Minimalism is a journey. But this is a journey that for many has a beginning and no real ending. The simple fact still remains that we accumulate “stuff” without even trying. Something from a coworker, a souvenir cup from the movie theatre, or an impulse buy that really had no specific purpose other than cool. I have found that the minimalism journey that my family and I have been on over the past few years was motivated by the desire to be flexible and reduce stress. Start thinking about your motivation and we will build on that in the next few sections.
How do I become a minimalist? You don’t decide to become a minimalist you decide to shift your priorities and that results in a more minimalistic lifestyle. Let’s look at 5 very simple steps that will shift your priorities and jump start your journey.
Download this guide to help you outline your minimalist journey. You can print it out or keep a digital copy.
1. The Decision
What you need to do in this step is decide what your priorities are. Maybe not your current priorities but what do you want them to be. What is it deep down inside that inspires you and you wish you had more time or resources to do it. For me it was travel and adventure. With the responsibilities of keeping a house clean, yard in shape, and constantly moving clutter from one location to another I knew I had to make a change. I wanted to travel, that was a priority for my family and I but we just never could find the time or the financial resources to make that happen. We decided that we would start to eliminate all of the “things” that were getting in the way of our travels. That became our priority.
My Priority is TRAVEL and to reduce STRESS.
2. The Plan
Now that we have our priority outlined we need a plan for how to make that happen. This can sometimes seem overwhelming because in this step you will outline what is standing in your way. Lets look at each of the following items in some detail. Remember, this can become overwhelming when you look at these challenges on paper. However, if you do not start to face them they will go nowhere and neither will you. Truth hurts but lets face it together with a plan.
- Debt – Debt grows and grows and before you know it any potential disposable income that could be invested in your priority (travel) is wrapped up in meeting minimum payments and fighting compounding interest. My husband and I have used many different budgeting tools to tackle debt over the years but one of the best and most inspirational teachers has been Dave Ramsay. Now as many of you know Dave Ramsay is a strong radio personality that lives to the extreme. He is not for everyone but the processes works and if you need some help and raw encouragement in this area check him out. Dave teaches that you list your debts smallest to largest and then devise a plan to tackle them in that order. For the purposes of this exercise let’s do the same. List your debts smallest to largest.
- Time and what occupies it – Your time is your biggest asset. How you use your time determines if this asset produces returns or is wasted. If you have upgraded your iPhone lately there is a feature that shows your screen time. Take a look and you might be shocked at how much screen time you actually have. When I looked at mine it was shocking! Think through your day and what occupies your time. Now I do not want to strip you of your “relaxation” time but there is a difference between relaxing and wasting time. I am majorly guilty of wasting time so I know what its like. List your tip 1 or 2 activities that you could either do without or reduce.
- Social Media
- Cleaning the house
- Regular expenses – These are the bills that are due every month. Evaluate your regular spending and see if you have opportunities to eliminate or reduce. Some examples are car insurance, cell phone, tv, Netflix, hulu or other subscriptions that you might not be taking full advantage of. We were able to cut our car insurance bill in half and eliminate cable due to the fact we were mostly utilizing Netflix and hulu.
- Daily spending – This is where a budget comes into place. Again Dave Ramsay does have a tremendous budget tool called every dollar but it is, like the rest of him, very extreme. It is a great tool and it is free to use. Unplanned purchases that have no true plan are where we waste the most money. Forming a budget and utilizing shopping lists and discussing purchases as a family will tremendously help in this area. What you want to do here is eliminate the impulse buy and that is not an easy task. Instead of running to the store or jumping on amazon for individual items work off of a shopping list and evaluate your purchases before you make them.
- Clutter – For us reducing clutter was huge. We wanted the flexibility to move if we wanted and not be tied down to cleaning a huge house or yard on the weekends. This is totally personal preference but reducing your “stuff” is a huge step in the minimalist journey. You will need to really evaluate the different items in your home and what their purpose is. Chances are you will have a lot of sentimental items that will be challenging to part with but trust me after you enjoy the memory for a moment and then move past it the stress of clutter will just peel off. Check out this article for a more in depth look at de-cluttering.
3. Executing the Plan
Now the real work begins. It is time to put into action the plan that you have out lined above. Finding a starting place, especially with the debt section, can be very overwhelming. That’s why I like Daves plan… start with your small debt.
- Debt – start with smallest to largest and pay it off, tackle your budget and stick to it, and finally make good decisions about your purchases. NO SPONTANIOUS PURCHASES
- Time – Now that you have carved out your time dedicate it to clutter and executing your plan. As you declutter a side job could be listing items on ebay and putting that onto your debt or travel fund.
- Regular expenses – Keep lists and stick to them. Make sure your purchases have a purpose and track this spending. Hold yourself and your partner accountable.
- Daily spending – no impulse buys. Stick to the plan you can do it!
- Clutter – the most well none minimalist journey is reducing clutter. As you use THIS PROCESS to reduce clutter make sure you start small, stay organized, and celebrate the small victories. You don’t need to clean out your kitchen in one day… just start with your cups.
Check out this video for kitchen inspiration!
4. Executing the plan
it is important to take some time now and again to reevaluate. Look at your debt, spending, time management, and clutter reduction. List your successes and your challenges! This is an important part of the process because it is easy to get off track. Reevaluate as often as you need to. Weekly monthly or every other month.
5. Success vs. Progress
Success is hard to measure because everyone’s journey and priorities are different. I do not see minimalism as a journey with a beginning and an end. Instead I see it as a journey with a beginning and a point where you feel satisfied… then the junk starts to pile up again and you jumpstart the process. Progress is the most important part of this journey. Forward motion towards your priorities. I want to support you in this journey! Drop me a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org let me know how you are doing or what you are struggling with. Send me your before and after pictures and I will use them in an inspirational video highlighting your personal success. GOOD LUCK!