“In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life.” – Plato
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Developing a minimalist mindset sounds easy, but how does it work in practice? How do we incorporate minimalist principles into our everyday life? It all starts with concrete acts of simplification and prioritization.
Adopt a minimalist mindset in 10 steps
The following are ten 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 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 trivial tasks at work more efficiently? 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 include your laptop, your headphones, your coffee mug, your mouse, your phone, and your notebook journal.
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 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 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.
In other words, most social media accounts are full of useless pictures, futile status updates, and “friends” we haven’t met in ten 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.
We all know that deleting stuff on social media doesn’t completely erase its memory from the internet. It nevertheless enhances our mental freedom.
On this basis, decluttering social media accounts represents a vital step toward essentialism by furthering our mindfulness when it comes to online activity.
4. Declutter your laptop, computer, phone, and tablet
In line with social media decluttering, cleaning up your electronic devices boosts your mindfulness and productivity. To keep it simple, a well-organized laptop delivers 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, 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 you can cancel.
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 challenge but easily doable once your minimalist mindset kicks in.
The best way to avoid uncontrollable piles of paper is to deal with incoming documents swiftly.
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 naturally 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 important paper documents. Digitalize everything else efficiently. As a rule of thumb, all of your paper should fit into two to three folders.
7. Downsize your wardrobe
We all have a ton of clothes that we never wear. We don’t have to get rid of all of them – but we should at least try to reduce the size of our wardrobe.
A proven method is to draw a table with different categories of clothes. For each group, set a fixed maximum of items. When you reach that cap, implement a “one in – one out” policy.
For example, if you set your maximum number of shoes to five, the sixth pair will have to be a replacement for one of the others.
8. Eliminate as many labels as you can
Many people underestimate the art of visual decluttering. Removing the labels from 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 donate. 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
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 significant step toward a minimalist mindset.
Leave your kitchen workspaces free of any loose items and find a way to store your appliances. As an example, you can place your coffee machine in the drawer when 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 act of kitchen minimalism is to refrain from over-hoarding food. The world is not going to blow up anytime soon. As such, there is 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”
- read Keep or Sell Stuff – How to Decide in 7 Steps
- read A Minimalist Approach to Social Media