The Basics of Minimalism: a Guide for Beginner Minimalists

Minimalism is powerful. That is why you have to learn the right way basics of minimalism. It takes self-control and a lot of motivation to achieve this way of life. But it is worth it because this lifestyle has so many benefits that can make your life easier and more enjoyable.

Have you tried getting on a minimalist journey but failed? Or do you want to learn about this way of living so you can start reaping its benefits? Maybe you are the complete opposite of a minimalist and you feel like your life is way too messy and that a minimalist lifestyle is a solution to your problem.

Whatever your reasons are, minimalism is going to be a great life change for you if you do it the right way.

I see a lot of people starting their minimalist journey in the wrong place, and because of that, they often give up or get overwhelmed and go back to their old ways. I know why, and I am here to help you avoid making the same mistakes. Or finally getting on the right track. Sometimes all you need is just some basics of minimalism.

A word of encouragement

Whether you:

  • have a family
  • are a student
  • are a stuff hoarder
  • are a shopaholic
  • think that you have way too many things and can’t do anything about it
  • your family members are not interested in minimalism

…you still can become a minimalist.

I’ve seen people that were hoarders for dozen years and they managed to get rid of everything in a matter of months. And let me remind you: hoarding is a disorder, and if somebody with a hoarding disorder can do it, you definitely can.

This means that there are ways how to become a minimalist for everyone. You just have to learn the basics of minimalism, find what works for you and be consistent with it.

What is minimalism?

Let’s start with the basics of minimalism.

Minimalism is a way of life where you focus your time and energy on things that are meaningful and valuable to you and you get rid of everything else.

When I say “get rid of”, I don’t mean only the physical stuff. I am talking about getting rid of the mental clutter as well, such as:

  • toxic relationships
  • negative thoughts and emotions
  • time-wasting activities, like cleaning all the time

Anything that doesn’t make you happy or doesn’t positively contribute to your life can be considered something you should get rid of. This is one of the most important basics of minimalism.

Benefits of being a minimalist

The one most important benefit of minimalism is that it is life-changing. You can get from being tired all the time, frustrated, anxious, and stressed to feeling energetic, happy, and free.

Here are some more reasons why you should become a minimalist:

  • you will have more free time for things that bring meaning because you will get rid of time-wasting activities like cleaning all the time or watching too much TV.
  • you will save money because you will get rid of unnecessary expenses and you will learn how to live with less.
  • you will be more productive because you will get rid of distractions and you will focus on what is important.
  • you will feel lighter emotionally because you will get rid of toxic relationships and negative thoughts but also physical clutter.
  • you will have more energy because you will get rid of things that drain your energy.
  • you will be freer, both physically and mentally, because you will get rid of the stuff that weighs you down.
  • you will be able to live more intentionally because you will be more aware of your surroundings and you will focus on what is important to you.
  • you will be happier, more relaxed, and more content because you will focus on things that bring you joy.
  • you will support the environment because you will consume less and you will waste less.

The Basics of Minimalism

To make it easier for you to get into a minimalist lifestyle, I’ve compiled a list of the basics of minimalism to get started.

These are a bunch of tips, ideas, and principles that will help you learn the basics of minimalism. They have helped me to become a minimalist and I’m sure they will help you too.

1. Be intentional about what you own

Life gets busy, and we often find ourselves with things we never really wanted or needed in the first place. Your mental space gets full of the constant “noise” of stuff and it’s hard to focus on what truly matters.

The best way to combat this is to be intentional about what you own. Be mindful of the things you bring into your life.

Not only that, but look at the things that you already own. Do they all bring you joy? Do they bring value to your life or make your life easier in any way?

As Chuck Palahniuk said, “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”

It is because we often put so much importance and value on the things we own, that they end up owning us. So, be intentional about what you own, and don’t let the things you own control you.

Related: 9 ways to be intentional every day

2. Choose your battles wisely

In our society, we are constantly bombarded with choices. Should you buy this or that? Should you order pizza or sushi?

There are so many choices to make that it can be overwhelming. And often, we make choices that we later regret because we didn’t think them through properly.

The key is to choose your battles wisely. Not every choice that you make needs to be a life-altering decision.

Here’s a simple way to do it:

Whenever you are faced with a choice, like whether to buy something or not, ask yourself “Will this choice bring me closer to my goals or further away from them?”

