Minimalism is the practicing of having only what is essential to you and your life.
It isn’t a competition to have fewer things or an aesthetic practice which dictates you wear the same underwear for a month. A lot of people look at minimalism this way, but at it’s core it’s very simple. Minimalism is the practice of noticing what is extra and letting it go.
Why is minimalism so important for having a good and mindful life? The less things you have to pay attention to, the more attention you have.
You can certainly keep track of a lot of things, thoughts and ideas, and still be mindful, but the more you keep track of them, the less depth you have with each item, idea, and person. Minimalism is a practice that helps you find out what’s important to you and what’s not. It then helps you pay more attention to the former by helping you let go of the latter.
My simple, straightforward suggestions on how to live minimally:
1. Practice letting go of things. It doesn’t matter if you sell your home and move into a tiny trailer or just clean a few clothes out of your closet. The essential practice of minimalism is the practice of letting go of stuff.
Most of us have more than we need and we actually know that there is stuff we should get rid of, but we hold onto those things because passively holding them seems easier than actively letting go.
Holding on may seem easier, but it comes at a slow and insidious cost. Letting go takes time, energy, and emotion, but the cost is less burdensome over time.
It’s like a credit card. You can either buy something with cash or all at once. Or you can buy it with a credit card and pay it back slowly over time. It’s more painful to drop $1000 in cash down for something you want in the short term, but that’s the most that thing will ever cost you.
It’s less painful to put it on your card, but over time you end up paying way, way more for it.
If you want to live minimally you have to practice actively letting go of things. Small things, big things, beloved things, things you totally forgot you have, things you’re going to end up needing again in two weeks and things you’re sure you’ll use again but probably never will.
It doesn’t matter what you start with. Just pick something and get rid of it. Notice how light you feel. Notice the pain of letting go. Notice the relief that you won’t have to touch or move that object again. Notice how you totally stop thinking about the things you don’t have after a few hours, days, or weeks.
Minimalism is simply the practice of letting go again and again and again and again. The more you let go, the easier it gets. The trick is to just keep doing it.
2. Start Small Mostly. When people try to become minimalist, they often make the mistake of minimizing everything. Don’t do that. It’s really really hard to go global with something like minimalism.
Instead start with one object and work outwards. Clothing is a good place to start because we tend to have lots of clothes that we will never wear again. You can try turning all of your hangers in one direction, and then in a month go through all the clothes you haven’t turned around then get rid of half of them. Then turn all the hangers around again and repeat every 6 months or so, getting rid of half of the clothes.
Do this with other things. Pick an area or set of items. Go through them. Get rid of some of them. Then do it again. Again minimalism is all about the cycle of letting go.
3. Sometimes Go Big. Sometimes you should go big. This is especially true of moving or when you’re taking stuff to Goodwill. In these moments the excitement of change outweighs the pain of letting go.
Take advantage of these moments. They are golden and can help you take huge leaps towards having less. But don’t try to do this all the time. You’ll simply wear yourself out and then give up on this whole minimalism idea.
It’s that simple: start small, let go often, and sometimes go big.