“In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life“, Plato.
Developing a minimalist mindset sounds easy, but how does it work in practice? How do we incorporate minimalist principles into our mundane everyday life? It all starts with concrete acts of simplification and prioritization.
Adopt a minimalist mindset in 10 steps
The following are 10 practical steps on your way to an essentialist attitude.
1. Write down 5 priorities in different areas of your life
Minimalism is all about setting priorities and aligning your decisions with these priorities. Pick five major areas in your life and write down priorities for each of them.
In this context, most people’s lives revolve around: work, family/relationships, physical wellbeing, finances, and leisure activities.
As an example, your work-related targets might include a promotion and a pay-rise. Use a minimalist mindset and focalize all of your energy upon these priorities. Do the same in the other domains.
As with most personal growth undertakings, practice makes perfect. Once you have learned how to bundle your energy in one area, the others will follow. The major challenge is to stay on track in everyday life.
This is why monitoring your progress is of paramount importance. Ask yourself daily what you have done to edge closer toward your goal.
Chronicle your strides in a journal and define essential as well as negligible actions.
Is that 15-minute croissant break useful or just a superfluous indulgence? Can you do certain trivial tasks at work in a more efficient way? Can you delegate more?
2. Condition your workspace for productivity
Whether you work in an office, a cubicle, or outside, a well-organized workspace is a sine qua non for a minimalist mindset. Start by cleaning up your desk and organizing your drawers.
Get rid of loose items and set a fixed number of permanent objects on your desk.
These could, for example, include your laptop, your headphones, your coffee mug, your mouse, your phone, and your notebook journal with a pen.
Don’t allow any other objects onto your desk and immediately store incoming stuff into your drawers. The drawers should naturally contain boxes and dividers. These will enable you to group all work-related objects into well-defined sections.
The exact organizational modalities don’t matter. The aim is to develop a system that will keep your workspace neat and orderly.
3. Clean up your social media accounts
I personally created my Facebook account in 2008. I was in high school and Facebook was the “new thing”.
People posted all sorts of bullshit and no one had any conscience whatsoever about online privacy. Drunk party pictures and strong political statements were commonplace.
What I am getting at is the following: most social media accounts are full of useless pictures, futile status updates, and “friends” we haven’t met in 10 years.
When I became a minimalist, I started to revisit the early days of my Facebook timeline. Lots of status updates like “playing Pro Evolution Soccer” and “bored on this rainy Sunday” made me laugh and cry at the same time.
After I had deleted all of these statuses and shortened my “friends” list – that is, removing people I met once in a bar in 2011 – I felt relieved.
Even though we all know that deleting stuff on social media doesn’t completely erase its memory from the internet, it still enhances our mental freedom.
On this basis, decluttering social media accounts represents a vital step toward essentialism by furthering our mindfulness in relation to online activity.
4. Declutter your laptop, computer, phone, and tablet
In line with social media decluttering, cleaning up your electronic devices improves your heedfulness and also boosts your productivity. To keep it simple: a well-organized laptop delivers exactly the same effect as a clean office desk.
5. Cancel a couple of subscriptions
In a world of ubiquitous notification bells, unlimited free subscriptions, and seemingly endless email traffic, it’s time to take a step in the opposite direction.
Start by making a list of all of your subscriptions, email newsletters, and other automatic online activity. I’m sure you won’t be able to remember all of them in a single go. None of us would.
No matter. 30 days from now, you’ll know. All of your subscriptions will have knocked on your online door and shared some kind of content. Evaluate every subscription and decide which ones can be canceled.
Reducing your recurring email traffic will foster your serenity and mindfulness – your fear of missing out will gradually fade away. You’ll also feel less inclined to click on every single news post. In this context, your minimalist mindset will benefit from cutbacks in online presence.
6. Kill the paper
Paper is practically synonymous with clutter. Containing paper floods is a major challenge but easily doable once your minimalist mindset kicks in.
The best way to avoid uncontrollable piles of paper is to swiftly deal with incoming documents.
Start by taking pictures of loose documents with your smartphone. Digitalize as many contracts, warranties, and letters as possible. Save them on clouds and external hard drives before shredding the paper versions.
Opt out of paper newsletters and pay bills immediately upon receipt. Make a list of your most precious official documents – things like your university diploma and your marriage certificate. These should obviously be kept in paper format.
It is, however, crucial to delineate what qualifies as a “precious official document”. Setting clear rules will help you create a list of genuinely important paper documents.
Everything else should be digitalized in an efficient manner. As a rule of thumbs, all of your paper should fit into 2 to 3 folders.
7. Downsize your wardrobe
Let’s be honest, we all have a ton of clothes we never wear. I am not saying we should get rid of all of them but we should at least try to reduce the size of our wardrobe.
A proven method is to draft a table with different categories of clothes. For each category, set a fixed maximum of required items. When you reach that cap, implement a “one in – one out” policy.
For example, if you set your maximum number of shoes to 5, the 6th pair will have to be a replacement for one of the other 5 pairs.
8. Eliminate as many labels as you can
Many people underestimate the art of visual decluttering. Removing the labels from certain products and transferring everyday goods like shampoo, corn flakes, and rice into plain, transparent containers like the Oggi canisters can work minimalist wonders.
In this sense, an absence of small, distracting labels supports our minimalist mindset by purifying our space.
9. Sell or donate one object per day for one month
It is pretty easy to find 30 things you don’t need and are ready to part company with. Start with old clothes and continue with secondary electronic devices.
Dispose of one item every day. Whether you bin it, sell it, or donate it, your next month should rid you of at least 30 unnecessary possessions.
Aside from freeing up space and spawning potentially crucial donations, this process will also be a fruitful exercise for your minimalist mentality.
10. Minimalize your kitchen
Truth be told, everybody loves food. We spend a lot of time in our kitchen and often fail to notice the growing clutter. In this sense, downsizing your kitchen is a major step toward a minimalist mindset.
Leave your kitchen workspaces free of any loose items and find a clever way to store your appliances. As an example, your coffee machine can easily be placed in the drawer when it’s not in use. The same goes for your toaster. If you absolutely have to store appliances outside of the drawers, put them in the corners where they don’t take up too much space.
Another favorable act of kitchen minimalism is to refrain from over-hoarding food. The world is not gonna blow up anytime soon. No need to buy a year’s worth of tin cans in advance.
Useful links on how to adopt a minimalist mindset in practice
- read the 10 principles of minimalism
- more in the section “Life”
- more in the section “Decluttering”
- read keep or sell stuff – how to decide in 7 steps