A Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism

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Minimalism is removing the things that are distracting or keeping you from the most important things in your life.

I was first introduced to the idea of minimalism several years ago by Joshua Becker through this article. I really liked the idea and began decluttering around my home and in my office. However, we were working through a lot of difficulties with my daughter’s adoption so it ended up taking a back seat in our lives for quite a while.

Fast forward to last May when Joshua came and spoke at my church on minimalism (you can view his message here). His talk reignited in me the desire to live more by owning less. Since then my family and I have gotten rid of several van loads of junk as we work to declutter our lives.

It can be difficult to know how to get started on the path to minimalism. I am no expert, but I have learned a lot about intentionally owning less in the last year.

If you are interested in how to begin the process of simplifying your life and getting rid of your excess possessions here are a few tips:

1. Find people who are doing it well. There are many people who are experiencing success in the area of minimalism. Most of them are very generous and kind people. Here are a few who have been helpful to me:

ŸBecoming Minimalist
Be More With Less
Zen Habits
No Sidebar
The Minimalists

2. Discover the transferable principles. Some minimalists own more possessions than others. I read about one man who only owns 15 things. No joke. I tend to be more of a rational minimalist; someone who lives with many of the things that someone who isn’t a minimalist does (like a TV, furniture, cars, etc.), but who strives to live below excess (i.e. there aren’t a lot of boxes in our garage so both of our cars fit in there, we’re debt free, etc.). They key is to find what works for you and integrate it into your life.

3. Move slowly. Going into minimalism I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt, had entire closets filled with junk, and could barely pull my car into the garage. We are in a very different place now, but it took time to turn things around. Collecting all that debt and junk didn’t happen overnight. You won’t get rid of it overnight either, but you can get rid of it. Focus on getting rid of a few things each day. The more you do the less clutter you’ll have.

4. Don’t keep things out of guilt. I talk to many people who are keeping things they don’t need or want because their afraid of offending someone. Don’t let what they want clutter up your home with things you don’t. Politely give it back to them or give it to someone who really wants or needs it. Your time and money is too important to spend taking care of things you don’t need or want.

5. Don’t try to change anyone. Everyone in your family might not embrace minimalism like you do. Some will be very reluctant about going on the journey with you. Don’t pressure them to turn their life upside down. Begin a conversation with your family about what you would like to do. Ask for their input and involve them in the process. Model the benefits of minimalism with what you can control and be content with whatever they decide to do for themselves.

6. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember what we talked about earlier: the clutter in your life didn’t get there overnight and your won’t be able to get rid of it overnight, but you will be able to get rid of it. Don’t beat yourself up over where you are right now. Be proud of the progress you’re making. Just reading about how to declutter your home and life is a step in the right direction.

7. Enjoy the journey. The point of minimalism and simplicity isn’t just to own less stuff and to be more organized. It’s to make space in your life for the things that matter most to you. What is left after you’re initial purge (and subsequent efforts) should be the things that you really need and the things that you genuinely enjoy.

Minimalists don’t believe that possessions in and of themselves are bad. We simply believe that clutter (excess stuff that we don’t need or really want) is. We do everything we can to eliminate and minimize the clutter in our lives. Use these steps to simplify your life and clear out the clutter so you won’t be weighed down by your possessions. You’ll be glad you did.

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