Most, if not all of my posts, have been very practical. This last one will be less so. I’m going to talk about what I feel is the essence of minimalism – value. Personally, the reason I live a minimalist lifestyle is because I think it highlights the valuable things in my life – it helps me focus on what really matters. By eliminating distractions and clutter, I am able to be fully engaged with what I care about the most.
Whether or not you decide to embrace minimalism as a part of your life, I think that it’s fair to say that we all want to spend as much time as possible doing what we love, being around the people we love, and being surrounded by the things that add lots of value to our lives. For me, one of the things I feel helps me do this the best is minimalism. Maybe for you it’s something else – like meditation or religion. Whatever it is, I think it’s important to find those things that help us live that kind of fulfilled life and see and experience value vividly.
As I’ve said many times over the last semester, I’m far from an expert. Everything I’ve shared has either been an opinion of mine or ideas I’ve gained from others that I’ve passed along. Regardless, if you’ve learned anything, been inspired, considered embracing minimalism, or even implemented any minimalist practices, that’s really cool! I hope that maybe it added some value to someone.
Since many of us are about to move, I’m going to talk about using moving as a time to declutter. Moving is a great time to get rid of stuff! As you sort through things and dig things out of closets and drawers, you’ll start to see the things that you have but don’t really need. Also, as you move into a new space, you might not have room for certain things that you have now.
Start a pile or box where you can put all of the things you don’t want anymore. Don’t think too much about what you’re putting in the pile and don’t try to organize it. The moment you think you might not want an item, throw it in the pile.
Once you’ve gone through all your stuff and decided what to get rid of, decide what stuff in your pile is worth taking the time to sell. You probably know the value of some of it, but you might also need to Google some things to see their value. Quickly take pictures of those things and list them on Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, or Craigslist with good prices.
Things that aren’t worth selling, throw it in a box and take it to Goodwill or donate it somewhere else. Or you can see if any friends or family would like any of it. This is a good opportunity to get rid of things while also helping someone else out.
These ideas are probably already pretty obvious, but my goal is to motivate you to actually get rid of things as you move, rather than just hauling it all to the next place.
Minimalism can enhance traveling in many ways, the most obvious way being packing – which is what I’ll focus on today.
I used to be a heavy packer. I’d stuff literally as many clothes as I could into the biggest suitcase my parents had, and oftentimes I’d also have to stuff some more info into my backpack. For toiletries, I’d pack everything I could possibly need. I’d pack my pillow and sometimes a blanket. Laptop, headphones, snacks, drinks, games, multiple pairs of shoes, my guitar, and anything else I thought I might want to use on the trip! I’m not kidding.
As I dove into minimalism, my heavy packing habits stuck around for a while – they were one of the last things I looked into changing. Once I did start downsizing what I brought on trips, though, I realized how great it is to travel light! Less to load, unload, and carry around. Less to keep track of and worry about losing. Less to dig through when I need something. I’ve found these to be especially true when traveling in airports.
These days I travel with just a backpack for shorter trips, and for longer trips, my wife and I try to share one suitcase and each have backpacks. For shorter trips I’ll just bring the pants I’m wearing, for longer ones I’ll pack one or two more pairs. I’ll only pack as many shirts as there are days on the trip. I only bring the shoes I’m wearing if I can help it. I don’t feel the need to bring much more than essentials anymore. When I used to bring random stuff like games, I would never wind up using them on the trip.
I encourage you to pack light on your next trip – challenge yourself to only bring the absolute essentials! I think it will help you to enjoy traveling more and focus on what you’re there for.
Here’s the deal *said in a Joe Biden voice* … I’m not a productivity expert. Someone who is a productivity expert is Matt D’Avella, who happened to put out an awesome video a few days ago. Today, instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m going to outline the ideas he lays out in the video.
This system provides a way to:
- Stay organized
- Prioritize, sort, and track tasks
- Capture, track, and write ideas
- Schedule events and meetings
- Stay on top of deadlines
- Store and organize digital files
The four main tools to accomplish these things are:
- To-Do List
- Cloud Storage
Matt shares the specific products he uses for each of these things, but you should find the product that works best for you.
