You might have heard of the term ‘minimalism’ used to describe art, fashion, and design. But it’s also a lifestyle trend that has become popular in recent years.
A minimalist lifestyle can bring a wide variety of benefits – saving money, reduced stress levels, more sustainable living, and so on. But, what actually is minimalist living, and how can we incorporate it into our lives?
Below, we’ve taken a closer look at minimalist living and its benefits – and pulled together some tips to get you started.
What is minimalist living?
Contrary to popular belief, minimalism doesn’t mean living in a single, bare room with a handful of possessions. Instead, it typically involves living only with essential things that give us value and meaning.
American author and minimalist blogger Joshua Becker describes it as “the intentional promotion of the things that bring you joy and the removal of those that do not.”
Minimalist living can involve decluttering our physical possessions – from clothes to cars. But it can also include organising our digital spaces, distancing ourselves from negative relationships, and cutting down on unnecessary commitments and responsibilities.
A minimalist lifestyle attempts to draw your focus to what matters most and remove anything that could be a distraction from that. This can have a powerful effect on our health and happiness.
What are the benefits of minimalist living?
Minimalist living can boost your productivity
Cluttered lives demand lots of time and energy. Many of us spend large portions of our days keeping things in check – for example, doing household chores or organising our desktops. And these activities can distract us from being productive in other areas of life.
Even when we’re not physically sorting things out, research shows that simply seeing clutter around us can reduce our productivity by distracting us and draining our mental capacity.
By cutting down clutter, we can offer ourselves more time and energy to focus on what matters most – like pursuing our passions, looking after our health, or spending time with family.
Minimalist living can help you save money
Taking steps towards a more minimalist lifestyle can help you save money. Not only can you find things to sell while decluttering, but living minimally involves making more thoughtful decisions about your spending habits.
Many of us buy things impulsively. But, by deliberately considering whether items will add meaning and value to our lives, we can cut down on frivolous spending.
Minimalist living can reduce stress
Research tells us that cluttered minds and spaces can cause stress. For example, this study found that women who described their homes as more cluttered had higher cortisol levels. Cortisol is the body’s ‘main stress hormone’ released in our ‘fight-or-flight response’.
So, streamlining your life can be a good step to take if you’re looking to reduce stress.
Minimalist living can help you become more sustainable
Embracing a minimalist lifestyle can also be a powerful step towards living more sustainably.
Minimalist thinking encourages us to shop more intentionally, discouraging unnecessary spending and making us more likely to buy higher-quality items, which typically last longer. All of this means we throw fewer things away and avoid contributing to landfills.
There are also more extreme examples. Some people who live near public transport and are seeking a more minimalist lifestyle choose to sell their cars – or go down from two cars to one – which can significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
“Instead of thinking of minimalism as a lifestyle, consider it to be a decision filter that you use to make important decisions in your life. Those decisions start small and might not carry much weight in the beginning, but the value you gain from it certainly grows over time. With each decision, you increase your ability to shift your life in any way of your choosing.”
– Anthony Ongaro, creator of Break the Twitch
Minimalist living can lead to greater flexibility
People who welcome a minimalist lifestyle often report feeling more free. When it comes to material possessions, having less stuff can make it easier for us to be flexible and make changes in our lives. For example, it’s much easier to move house or country if you have fewer things to take with you.
Minimalist living can help us sleep better
We all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep regularly, and research indicates that minimalist living can help us with this.
For example, studies like this one tell us that cluttered bedrooms may put us more at risk of getting lower-quality sleep. On the flip side, this research found that those who regularly de-cluttered their bedrooms experienced improved sleep quality and fewer sleep-related problems.
Minimalist living can boost happiness
Another (and perhaps the most important) perk of embracing minimalist living is that it has the power to improve our overall happiness.
In our modern, consumer-focused society, things like constant advertising and social media can often convince us that the more things we own, the happier we’ll be. However, scientific research tells us that materialism can harm our overall happiness because it convinces us that what we have isn’t enough, leading to dissatisfaction and a never-ending pursuit of more.
Adopting a minimalist lifestyle can help us break free from this pursuit and reassess our priorities. This can give us more time, energy, and money to engage with things that research shows will boost our happiness – such as positive experiences like travelling or attending concerts.
8 tips for minimalist living
Now that we’ve taken a closer look at what minimalist living is and what some potential benefits are, you might be wondering how to start embracing it in your day-to-day life.
We’ve pulled together some of our favourite tips…
1. Start by removing one item from your home
If you’re only just embarking on your journey towards a minimalist lifestyle, it can be easy to feel daunted at the path ahead. With this in mind, many find focusing on one thing at a time more manageable. So, to start, why not try removing a single item from your home?
It can be helpful to apply this one-at-a-time approach to the rest of your minimalism journey too. For example, when decluttering your home, try to focus on one room at a time. This will allow you to see the impact of your hard work more quickly and motivate you to keep going.
For more tips on decluttering your home, check out our article on the subject. And, to find out how to get rid of unwanted items sustainably, take a look at this blog post from Plain Sailing Removals.
2. Ask yourself whether something provides joy or value
It’s easy to say you’re going to let go of something, but it can often be more challenging in practice. The decision to keep something or get rid of it is highly personal, so there isn’t one right way to go about it. However, it’s worth exploring tools that minimalist experts use to find a method that works for you.
Famous minimalist expert Marie Kondo suggests holding your item and deciding whether it sparks feelings of joy or not. If it doesn’t provoke joy and doesn’t have a practical use, she suggests letting it go.
