30 days in which I am home.
If you are interested in trying this challenge too or if you already tried, please let me know about your experience in the comments below. And do not forget to follow me on Instagram to see how the challenge goes 🙂