Living The Minimalist Lifestyle: The Starter Guide

Minimalist Living - A Starter GuideThe minimalist lifestyle is something that I’ve been fascinated with for quite some time now.

How can I live a more simple life?

A leaner one, with fewer expenses and more freedom?

One that encumbers less stuff and more meaningful experiences?

If you’re reading this article, it figures that you might have had similar thoughts too.

I’m by no means a full-blown minimalist. I wanna be clear on that.

But it is something that I’ve been more mindful of over the past few months. During that time I’ve made small but steady steps to declutter my surroundings, my mental space, and even my business.

And as with anything I decide to experiment with, I like to extract the key lessons and share them here on the blog. This article is along those lines, but also a little different…

Here’s the thing:

This one is a tag team affair, thrown together by myself and self-improvement writer Sarah Williams. Sarah got the ball rolling and laid the foundations. I put on the finishing touches.

The funny part?

This guide to embarking on the minimalist lifestyle took the work of two writers and is 4000+ words in length. Oh, the irony…

Anyway, we hope that it serves you well!

In the guide you’ll learn all about:

  • What minimalist living can entail (and some of the common misconceptions).
  • One of the main reasons we’re all so stressed (hint: it’s completely under our control).
  • Some pretty interesting folk you never knew were minimalists, and how it benefits them.
  • The actionable steps you can get started with today to start living a more minimalist lifestyle.

First up: Get Your Free Download

Pick up a free PDF version of the Minimalist Lifestyle guide (with bonus minimalist living tips & resources):

The Minimalist Lifestyle - A Starter Guide DOWNLOAD

Download your free PDF: A simple summary of the action steps from the Minimalist Lifestyle Guide guide, with bonus minimalist living tips & resources. Click here to get instant access to your free download.

 

Minimalist: A Definition

noun – mɪnɪm(ə)lɪst/

“A person who advocates or practices minimalism. 

A minimalist prefers the minimal amount or degree of something.”

Why An Excess Can = Stress

So many of the problems we face in life come down to one core reason:

We overcomplicate things, opting for an excess over the minimum effective dose.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of that in action…

In the home:

Minimalist Living - HomeModern society is largely built upon consumerism. That’s no secret. The media tells us that we need more and more things to make us happy, and like cash-thirsty blackjack players, we so often buy right into it.

Any space at home becomes a potential place to store things, so that’s exactly what we go ahead and do.

The result?

More spending, more things to clean, more clutter, and more often than not – little to no increase in our fulfillment.

But what does a life look like with fewer things? Less clutter? Fewer bills to pay? Lower stress levels perhaps?

Changing habits:

Minimalist Living - HabitsOne of the cardinal sins of forming healthy habits is to bite off more than we can chew and attempt to tackle several big changes all at once.

The problem?

Every change takes time, effort, and energy. There’s simply not enough of these precious commodities in a day to reach fifty-billion objectives all at once. So we usually end up back at square one. 

But if we were instead able to simplify our approach and tackle one change at a time, would the path to lasting changes become one that’s less stressful (and maybe even enjoyable)?

At work:

Minimalist Living - WorkHow many times have you tried to multitask at work? And how often does it result in a decent outcome?

We do our best to churn out as many things as possible at the same time, only to feel drained and unable to concentrate pretty soon after.

Despite our best efforts, the mind simply isn’t programmed to be doing more than one thing at a time. If I’m sat here writing this article whilst replying to emails or doing handstands, the end result isn’t gonna be all that useful…

If however, we simplify and single-task, the work process suddenly becomes much easier. Our energy levels are preserved, we save time, and we’re much more likely to produce meaningful work.

In relationships:

Minimalist Living - LoveWhether it’s with friends and family or when meeting new people, we so often put up a front in an attempt to get them on our side. We present to them what we think they want to see. We’re overcomplicating things again, playing a role and living by someone else’s standards.

If you were to choose the minimalist approach to how you communicate and treat the people in your life, would the chance to form meaningful connections increase?