On the other hand, Joshua Becker offers a slightly more practical approach. He suggests considering the following four questions.
- Do I need it?
- Do I use it?
- What would I use if I didn’t have it?
- Why do I have it?
Questions like these can also be helpful when deciding whether or not to buy something. After all, minimalism isn’t just about spring cleaning our homes once – it’s an ongoing process.
3. Make a budget
Cutting down on frivolous spending is a great way to make your lifestyle more minimalist. But spending less is often easier said than done, so it can be helpful to work out a budget.
It might sound obvious, but one of the best ways to work out a budget is to look over your spending from the last three months or so and decide what’s necessary and what isn’t.
If you’re struggling to sort the must-haves from the don’t-needs, writing out a list of your financial priorities from most important to least can help put your spending habits into perspective.
For example, a coffee on the way to work each morning might seem necessary at first, but when you compare it to your real priorities (such as travel or paying off your mortgage), it may not seem all that important.
For more budgeting tips, why not head over to the everyday finance section of our website?
4. Spend a little more on good-quality items
While reducing unnecessary purchases is often seen as a key part of a minimalist lifestyle, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t mean cutting out spending entirely. You can still treat yourself by buying things that bring you joy and value. Being minimalist simply means being more mindful and intentional about our spending habits.
One way we can do this is to invest in high-quality, well-made items when we decide to buy something. While this often involves spending a little more (though not always), focusing on quality over quantity will save us money in the long run, as our possessions will be more durable and last longer.
5. Create a capsule wardrobe
Is your closet bursting with clothes, but you only find yourself wearing a handful of items? If so, you’re certainly not alone.
This survey from Access Box Storage found that 61% of people in the UK had an overstuffed closet, while other research suggests that a quarter of the clothes in UK wardrobes have gone unworn for a year.
One way we can keep clutter out of our closets is by creating a capsule wardrobe. A concept widely embraced by minimalists, capsule wardrobes involve owning only a small selection of high-quality clothing items that can be mixed, matched, and worn year-round.
With an emphasis on basics – which can be layered to create many different effects – you might be surprised at how versatile a capsule wardrobe can be. So why not check out our article to find out more?
6. Remember that it’s not all about physical possessions
While decluttering our possessions can be a helpful place to start when embracing a minimalist lifestyle, it’s worth remembering that this is only one aspect of minimalism. Other features of our lives that we can consider applying a minimalist approach to include…
- Time commitments – are there any unnecessary responsibilities in your life that you can let go of to give you more time and headspace?
- Negative thoughts – we all have negative thoughts now and then. But if you find yourself experiencing them often, it can be worth taking steps to minimise them and replace them with positive ones.
For advice on minimising negative thoughts, have a read of this article from Verywell Mind.
- Screen time – in our modern world, we all spend time in front of screens. While some instances may be beneficial and essential, such as during work, there are moments when it might not be as necessary – such as scrolling through Facebook before bed.
Plus, too much screen time can even harm our health, causing issues like sleep problems.
So, to free up some time for more positive and productive activities, it’s worth asking ourselves how we can cut down on unnecessary time in front of devices.
- Goals – do you have lots of goals? If so, could concentrating on one or two of them make them more manageable?
- Relationships with others – while positive relationships can increase our self-esteem, energise us, and give us motivation, toxic relationships can have the opposite effect.
So, as you take a more minimalist approach to your life, it might be worth thinking about which relationships you could distance yourself from and which you might want to invest more time in.
7. Look for minimalist inspiration and resources
Embracing a minimalist lifestyle can be rewarding and refreshing, but it can feel like a step into the unknown. With this in mind, it can be useful to check out online resources for practical tips and inspiration.
For example, Instagram is a goldmine if you’re looking for home and fashion inspiration. Norwegian blogger Elisabeth Heier (@elisabeth_heier) and Swedish designer Louise Hjorth (@lojsanhjorth) both have excellent accounts if you’re looking for home decor tips.
If it’s fashion inspiration you want, you’ll find plenty of great ideas on Fiona Milne’s (@shopwithfifi), Melissa Meyers’ (@melissameyers), and Mads Keilberg’s (@scandinaviancloset) pages.
8. Give minimalist apps a try
If you’re looking for handy tools to help you streamline your life, there are plenty of useful apps out there.
For example, Olio is an app that connects people with surplus food to those who want to take it off their hands – saving people money, eliminating waste, and leaning into the minimalist mindset. Meanwhile, Google’s PhotoScan will help you digitise all those annoying documents, receipts, and other papers cluttering your home.
To find out about more apps for minimalists, why not check out this article from Surf and Unwind?
We hope that you’ve enjoyed our brief introduction to minimalist living and how you can adopt a mindset of less.
As you take steps to streamline your life, it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong way to embrace a minimalist lifestyle. For some people, it means living with a certain number of possessions, and for others, it simply means making more mindful and intentional choices about what they allow into their lives.
You also might try adopting a minimalist lifestyle and find it’s not for you, so it’s important to take your time and ease into it. Along the way, you could try checking in with yourself and asking questions like, why am I doing this? And is it positively impacting me? Questions like these can help to make sure that we’re still on the right path to achieving greater happiness and satisfaction.
For some more advice on how to arrange your life to reduce stress and reap other benefits, check out our article: 8 ways to use feng shui for a happier home.
Are you interested in minimalist living? Or have you already started to embrace it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.