Tag: decluttering

Feb 25

A Minimal Path to Maximum Living

To quote Lisa Simpson, “A decluttered life is a happy life. A decluttered life is a happy life. A decluttered life….” I think you get the point.

We haven’t watched The Simpsons in years, but caught part of the show one night and this is what Lisa was saying. My husband immediately turned to me. “Did you hear that?” he asked, because Lisa could have been channeling me just then.

I’ve had decluttering on the brain for as long as I can remember. It was a much easier goal to attain when I was young and would spend hours purging my bedroom closet and dresser drawers to end on the satisfying note of hauling away a big bag of trash (and/or donations). Since those days, kids and pets have arrived to fill my life with infinitely more love, but also lots more stuff.

Living a decluttered life has become slightly more challenging.


Before Kids versus After Kids (kidding–mostly)

Images via pixabay/Giovanni-cg and Hans

Happily, there are plenty of resources these days to help tackle the chaos. You see, I discovered a while ago that my real goal is minimalism. Cleaning out closets isn’t enough; I’d like to streamline my life, clear away all the debris that gets in the way of genuine living.

So, what is minimalism? You’ve probably heard the term, but if you’re not clear on its meaning, that’s likely because it’s a little difficult to pin down. Minimalism means different things to different people and that’s okay. If the concept remains open to some interpretation, it can be built to suit individual lifestyles. No matter what, rest assured minimalism isn’t designed to be a punishment; it’s supposed to be freeing.

Minimal requirements

Image via Unsplash/Andrew Loke

Never mind rules, but guidelines can be helpful. Here are some basic ones:

Minimalism is essentially living with intention (much like Buddhism, but I digress). A minimalist lifestyle asks you to be aware; it’s sort of like bringing meditation into your everyday existence.

Minimalism entails making your life more about experiences and less about “stuff.” So, take a trip somewhere special as a family in place of exchanging expensive gifts, or head out for a hike in the woods instead of going shopping.

Fishing trip, minimal style

Image via Unsplash/Przemysław Sakrajda

Be aware (and wary) of consumerism. Don’t let it dictate your choices. When you buy something, make sure it’s because you need it (or love it), rather than just purchasing things on impulse. It becomes easier to do as you let go of extraneous items. You’ll still be okay without them; you’ll probably also recognize the clutter and distraction they tend to add to life.

Could I, maybe, have a second serving?

Image via pixabay/pexels

The thing with buying into consumerism (pun intended), is that we’ll always want more. We yearn for that new thing we saw advertised, so we buy it (with money that took hours to earn). It’s exciting for a bit, until it becomes just another thing. Then, it’s onto the next must-have. How many hours of work go toward feeding such habits?

As Zen Habits and Mnmlist.com blogger Leo Babauta says, “It’s just too much. Minimalists say, ‘I’m getting off this merry-go-round. I opt out.’”

Another key component of minimalism? Decluttering. There are many methods for ridding yourself of unwanted physical belongings. One of my favorites is the tried and true “pile” method. Simply pull everything out of a closet, drawer, etc. and sort it into piles: keep, discard, donate. Box or bag the items that are heading out and send them on their way. Donations help other people, of course, so that’s a great bonus.

Minimal decorating, minimal dusting

Image via Unsplash/Siebe

Another decluttering option that’s become very popular is the KonMarie Method, based on Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You’re essentially asked to declutter by category, taking time to consider each item. I used this method to clear out unnecessary clothing and found it to be very effective. It made me aware that I was holding onto some pieces for sentimental reasons or simply out of guilt. The unworn clothing in my life, believe it or not, was piling up on my shoulders (figuratively speaking).

Another way to shed unnecessary clothing is to opt for a capsule wardrobe. Basically, you own a limited number of multi-purpose pieces and rotate by season as necessary. To read more about it, you might check out this blog post: How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe, or, if you’d like some suggestions on how to tailor a capsule wardrobe to fit your needs, I’d recommend: I’m Quitting Capsule Wardrobes!

What about the non-physical clutter? The “less is more” concept still applies. Our daily lives are complicated by things like overscheduling (our kids’ lives or our own), going after too many goals, spending an excessive amount of time online, even multi-tasking to extremes. We may not be able to eliminate all of these issues, but if we get them under control, they will be easier to address. Maybe try saying “no” sometimes, to avoid overcommitting yourself, set aside a specific day (or time of day) to answer emails or texts, limit time spent on social media. Something like bullet journaling might help keep you on track–but only if it doesn’t further complicate your life. Also, when engaged in an activity, give it your full focus. Limit what you do, and do whatever it is with intention.

Minimal Meal?

Image via Unsplash/NordWood Themes

Minimalism has additional benefits. It can help improve our health by reducing stress or even through our opting for a minimal diet (minimal in terms ingredients–choose whole foods or make meals from scratch, instead of dining on processed foods with chemical additives). Minimalism can improve our finances, through simplifying our lives and making us more thoughtful about our purchasing decisions. In addition, if we choose to buy wisely and waste less (think: reusable cloth paper towels, plastic sandwich containers, stainless steel drinking straws, stainless/other bottles to replace bottled water, etc.), we are also helping the environment.

Minimal plant, maximum green

Image via pixabay/scottwebb

Although I have a ways to go on my minimalist path, the changes I’ve made so far have already enhanced my life. I hope to share some of my personal experiences as I continue, and if you are on your own minimalist journey, I’d love to hear how it’s going.

For those of you who are new to minimalist thought, here are a few great resources:

Zen Habits, Mnmlist.com, Becoming Minimalist, The Minimalists

And some helpful reads:

18 Five-Minute Decluttering Tips to Start Conquering Your Mess

12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk

10 Creative Ways to Declutter Your Home

Why Kids Need Minimalism