Could you let go of those expectations and illusions, become more present during conversations and cut through a lot of the BS that so often leads to stress and conflict?

The big takeaway:

Less over more is the answer to so many problems in life.

That’s one of the fundamental principles of the minimalist lifestyle:

That simplicity so often leads to more freedom, peace and joy.

What Minimalism Living is (and isn’t)

It’s easy to build preconceptions (and misconceptions) about what a minimalist lifestyle entails. Again, I’m no seasoned expert, but here’s my take on things:

The Minimalist Lifestyle is:

  1. Whatever you want it to mean.
  2. A process of simplification.
  3. Savoring things/activities/people that provide value to you.
  4. Being mindful of the possessions you own.
  5. Opting for quality over quantity.
  6. A personal journey that you take at your own pace.
  7. A way of reducing distractions & stressors in your life.
  8. Accessible to pretty much everyone.

The Minimalist Lifestyle isn’t:

  1. A strict set of rules that you have to follow.
  2. Getting rid of everything you own.
  3. Owning less than x number of things.
  4. Being totally frugal.
  5. Living like a hermit or ascetic.
  6. Not buying any new things. Ever.
  7. A difficult, unsustainable process.
  8. An easy-peasy, overnight process.

Famous Minimalists

Wise old dudes who valued the power of less.

Minimalist Living - Marcus

MARCUS AURELIUS

Emperor of Rome | Philosopher
“Make thyself all simplicity” and “From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.”

Minimalist Living - Albert

ALBERT EINSTEIN

Physicist | Scholar
“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” and “I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind.”
 

Minimalist Living - Henry

HENRY DAVID THOREAU

Writer | Philosopher
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand. We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without” and “Be wary of any enterprise that requires new clothes.”

Other notable mentions include:

Minimalist Living: Luke’s Mini-Experiments

As I mentioned in the intro, I’m by no means a master of minimalism, but it is something I’ve been experimenting with over the past few months.

Here’s what I’ve been doing, and how it’s impacted my life so far:

Workouts

Earlier this month I released my HERO Foundation Full Body Strength Workout (part of the free HERO Toolkit). This simple 50-minute workout is exactly what I’ve been using 3x a week to maintain my strength and movement capabilities. By minimalizing and decluttering my structured workouts like this, it’s made room for other activities (and good old fashioned play).

Eating

No counting calories or measuring micros. Just the same old fatty smoothie bowl for breakfast, a high-fat salad for lunch, and then something different for dinner (typically higher in carbohydrates). For me right now, this minimalist approach to eating has taken away a lot of the stress and anxiety that can sometimes come with trying to improve your eating habits.

Time

I’m fortunate to have a lot going on right now, but with that comes the risk of being needlessly busy. Cultivating more awareness of the minimalist mindset has helped me clarify my priorities and what I value the most in life. That means spending significantly less time on social media and going places I don’t really wanna go, and more time with loved ones, moving, working and saving dolla’ for travelling the world.

Work habits

Streamlining how I approach my workday has made a big difference in my productivity. That means planning ahead, single tasking, and prioritizing the projects that are going to provide me with the most bang for my buck (both from a financial standpoint and from a personal fulfillment one).

Surroundings

This one’s a work in progress… Whilst I have done a couple of clearouts of old clothes and made a conscious effort to buy less stuff, I still have a little work to do to get to where I’d personally like to be. But that’s the fun of it – the journey. And at this stage, I’m getting plenty of value from applying minimalism to other areas of my life. As mentioned above, it’s a personal experience that’s unique to the individual. Your minimalism might look very different to mine, and that’s okay.

Now onto the practical part:

Let’s take a look at what you can do today to start adopting the minimalist mindset and living a more minimalist lifestyle…

The Minimalist Lifestyle: Actionable Steps You Can Start Today

Phase 1: Slow down to create some mental space

To help you figure out your values & reason ‘why’

 

Before you read any further:

Minimalist Living - Deep Breath

Notice the difference? Feels pretty good, right? Clears the cobwebs a little?

