According to CNN Money, the average house size in America went from around 1,700 square feet (157 m2) in 1983 to nearly 2,600 square feet (240 m2) in 2013. Those big homes are crammed full of things too—the average U.S. household contains over 300,000 items. It’s little wonder, then, that 9.4 percent of Americans rent storage units.
It’s also little wonder that more people than ever are becoming curious about minimalism. Also known as simple living, or minimalist living, minimalism isn’t just about eliminating physical objects from your life; at its core, it’s about removing anything that isn’t adding value to your life. In doing this, you create more space for the things that will.
A beautiful concept in theory, but how does one go about establishing a minimalist lifestyle? The following 20 steps, which don’t have to be followed in any particular order, are a great place to start!
20 Steps to Simple, Minimalist Living
1. Identify why you want a simpler life (find your why)
Chances are that something specific is spurring you to seek out minimalism. Whether you’d like to focus more on self-care, to travel more, to reassess your career or to simply cultivate more “me time,” knowing your motivations will help to guide you on your new adventure.
2. Establish your priorities
Ask yourself how you envision your life after embracing minimalism. Which areas of your life should you focus on first? Identify at least three to six of them. For example, perhaps you’d like to reclaim your home from clutter, enjoy more downtime or simplify your financial situation.
3. Start small
As you dip your toe into the world of minimalism, seeking advice from sources like this one, you’re apt to be raring to go and might feel like you need to tackle everything at once. Resist this urge and instead employ an “easy does it” approach. You might start by simply removing the TV from your bedroom or by setting aside a handful of minutes each morning for quiet reflection.
4. Eliminate clutter
Many people equate minimalism with simply removing possessions from their life. There’s way more to it than that, but tackling your clutter early on is a step in the right direction. After all, studies have shown that cluttered surroundings overload our senses, causing levels of stress and anxiety to soar.
5. Practice mindfulness
Thanks to our go, go, go culture, most people’s minds are continually occupied by competing thoughts, stressors and concerns. Practicing mindfulness is an excellent way to reduce the clutter in your mind, as it were, and sitting down for a daily meditation practice is a wonderful way to explore this idea. Thanks to apps like Insight Timer, it is easier than ever to get into the habit—and it’s one that is certain to provide countless benefits now and throughout your life!
6. Stop over committing yourself
How many of your regular activities are done solely out of a sense of obligation rather than because they align with your personal priorities? Most people—especially women—happily sacrifice themselves to others and to outside interests that don’t serve them. Learning how to say no is a powerful way to start embracing minimalist living.
7. Buy less stuff
Due to our hectic, consumerist culture, it’s easy to lose sight of your values—or to never really discover them in the first place. In turn, a gaping void is left in your heart, and the temptation to fill it with “stuff” can be overwhelming. When you have extra cash and feel like spending it, try to spend it on experiences instead—they will serve you better in the long run.
8. Strive for less busy-ness
Like many people, you may feel like you need to fill every hour of the day to be a good person. Understand that that isn’t reality—it’s our culture inflicting unrealistic things onto you. Instead, strive to set aside at least two hours per day that are completely wide open. It’s easier to do than you probably think—especially as you move through the steps on this page!
9. Prioritize your health
For many people, women especially, merely doing the basics to take care of oneself often feels “selfish.” In reality, self-care is a crucial part of leading a rewarding, minimalist lifestyle. Establish a daily routine that covers the basics, like exercise and meditation. Add more sleep, more movement and less work and see what it does for your well-being.
10. Find like-minded people
If you personally know someone who currently embraces minimalism or who is actively curious about it, connect more with them so that you can encourage each other on your journeys. If not, seek out resources (blogs, books) that focus on the topic to continually motivate yourself.
11. Expect some discomfort
Oftentimes, the biggest, most positive changes don’t arise without going through at least a bit of discomfort. Because consumerism and busy-ness are so ingrained in our culture, you will almost certainly hit a point where you feel anxious about those empty shelves and freed-up time. You will be tempted to buy more stuff to fill the void; instead, engage in some form of self care when those feelings strike. Do some yoga, take a walk or treat yourself to a long soak in the tub.
12. Keep a journal
Even as you slow down the pace to embrace minimalism, you are apt to occasionally feel as if you are just treading water and that the whole thing is a huge waste of time. A great way to combat this problem is by keeping a journal where you chronicle your progress. There’s no need to be too elaborate about it; a sentence or two every few days about steps that you are taking and issues that you are experiencing should be enough.
13. Turn off notifications
The constant barrage of notifications from smartphones and the like creates a false sense of urgency, making you feel like you need to address each and every one as they beep, ding and ring their way into your peaceful existence. Understand that humans existed for millennia without the need for this and that you can safely step back from it. You will have fewer distractions, which will help you to not only embrace minimalist living more effectively but to also cultivate greater peace of mind.
14. Start single-tasking
Instead of trying to do as many things at once as you can to “maximize your time,” focus instead on one task at a time. Even while doing that, make sure to step away from whatever you’re doing for brief periods every hour or two.
15. Challenge yourself
Whether you aren’t quite fully on board with minimalist living yet or if you hit a rut and feel your enthusiasm for it starting to wane, occasionally challenging yourself is a fantastic way to revive interest and curiosity. For example, you might try ridding yourself of one item on the first day, two items on the second and so on.
16. Don’t overthink it
Without being careful, the very act of seeking a simpler life can make your mind more cluttered and overwhelmed than ever. Understand that there is no “right way” to go about this. The steps here, for instance, are merely recommendations. Take and employ the ones that work for you and leave the ones that don’t.
17. Unsubscribe from updates
Another harmful aspect of our modern culture is the sense of having or needing to be on top of all news as it happens. The internet and social media have, of course, made this a bigger problem than ever. Pare down your news sources to a small number that truly speak to you, and unsubscribe from the rest.
18. Simplify your finances
See if there are ways to make your financial picture simpler. This could mean trading in that expensive lease for an affordable used car purchased with cash or even trying to make a go of it with one income.
19. Set aside some time for daily marveling
The quiet moments in our lives are often the happiest and most profound. A great way to make this happen for yourself more often is by deliberately setting aside some daily “marveling time.”
20. Downsize your house
Finally, if you are currently living to pay the rent or mortgage and spend most of your free time maintaining the place, consider downsizing to something simpler. That doesn’t necessarily mean buying a tiny house or a small trailer, but anything that you can do to stop your living space from dictating your life is a step in the right direction.
Whether you make use of all of these steps or just a few of them, know that choosing minimalist living will change your life for the better, giving you much needed time and space to pursue things that actually matter.