If the answer is closer, then go ahead and make the choice. But if the answer is further away, then maybe it’s not worth it.

Do the same with the stuff that you already own, and ask yourself if it’s bringing you closer to your goals or further away. If it’s the second option, just let it go.

3. Have a place for everything

One of the basics of minimalism is that everything has its place. There are no random piles of stuff lying around, everything is in its place. And I mean it, your countertops (the places where usually all the random stuff accumulates) should be clear too.

If your earphones don’t have a specific place in the house, where do you think it is going to end up? More than likely, it will just become another pile of stuff on your countertop.

When everything has its place, it’s easier to keep your house clean and tidy. It also makes it easier to find things when you need them.

4. Get rid of distractions

In our constantly busy society, it’s easy to get caught up in things that don’t truly matter and lose focus on what to do.

Social media, TV, and even our phones can be huge distractions that prevent us from living in the moment and enjoying our lives.

A great way to combat this is to get rid of distractions or at least minimize them.

For example, if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media, uninstall the app from your phone or at least turn off the notifications. You can also set specific times when you allow yourself to use certain distractions.

You don’t even know how much negativity and useless information you’re exposed to daily. Instead, you could spend that time on some self-care activities, reading a positive book, or spending time with your loved ones.

5. Practice mindfulness

I think mindfulness became such a popular thing, that some of us are like “Oh, ok, what is the next advice, I already know this one”. When in reality, we are not even close to mastering it.

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and not letting your thoughts wander off to the past or future.

It sounds easy, but it’s quite difficult to do. The key is to be aware of your thoughts and when they start wandering off, to bring them back to the present moment. And you can become better at this only if you do it regularly, like for the rest of your life.

Mindfulness and minimalism go hand in hand because when you are present, you are more likely to appreciate the things that you have and less likely to want more stuff.

6. Realize that stuff doesn’t make you happy

One of the basics of minimalism is to be happy with less. Why? Because stuff doesn’t make you happy.

It might give you a temporary feeling of happiness, but it doesn’t last. The feeling quickly fades away and you are left with the same level of happiness that you had before you bought the thing.

Don’t believe me? Just think about the last time you bought something that you wanted. How long did the feeling of happiness last? A few hours? A day?

Sure, it might make your life easier, and more comfortable but it doesn’t make you happy. In fact, we are naturally prone to be unhappy. So why bother wanting that thing?

You can be happy with less because happiness comes from within. It comes from our relationships, our experiences, and our thoughts and attitude toward life.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Material Things Don’t Make You Happy

7. Don’t compare yourself to others

When you live a minimalist lifestyle, you don’t own much. And therefore it is easy to compare yourself to others who have more.

It’s easy to look at someone else’s life and think “I wish I had what they have”. But you need to realize that those people are not happy just because they have more stuff.

They might have more stuff, but they might also have more debt, more bills, and more to worry about.

Also, the grass is always greener on the other side. You don’t know what someone else’s life is really like. They might have a lot of stuff, but they might also be really unhappy.

The best way to avoid comparison is to focus on your own life and what makes you happy. Be grateful for what you have and don’t worry about what someone else has.

Related: Comparison is the Thief of Joy: But It Doesn’t Have to Be

8. Learn to let go

One of the most important things to do if you want to live a minimalist lifestyle is to learn to let go.

To let go not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

This means that you need to be able to let go of your possessions, but also your grudges, resentments, and negative thoughts.

Sometimes even when you think that you let go of something, it’s still holding you back. It feels you with negative energy.

Instead of that, you could simply let go and fill that space with positivity, love, and gratitude.

Mistakes to avoid when becoming a minimalist

As I said before, I see a lot of people begin their minimalist lifestyle in the wrong spot, and as a result, they give up or become frustrated.

To help you avoid making the same mistakes, here are the most common ones I see people make:

Decluttering while still acquiring new things

This is probably the most common mistake I see people make. They reward themselves with acquiring new things after they declutter.

So they declutter their closet and then go shopping and buy new clothes. Or they clear out their garage and then buy new tools.

This way, you are not decluttering, you are just moving the stuff around.

The key to becoming a minimalist is to change your mindset from “I need more things” to “I have enough”.

And this is what leads me to mistake nr 2.