As we alluded to earlier, being overly busy is one of the chief causes of stress. We so often rush through our day without stopping for a second to take a breath, relax and simply enjoy the present moment. 

Minimalism is largely about creating time and space for things you value.

But in our crazy modern world full of distractions, even knowing what it is that you value can sometimes be easier said than done. We’re force-fed so much BS, it makes figuring out what we’re truly passionate about and how we really want to spend our time on Earth a little tricky.

As I’ve talked about many times here on the blog, to make a lasting change or adopt a new practice into your life, it’s a pretty good idea to know why you’re doing it.

Practicing mindfulness makes that process of figuring out your ‘why’ a little easier.

Over time, you may start to notice that there’s more space for you to respond to situations, as opposed to unconsciously reacting. You start to run your day, as opposed to your day running you.

And perhaps most importantly:

You should have more mental capacity to determine your priorities, which makes it easier to start discarding the things that no longer fit into that description.

Your action steps:

  • Make time for a short bout of meditation in the morning. Five to ten minutes is perfect. Use one of these guided meditation sites if you’re not quite sure where to start.
  • Sprinkle mindful moments throughout your day. Set a reminder for every hour on your phone to just stop and breathe. It’s a great way to join the dots and make mindfulness more of a constant state.
  • Start a gratitude journal. Take just a few minutes each morning to write down what you’re truly grateful for. It’s a really useful exercise in figuring out what’s really important to you and what’s simply a distraction.
  • Do less. Just because you have 24 hours in the day, doesn’t mean you have to fill every one of those with a specific activity. Shortening your to-do list to just one or two things and making time for just being can help to dampen that feeling of busyness.

Phase 2: Declutter your physical space

To make room for the things you value

Minimalism isn’t solely concerned with the purging of items that no longer serve you, but that can definitely be a good place to practice it.

Why?

Because as mentioned above, the minimalist lifestyle largely comes down to freedom.

Think of it this way:

Every item you own, get gifted or purchase requires your attention, needs to be taken care of and has to fill a space. Even free stuff has hidden costs.

I completely get it:

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to have the latest piece of technology, the newest fashionable clothes, the most up to date furniture, the fanciest car. I get pulled into it from time to time with certain things.

It’s partly down to companies telling us we need those products. But it’s also because people work so hard in their day jobs and juggle so many other potential stressors that they feel they deserve a reward.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

As touched on briefly in an earlier section, the mindful purchase or storage of items that really serve you isn’t an issue. Even certain things that may seem ridiculous to others may still provide you with value – like family heirlooms or special gifts. And that’s okay!

Things can get problematic when we fall into the trap of holding onto things or buying more stuff in the hope of bringing happiness or filling a void.

Because the truth is that for most people:

No amount of “stuff” can provide us with the fulfillment we’re after.

That feeling usually comes from inside, not externally.

Living a Minimalist Lifestyle - Possessions vs Happiness

Adapted from ICESI.edu – more stuff doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness.

Your action steps:

So there are a few different ways to tackle the physical decluttering process. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’ll provide you with a few ideas to get you started:

  • List those ‘just in case’ vs ‘just for when’ items. Some items are reserved for activities/occasions that don’t come around that often (but are still valuable to us). Maybe those old ski boots you use once or twice a year. These are the ‘just for when‘ items. Then there are those that are hanging around for some hypothetical, imaginary occasion that may never occur. They sit there, just weighing you down. These are the ‘just in case‘ items. The latter rarely provide much value, whereas the former do. Being able to distinguish between the two is a big step.
  • Shed one unnecessary item a day. Whether it’s donated to charity, given to a friend or sold on eBay, take one item a day from your home that doesn’t provide you with value and let it go. That could be unworn clothes, unused trinkets, abandoned gifts – whatever you feel isn’t adding to your life.
  • Cleanse one space at a time. As an alternative to (or in conjunction with) the above, you could move through your home one room or space at a time, bagging up anything you rarely use or deem doesn’t serve you. This approach has worked well for me, and you can take it at your own pace.
  • Use the wardrobe trick. Great if you’re looking to get rid of unused clothes. First, tidy your wardrobe and drawers, with everything folded in the same way or hanging in the same direction. Whenever you wear something, place it back in the wardrobe in a different position (e.g with the hanger facing the opposite way or folded using a different method). Over the space of a few months, you’ll be able to see more clearly how much (or how little) of your clothes collection you actually use on a regular basis and make any necessary adjustments.

