How to become a minimalist


If you have been wandering in the aisles of productivity and lifestyle management, you likely heard of Minimalism or Minimalists.

A few years back, there was a lot of buzz around the idea.

The concept picked up steam in popular culture after a few YouTubers started talking about it, followed by a prominent documentary film about minimalism released on Netflix.

This article will look at the minimalism idea in-depth, what it takes to be a minimalist, and why it is worth pursuing if you are serious about productivity and lifestyle management.

What is minimalism?

Minimalism is all about identifying what is essential in your life, letting go of things that are not, and most importantly, doing it in a sustainable way for you and your lifestyle.

That is it. Most definitions of minimalism will have a decent level of overlap with this one.

Minimalism is not about letting go of things you hold dear or denying yourself experiences that bring you joy.

Minimalism instead focuses on the most important parts of your life and parting with things that don't have value.

Essentially, minimalism is different for each of us, but the underlying principle of essentialism is core to the practice.

What are the benefits of being a minimalist?

Before jumping into what it takes to become a minimalist (someone who follows minimalism), let us quickly look at some of the benefits of minimalism.

  1. It improves the quality of your life because it forces you to think about and understand your values. Your life gets better when you create space for your values and things that matter.
  2. A decluttered home is an essential benefit of minimalism because it simplifies your life. Your belongings become a point of utility instead of being a source of stress and anxiety.
  3. Minimalism helps you save money since you make purchases aligned with your values and, more importantly, avoid purchases that don't align.
  4. You will also have more free time since you are not wasting it on things you don't want to do anymore or practices not aligned with your value system.
  5. The minimalist lifestyle will help you focus better on things that matter to you because there are now fewer things to worry about.
  6. Minimalism puts things that are important to you into context, which will help you expand your perspective on life and help you avoid myopic viewpoints on things.
  7. With more space and time to think and engage in self-discovery, minimalism can aid in exploring your creative side.
  8. When you consume intentionally, you consume less, which makes your impact on the environment more sustainable than it would otherwise be.
  9. Living with less will help you be more appreciative of what you have in life, which will increase gratitude. You'll also be mindful of your utilities/belongings and not take them for granted.

Becoming a minimalist (how-to)

Now that we have looked at the benefits of being a minimalist, let's move on to a step-by-step guide on becoming one.

That said, there are some steps that you can add and, based on your preference, remove.

There are no rules about implementing the practice, so get started, and you'll figure it out as you go.

Step 1: Write down your purpose and goals

Take a notebook or a note-taking app and start writing down why you want to be a minimalist. Purpose can be different for each of us, and that's okay.

Some people want to become more productive and focused, some want to reduce their debt, some want to get rid of anxiety, and some want a combination of multiple factors; whatever your reason may be, you must clarify that for yourself.

Step 2: Begin with the smallest goal

It would be a mistake to tackle big goals early in your minimalism journey, so pick the smallest part of your life where you can implement your minimalist lifestyle.

Something like your travel bag might be a good start where you keep only the things you need and leave others back home.

You could also start with your smartphone, where you clean up all your apps and keep only the absolute must-haves.

Step 3: List your belongings

When you clean out your closest, you probably wonder about some clothes you completely forgot you owned; now apply that to everything you own.

List out all your belongings, take stock of all the ones you need, and make a plan for those you don't.

Consider making this a regular practice where twice or thrice a year, you see what's your inventory and reflect on it.

Step 4: Assign clutter-free zones

An excellent way to implement minimalism is to start by applying it to specific physical locations.

Maybe you want your dressing table to be clean and ordered all the time, or maybe it is your fridge; whatever the location, it is good to have certain spots in your house or office where minimalism is the default mode of operation.

Step 5: Scrutinize free items & gifts

When something is free, it is hard to turn it down, especially if it has decent monetary value.

However, as a practitioner of minimalism, you should make an acceptance decision based not just on the monetary value but its overall appeal.

So make sure that you have certain standards regarding what you'll accept as gifts or free items.

It could be accepting only perishables, memorabilia, or just accepting from a wishlist.

Step 6: Save an ambitious amount every month

You'll be more motivated to prioritize regular financial planning and execution when you have a savings goal.

When you have an ambitious savings goal, that will push you to question your purchases and expenses, and this additional scrutiny will ensure that you don't engage in meaningless consumption.

To make things fun, determine your minimum viable income (MVI) and gamify the savings exercise where you reward yourself for keeping your expenses low and limiting the number of new possessions you acquire during a particular period.

Debt is the worst form of baggage, so if you have any, try your best to close it as soon as possible.

Step 6: Reflect consistently on your situation

While it is easier to assume that you are improving, it is better to have absolute clarity on where you stand and assess the benefits that minimalism has given you.

Here are some questions you can start asking to assess parts of your journey:

Goal: Assessing your life:

  1. What's most important to you?
  2. What adds value to your life?
  3. What gives your life meaning?

Goal: Assess if an item is necessary:

  1. Do I use this regularly?
  2. If not, is it something I love?
  3. Do I own this out of obligation or expectation?
  4. Am I saving this just in case?
  5. Do I have duplicates of this item?
  6. Could another item I own serve this purpose?
  7. Am I holding this in the hope of fixing it someday?
  8. Is this item worth the time I spend cleaning/storing it?
  9. Is this the best use of space?

Goal: Assess the benefits of minimalism:

  1. Do I feel better than before?
  2. How much of my focus can I attribute to minimalism?
  3. If I stopped being a minimalist, what would I lose?

Step 7: Approach ownership based on a decision list

When you have many items, it is natural to feel overwhelmed with taking ownership decisions.

Hence, we have compiled a list of decisions you can take depending on the item and its relationship to you.

Here is the list of possible solutions:

  1. Put it up for sale
  2. Give it away or donate it
  3. Upcycle and repurpose it
  4. Trash it and get rid permanently
  5. Scan and trash the physical item
  6. Scan and keep the physical item in a vault
  7. Hold it for sentimental value
  8. Hold it for real value
  9. Hold it as an investment
  10. Recycle it and give it away
  11. Recycle it and use it
  12. Delegate the decision process to someone else

These are the most common solutions to ownership problems.

Step 8: Digital minimalism

Once you have addressed overconsumption and clutter in your physical space, the logical next step would be to look at your digital space.

An excellent place to start would be your phone, where you could assess all the apps on it and remove the ones that do not add value.

You can go further and disable notifications from all apps where the utility is not urgent.

You can also back up all your important photos and files and remove them from your phone.

Once done with your laptop, you can extend a similar treatment to your desktop and other electronic devices.

Finally, make a list of all your media sources and determine the ones adding value and discard the rest.

If a streaming service is making it harder to hit your productivity goals, it is helpful to pull the plug on it.


Final thoughts

We have consistently found that slow, consistent improvements are more sustainable than a radical shift, so start slow and build.

Our minimalism journeys, in large part, are an iterative process, so don't be hard on yourself for not getting things right from the get-go.

Finally, focus on what matters to you and discard the rest. Don't look for "what to remove" but rather "what to keep." Nice to have is not good enough so keep a high standard.

And with that, we come to the end of this post. Did you find this helpful? If yes, tell your colleagues about us and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Thanks for reading.