I know you have been thinking it. You feel overwhelmed by your crowded wardrobe filled with clothes that make you question your state of mind upon purchasing. Your home is filled with things and stuff and no matter how hard you try you feel like the clutter that overwhelms you will never really go away.
You have junk drawers, and catch all baskets that are overflowing with...well your not exactly sure what they are overflowing with, and after reading Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up you question every single thing you own, and think about renting a dumpster to just start over.
Then there is the Tiny House Movement and the endless series of DIY and HGTV shows showcasing families and couples that sold everything they owned to move into a tiny home, which don't get me wrong I think it's amazing...but it isn't for everyone. While the concept sounds really enticing to you, you also like your house, and you have three kids, and the thought of moving your family of five and your dog into a less than 300 square feet space gives you heart palpitations.
So now what. You don't want to move into a tiny home, and while the idea of throwing out all your belongings kind of makes you feel relieved, you also don't have the budget to start completely new. Plus you have done this before. Brought trash bags filled with clothes, and miscellaneous things from your home to the local Goodwill, only to be back again six months later with the same amount of stuff. The cycle seems to be never ending, and your right, it is never ending.
That is because there is an inherent flaw to this whole way of thinking. You see our things really aren't the problem...the way we choose to consume them is.
And this is how you can learn to embrace minimalism without throwing out all of your belongings and moving into a tiny home. You start with changing the way you think about how you consume. From the food you eat, to the clothes you buy. Every time you choose to bring something into your life, you are choosing to take an action. This action can either support your goals, or go against them. So before you really get started decluttering your life and downsizing, you have to determine what it is you really want.
If you know you want a simpler life, if you know you want to break this cycle of mindless consumption, if you know you want to live in a way that is better for the environment, if you know you want more money to spend on experiences versus things, then a more minimalist, but even more importantly a more conscious way of living is probably for you. And guess what it doesn't have to involve renting a dumpster, and moving into a tiny home. You can embrace this simplified more empowering way of living right now without throwing anything away...and in fact, I would encourage you to push back on the desire to throw things away until you have done some internal work.
There is a huge misconception that a simple, more minimalist way of living needs to involve a stark home, with very little items, and no warm and cozy feelings inside. If that is your style then power to you, but it certainly isn't mine, and that doesn't mean I don't live in a more minimalist, simple way.
so what is minimalist living about anyway?
Minimalism at its core is about creating space in your life for moments, and experiences that bring you purpose by clearing away the mental and physical clutter that can bog us down. However, everyone has a different threshold for what "life clutter" means to them. And the goal shouldn't be who can live with the least things, or throw away the most. The goal should be rethinking how we consume, what objects we bring into our lives, and how much space we allow those objects to take up.
The biggest flaw I see with the method of embracing minimalism by throwing things away is that it creates an enormous amount of waste, and most of the time if the internal work hasn't been done beforehand, these things that you are throwing away are going to magically come back and you will find yourself with the same trash bags, at the same Goodwill before you know it.
How To Embrace Minimalism Without Throwing away All Of Your Belongings And Moving Into A Tiny Home
What is it that is making you feel weighed down? What are your goals for your life? What is it you know right now you would like to change?
Think big picture, for instance it could go something like this:
- I want a healthy family with lots of kids and a loving marriage
- I want a career that I love and is flexible
- I want to travel the world
- I want to make a positive impact
- I want my kids to value experiences over things
- I want to own a farmhouse
- I want to feel healthy and empowered
- I want to own more things I love and less that I don't
- I want a library filled only with books I love
- I want to have time to be out in nature more
The list could go on and on and it can be as specific or open-ended as you would like, but once you have done a big brain dump on your life goals take a look at your list and notice how many of these goals involve things. If there are a lot of things on this list then that is totally fine, that is where you are at right now. But we also may want to dive deeper into why these things take priority in your life over other non-materalistic things that can bring you joy. So if this sounds like your list, I challenge you to come back to it after a little thought, and see if some of the more materialistic things are actually masking other goals.