Phase 3: Simplify your social life

To free up time for the ones you love

It’s not just about that physical space…

The minimalist mindset can also come in handy when thinking about your social life and who you spend your free time with.

Now I’m not about to suggest you cut everyone out of your life and living in a cave from hereon after. But taking a good look at your peers and social commitments from time to time isn’t a bad idea.

Here’s the thing:

There are only a certain number of hours in the day, days in a year, and years in a lifetime. How we spend that time and who we spend that time with is largely up to us.

Why not dedicate it to nourishing the relationships with those we love, those that elevate us, those that bring out the best in us? Or in some cases, just to enjoy the peace of solitude?

It may sound a little obvious, but it’s surprising how much time we spend with our schedules being run by others.

We commit to events that we don’t really want to go to or activities that deep down aren’t really in line with our values. It’s easy to get trapped in that pattern and forget that there actually is a choice.

You’ll notice there’s a parallel here with your possessions:

It’s typically not the quantity of friends or social interactions that counts. It’s the quality that usually matters in the long run.

Minimalist Relationships - Sum of the 5 people

Your action steps:

  • Learn to say no. This is something that’s come up with a few guests on The HERO Podcast – the ability to say a polite ‘no’ to things that don’t really serve you/your loved ones/the greater good is key in your own personal development.
  • Be mindful of social media. How much time are you spending on there each day? And how much time do you really want to be spending on there? Evaluate, then take steps to delete the difference.
  • Prioritize those that mean the most to you. Again, I wanna re-emphasize that this doesn’t mean completely shutting yourself off from everyone outside your close circle… But being a little more mindful of how your priorities and your actions line up can make a big difference. If you are the product of the five people you spend the most time with, who do you want to be around?
  • Don’t take things too far. Remember – minimalism is whatever you make of it. Just because one person thrives off having just a few close friends doesn’t mean that’s what will work best for you. Don’t go cutting people out of your life just to live up to someone else’s made up standards – do what works for you.

Phase 4: Declutter your (work) day

To get meaningful work done without the stress

Take a look at your to-do list.

Minimalist Lifestyle - Paretos principleIf you don’t have one, feel free to just write down the things you usually do daily or track what you did the last 2-3 days. Make it detailed. Include the chores at home, the meetings, free time, habits and rituals, projects at work, etc.

Now take a closer look at it and ask yourself whether each item on it is something that really needed to be done. Something that provided you (or others) with some sort of value, or took you closer to your goals?

If Pareto’s Principle holds true, 80% of the things you’re currently doing in your typical workday may well be redundant. 

So why keep doing them?

As wise old Mr. Einstein once said:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If there’s always another item on the list to be done, another goal to be achieved, another place we need to be – can you ever really be satisfied?

If we’re not careful, these make-believe aspirations and needs can dictate the direction of our lives and leave little time and space for the things that are really important to us.

Here’s the truth:

More busyness rarely results in more fulfillment. In fact, it’s usually the opposite.

As well as the quality of items on your to-do list, how you attempt to conquer can also have a big impact on your work output and general feeling of accomplishment.

As we alluded to earlier, multi-tasking rarely ends well.

Eating/answering emails/listening to distracting music whilst trying to get something important done usually isn’t a recipe for success for most people.

Single tasking is so often an easier, more productve, and less stressful approach.

