I sometimes forget when I talk about minimalism, and leading a minimalist life, that there are those new to this, who don’t need the details, they need a framework to wrap their journey to minimalism around. I’ve summarised some of the key areas that attracted me to minimalism, and some of the areas of my life that I simplified, before going on to make some big changes.
I found that lots of small steps created the space for me to think and then to question some of the more complex areas of my life, like my work and what I was truly passionate about.
Lots of people like lists and summaries, myself particularly. I find it allows me to look at each area and ask myself if I’m comfortable in my own life.
Feel free to consider other areas I may have missed, or add your own thoughts in the comments section.
List the three most important things you need to complete today. Do them, don’t concern yourself with other things until they are done.
Spend the day noting down what you actually do. Its a fascinating activity, particularly if you can keep it up for a week or more. Compare this to your daily priorities and you have an idea of what happens with your life. For me it was the glaring habit of procrastination that so stuck out.
Now you know where your time goes, and what is important to you. Stop doing the things that aren’t important. Sounds simple I know, but make a plan to set yourself up for success each day. Its not about how many things you do in a day, its about how you spend, not only your time, but your life.
Run the same exercises for both your work life and your home life.
– Build your not-do list
Understand also what you’re not going to do any more, to fit in those things of value that you really want to do.
Much as you may hate it, you’re going to have to say ‘No’ to people. This is sometimes hard but tell them that you simply can’t find the time to do whats truly important. Good people understand, they have the same issues.
This means saying no on many of the communications tools you use. Put your smart-phone down for a while, you don’t need to respond immediately whatever they may think. Let the call go to voicemail while you do the important things. Think about saying no to these requests when you feel is a better time to respond to them.
Spend 15 minutes per day, without distraction, clearing things away. A place for everything and everything in its place. When you find yourself moving the same things repeatedly, find them a place, find them an owner who will take responsibility for them, or consider if you really need those things.
Have a go at decluttering and tidying that room, that cupboard, the garage, whatever that ‘place’ you’ve been putting off is. Find some time, put on some happy music, ask for some help, do it over a glass of wine. Whatever you need to do to make it a bit more fun, but just tackle it. You’ll be so pleased with yourself when its done. Promise yourself its never going to get that bad again.
Take each room in turn. Spend 15 minutes decluttering it. Then take another room, spend 15 minutes decluttering that one too. Move around the house over a day, a week, a month, whatever you have time for. It makes a big impact.
When you’re done on each room, spend the 15 minutes on cupboards, wardrobes, drawers. Its just 15 minutes after all.
Clear your desk, or the place that you work.
Create systems and routines to keep things tidy and clutter free. Involve others so they feel part of the new way of life/working. Remember that not everyone is a minimalist, and compromises may be needed.
– The Digital Declutter
Can you find anything on your desktop ? Move those files, or delete them. Similarly with old e-mails. Do you really need that shopping list from 2009 ?
Spend less time on e-mail. Check it once or twice per day. I choose 10am and 4pm.
Unsubscribe from those newsletters. They just want you to buy something. Click that link.
Create a new folder, call it Old Stuff. Move everything in your inbox to that folder. Look, an empty inbox, feels great doesn’t it. Now file, act or delete everything that comes into your inbox, do it twice per day. Move anything left at the end of the day to the Old Stuff folder. Delete the old stuff after a week, month, or whatever suits you.
– Consume less online
Consider a day without an internet connection. Read those blogs, that news tomorrow. One day will make no difference. Those unread items in the feed, is it really important to read them all. Why not delete the feed for now. You could always re-subscribe later. Facebook, Twitter all the same. Take a day off, a couple of days off, we don’t need to see what you’re having for lunch.
– Consume less TV
Easy for me to say. I stopped watching TV a few years ago now. But don’t automatically turn the TV on. Spend an hour less watching it, then another hour less. You’re not missing much. Its generally available online to watch later if it truly was that important and you missed it.
– Stop the stuff coming into the house
If you bring something into the house, send something else out of the house. Use the one-in, one-out rule
You don’t need the freebies. Just because they were free doesn’t mean that you have a need for them. Samples, other peoples stuff, things you might need one day. Things that might be valuable, but only to you.
You don’t need to go shopping. Unless its worn out, broken, or you’ve lost it. It probably isn’t a need, its a want, or a desire. It might give you a buzz when you buy that new thing, but that feeling wears off really quickly. How are you paying for that, credit ?
– Avoid the distractions, be in the moment, pay attention
Keep the phone in your pocket or bag when you travel. Take a look around, enjoy your environment. Don’t be another phone-zombie, fixated on the little screen. You just don’t know what you’re missing, or who for that matter.
Take a bit more time over meals. Avoid the indigestion, the grabbed and rushed lunch. Take the time on the healthy option rather than the fast food. Use the time to prepare meals in advance.
Take a bit more time to get to work. Take the scenic route, walk the last stop. Consider other means of transport. Arriving un-rushed and calm at your destination is so much better for you, as well as others.
Be present. Give 100 percent of your attention to what you’re doing and those you are with. Not thinking about what just happened, or whats going on later.
– Now you have minimised your life a little
Do that thing you’ve wanted to do in a long time. Was it on that priority list, but you never quite got round to it ?
Spend it with those you love. Your significant other, when was the last time you had time for just you, we do ‘Date Night’, every once in a while.
Spend it with friends and family. Just drop by on the off-chance. Give them a call and catch up properly without the need to dash off somewhere.
Spend time on your own. Have some quality me-time. Work on that personal project. Take yourself out of the house. Plan that trip. Just get a bit of time and space on your own.
– Evaluate your minimalist life, what are the next steps ?
Can you live more minimally, simpler, be more frugal ?
Ask yourself, why ? Why is living the minimalist lifestyle so important to you ? What are the reasons behind this. Ensure they are positive reasons, and if they are, can you be a little happier making other changes as well ?
Are there other things that can enhance your life, or the lives of others ? I took up meditation, tried out yoga, and my partner has a never ending supply of challenges in terms of things I’ve not tried before.
Then there are the bigger issues, do you really need a home that big, a car that big and expensive to run ? Is ‘status’ no longer as important as it once was to you ?
Do you love your job, or dread it ? Have you thought about channeling some of your time into a business idea you’ve kept on the back-burner ?
Have you got to the point where enough is enough ?
– And finally.
Continue to question, asking of all things, does this make things simpler, does this add value to my life ?