Once you have taken a look at your list there most likely will be a few things that you envision in your life, and that is absolutely wonderful. You have identified the few things that really are a part of your life goals and that is an amazing kind of clarity to have.
Now that you know what things are taking priority in your life, and what non-materialistic related goals are also taking precedent you can move forward in achieving those goals with a more minimalist, conscious way of living that has so much direction.
02: make a plan
Okay you know your goals, now it's time to create this life. This is where we start to get a little more specific. Take the top three goals you have on your list and start there. You cannot flip a switch and transition your entire life overnight. Prioritize the most important or the most attainable goals in the near future, and determine what will need to happen in order for you to achieve these goals.
For instance if we are talking about you buying your dream house, what needs to happen before you get it.
- Do you need to pay off some debt?
- Do you need to save?
- What steps are you going to take to make that dream a reality?
Let's say your goal is to become healthier, and to feed your family in a healthy way...how is this going to happen?
- Are you going to start prioritizing organically grown produce over your weekly clothing shopping?
- Are you going to start making more dinners from home and including your kids in the process of learning to cook?
- Are you going to join a gym?
Once you have your goals outlined you will have a clear picture on what you need to do to achieve them, and at the same time what types of actions will undermine these goals. This will give you so much clarity as we move into our next step.
03: rethink the way you choose to consume
Like we talked about in the very beginning our things aren't really the problem when it comes to us living the kind of life we want to live...the way we consume them is. So moving forward I want you to start to rethink the way in which you choose to consume, and I mean the way you choose to consume absolutely everything. Here are just a few examples:
- Emotional Energy
- Home Goods
- Cleaning Products
- Toys (get your mind out of the gutter, I'm talking about that new iphone, xbox, ipad, etc.)
- Gifts (yes even things you are choosing to get for other people are part of your consumption)
Now, each and every time you choose to make a purchase and bring something into your home or life I want you to think about how that item fits into your big picture life goals.
For example, does the shirt from target that is on sale for $10 fit into your goals? Unless your life goal is to have a closet filled with poorly made clothing that you will probably only wear a handful of times and then forget about, I am going to go ahead and say that the $10 target shirt is a no. If the $10 shirt is something that you have had your eye on for weeks/months, and is an essential piece that you have been looking for in creating a wardrobe filled only with pieces you love...then go for it. But make a conscious choice, not one out of impulse, or because something you kind of don't hate is on sale.
Guys I am going to tell you a secret...everything is on sale, always, it is a ploy to get you to spend more consistently on things you don't really want or need. And these crazy deals you are snagging...they are mostly due to the fact that compromises were made somewhere in the supply chain to make those costs possible.
I don't meant to be blunt, but if you want to live a more minimalist, conscious life then impulse purchases pretty much go out the window. At first this is going to be SO HARD. I am not kidding, all you are going to think about is what you no longer can buy, and what you are going to do on your lunch break if everything in TJ Maxx is pretty much out of the picture. But, I promise with time you will realize just how empowering and freeing it is to be able to walk into a Target and literally be tempted by nothing. You heard me, absolutely nothing.
Once you change the way you choose to consume, you will gain such an unbelievable amount of freedom from mindless consumption practices you had no idea were weighing you down, and you will never look back.
Okay I am feeling like this post is pretty full with a lot of information for you to work on and digest so I am going to hold off on the remaining steps for next week.
In the meantime, if you are looking to embrace minimalism is a way that feels comfortable to you, really sit down and work your way through these three steps. Allow room for your goals to change, and what you want out of this minimalist, more conscious approach to life to grow as you become more and more comfortable with becoming a conscious consumer.
Also please remember that everything takes time, and I find it really helpful to focus on 1-3 areas at a time. Embracing minimalism is not a competition, it is not about who can live with the least or whether or not you ever make an impulse purchase from target again...you will, and it is totally and completely okay. This way of living is about relieving stress in your life, and creating space for so much more joy and fulfillment.
So don't try to be the best, or perfect, or get everything done at once. Let yourself embrace this process and enjoy it. You are going to learn so much more about yourself, and this world than you could have ever imagined.
Part Two: Creating Space In A Cluttered World coming next week