How to be minimalist - Busy vs Productive

Your action steps:

  • Cut your to-do list in half. It sounds brutal, but it’s often more manageable than you might first think. Identify the essentials, and simply get rid of or cut down on doing anything else. That might mean leaving behind a business project you’ve been working on for quite some time or potentially offending someone by saying no to your regular meetings.
  • Single-task. It goes back to that principle of mindfulness. Know which tasks on your list are most important, take the first one, ignore all distractions around you and forget about anything else you need to do later today, and get to work. It’s one of the simplest productivity techniques, and yet one of the most powerful ones.
  • Minimize distractions. De-clutter your working environment. Your desk, your workbench, your browser… The fewer distractions present, the easier it is to do the above. The same goes for any other environment that you spend a lot of time – keep it clean and tidy and it’s easier to get into a calm, creative headspace.
  • Go Pomodoro. If your vocation allows for it, splitting your work periods into Pomodoros (25 minutes of focused work, followed by 5 minutes of rest) is another way to simplify, stay fresh and get better quality work done.
  • Delegate/collaborate. Whether you’re at work or at home, delegating tasks to others or collaborating with them interdependently (like with this article) is another great way to simplify the working process and get things done.

Phase 5: Use that room for experiences & nourishment

Make the most of your newfound time and space

Minimalist Lifestyle - Love People Use Things Minimalists

Minimalism is less about taking things away, and more about what you choose to fill that new found time and space with.

When you start to make room, physically, mentally and financially, you have more freedom to make decisions. To be intentional about the way you spend your day. To do the things you truly love.

As opposed to activities that may provide a short-term gratification (for me, retail therapy or spending endless time on social media come to mind), you might start to partake in things that provide you with more long-term satisfaction.

Because that’s what life’s about isn’t it?

And I really don’t mean to be judgemental here.

I get involved with mindless tasks and buy things that I don’t need now and again. And I know that some people will value social media and shopping way more than me. That’s completely fine!

I think the point I’m trying to get at is that at on our deathbeds, which is more likely:

To wish we spent more time with the people we loved and going on adventures, or to wish that we’d bought more things and spent more time on Facebook?

Your action steps:

  • Try new experiences. As we alluded to above, fulfillment is rarely brought about by consuming external products. In some cases it is, but for the most part, real experiences with real people are what get the happiness meter moving.
  • Travel. It’s not everyone’s thing, but traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures can be an awesome way to expand your mind and figure out your place in the world.
  • Place a spending limit. Being a bit more mindful of your monthly spend (or committing to no unnecessary purchases for thirty days) helps to make sure you’re not filling that newfound space with more things.
  • Make conscious purchases. When you can, opt for quality over quantity. Clothes that will last longer and are versatile. Workout gear that isn’t going to break on you. Food that nourishes your body.
  • Be a charitable egg. Why not us some of that newfound freedom and space to help others? Whether that means donating time, money, or both. Whatever resonates with you.

Let’s Get Minimal

Hopefully, our guide to the minimalist lifestyle has provided you with at least a little value. Now it’s time for you to take it away.

Your HERO Challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to think about this:

Where in your life is there an excess where there could be less?

And how can you take one of the action steps mentioned in the article and apply it to your life, today.

If you do decide to take steps towards a life of less, we’d love to hear how you get on. Share your story and feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below.

Don’t Forget Your free PDF Summary: A simple PDF summary of the action steps from this guide, with bonus minimalist living tips & resources. Click here to get instant access to your free download.

Luke Jones

Minimalist Lifestyle Tips - Luke Jones Health RoomLuke is an Online Content Creator, Healthy Habits HERO, and Chief Burrito Eater. When he’s not doing handstands or out adventuring, he spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in healthy living and personal development on The Health Room Blog and The HERO Podcast.

Sarah Williams

Minimalist Lifestyle Tips - Sarah Williams Get a Wingman

Sarah used to be a shy girl who, with a lot of work and positive attitude, became a social butterfly and confident person. She believes the key to true happiness is continuous self-improvement and she shares her thoughts on how to achieve it on Wingman Magazine.

Luke Jones

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