Not being content with what you have

Contentment is key when it comes to minimalism. You need to be content with what you have, otherwise, you will always want more and more things.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever desire anything new, but it does mean that you should appreciate the stuff that surrounds you and be thankful for it. Be grateful for your clothes, for your furniture, for your home.

If you learn to be content with what you have, you won’t feel the need to acquire more and more things.

Not decluttering enough

While it is true that you shouldn’t get rid of 90% of your belongings, it is also true that you shouldn’t keep everything just because.

There are a lot of people who declutter their homes but they still have too much stuff.

Let’s say you start decluttering your closet. And you get rid of about 20% of them but there are still tons of them. So many that you can’t organize them and make them all visible.

Do you think it is going to benefit you in any way? Are you going to see the benefits of decluttering if your closet is still full of clothes?

No, you won’t.

So don’t stop decluttering until you see results reflecting on you. Until you feel lighter and freer.

Decluttering the wrong way

Some people when declutter don’t have a specific plan in mind or a specific goal. So they just start decluttering without knowing where to stop or what their end goal is.

The result? Most of the time they give up before they even start seeing results.

Related: 10 steps on starting decluttering when overwhelmed by the mess

To avoid this, you need to know some things before you start decluttering:

Ask yourself these questions while decluttering

  • When was the last time I used this?
  • Do I have a duplicate of this item?
  • Does this bring me joy?
  • Is this essential to my life?
  • Does it make my life easier?
  • Would I buy this again if I didn’t have it?

Answering these questions will help you declutter more efficiently and it will help you focus on the things that truly matter and that you NEED.

Let go of sentimental items

Sentimental items are a big thing. We all have them and we all find it hard to get rid of them. And they just clutter our space, get dusty, and weigh us down.

We think that the physical object brings all the memories back, so we hold on to them. But that’s not true. The memories are in our minds, in our hearts. They are not in the physical object.

A great tip is to take a photograph of the sentimental item and then let go of it. Make a folder on your computer called “Sentimental items” and save all the photos there.

Related: How to Get Rid of Sentimental Items With No Regret?

If in doubt, let go of it

This is a great rule of thumb when it comes to decluttering. If you are unsure about an item if you are debating whether or not to keep it, just let it go.

Most of the time, you will not remember at all that this item even existed. And if you do and feel the urgent need to have it, you can always buy it again. But trust me, you will be much ahead without it.

a girl overwhelmed by clutter because she doesn't know the basics of minimalism

Donate, recycle, or through away after decluttering

Sometimes after decluttering we postpone the next step, which is to get rid of the stuff we don’t want or need. We say things like “I’ll donate this later” or “I’ll give this away to a friend”. But later never comes and the stuff just sits there, STILL cluttering our space.

So, after you declutter, make sure to donate, recycle, or through away the stuff immediately. Set the time for it and make sure to do it.

Forget to express gratitude

Do you own something that you wanted for a long time? Let’s say you always wanted to have your own house or that food processor.

Ok, now you have it. Do you take it for granted? Do you ever stop and think about how grateful you are for having it?

Or do you just desire something else and forget to appreciate what you already have?

Be grateful for everything you own, no matter how big or small it is.

I remember thinking that “Only if I lived in that house I would be happy”. Now I live here, in my dream house, but sometimes, I still find myself wanting something else and forgetting to appreciate what I have.

Practicing gratitude is a great way to become more mindful about the things you own and it will help you declutter your mind from the constant desire for more.

Related: How to Write a Gratitude List? – A Complete Guide

Final thoughts

Remember, minimalism is a lifestyle, not a destination. It’s a journey, not a race. And there is no finish line.

You can start living a minimalist lifestyle today, and you can continue on this journey for the rest of your life.

Wherever you are right now: you have too many clothes, a big family, a lot of debt, or 10 cats, it’s never too late to start living a minimalist lifestyle.

Move slowly but surely and don’t try to do everything at once. Just focus on one area of your life and work on that.

Also, realize that there is no perfect way to live a minimalist lifestyle. You don’t have to follow all the rules, and you don’t have to do everything that other minimalists do.

Find your own way and do what works for you.

Just remember the basics of minimalism: live with less, focus on what’s important, and let go of what doesn’t serve you. And most importantly, enjoy the journey!

I hope you got an idea about what the basics of minimalism are and it has inspired you to get started or to keep going.

Cheers, Diana

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