For notetaking, Matt uses Apple Notes.
- Havie Folders for different categories of notes.
- Have good titles for each note.
Matt uses Google Calendar.
- Keep it as empty and clean as possible.
- Color coded.
- Use sub calendars.
- Use reminders.
Matt uses TuexDeux.
- Have a list for each day of the week.
- Label tasks as actions. ‘Cook Dinner’ rather than just ‘Dinner.’
- Try to keep daily tasks to 4 or less items.
- Move things that don’t get done to the next day.
- Check off things that get done.
- Have additional lists, like grocery list, reading list, future stuff, etc
Matt uses Google Drive.
- Use the backup and sync feature to have a cloud folder on your computer.
- Have a folder for different categories of files.
These things are really simple, but it takes a lot of work to dial them in and maintain them well! I’d encourage you to check out Matt’s video if you are interested in going more in depth with this! Link – https://youtu.be/BtiQvhQF8IA
A while ago I heard a YouTuber I follow, Matt D’avella, say that he wears the same t-shirt every single day. He decided to buy ten of his favorite t-shirts and get rid of his other shirts that he didn’t like as much. I was inspired to do the same, and it started me on a journey to simplify my whole closet.
Wearing the same shirt everyday obviously isn’t for everyone. You get to decide how to use minimalism in a way that serves you well as an individual. This might look like going through your closet, holding each piece of clothing, and asking the question, ‘do I love this?’ This is the process seen in the Netflix show, ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.’ Joshua Fields Millburn from theminimalists.com writes, “Simply, a minimalist wears their favorite clothes every day.”
A great place to start if you want to have a minimalist wardrobe is Project 333, which is a very popular book/challenge by Courtney Carver. Rather than donating most of your clothes right away, this challenges you to keep 33 or less items in your closet for 3 months. You can still keep the rest of your clothes, but you’re supposed to box them up and store them until the 3 months is up. Then, if you want to keep going with the challenge, you can switch out for a different set of 33 clothes for the next 3 months, and keep going with it as long as you want. This is relatively low commitment and allows you to easily see what it’s like to live with less clothes.
The average person throws away 82 pounds of clothes every year, according to the BBC. Insane. Whether or not you use the ideas I shared today, it’s a good thing to be intentional about the clothes you own and buy, and to minimize excess.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that minimalism can help you make and save money. When you are downsizing, you can sell things you decide you don’t need. You can save money when you decide not to buy excess things. You can save money when you have less to maintain, clean, replace, upgrade, etc. But let’s take it one step further: be intentional about living within your means. This idea is not specific to minimalism, but it lines up with minimalist ideas.
Don’t spend more than you have. So many Americans have a ton of debt – many of them accumulated the debt because they were buying more and more nice things to try and make themselves feel good. This is where the ideas of ‘less is more’ and ‘quality over quantity’ come in. The starting point for living within your means is to have a monthly budget. At the top of the page, put your monthly income, then subtract each monthly expense from that number, starting with the most important things (like savings) and ending with the least important things. Your income minus expenses should be zero. Then stick to your budget!
Once you stop overspending, you have the freedom to start building savings, investing, and thinking about long-term goals.
Full disclosure, I suck at digital minimalism.
Digital minimalism is simply eliminating distractions on our devices. The way I see it, the goal is to be less distracted by devices while we’re using them and while we’re not.
While we’re using our devices, it can be frustrating when things are cluttered. Cleaning up and organizing your digital spaces is a very rewarding process. It might look like cleaning the desktop on your computer – some people don’t keep any files or shortcuts on their desktop. It might look like keeping your email at inbox zero, filing important emails and deleting random ones. It might look like deleting apps that you don’t use so that you don’t have to spend so much time looking for the apps you do use. You get the idea.
It’s also important to think about the times we’re not using our devices. I’d like to pass along four rules for digital minimalism that I learned from Matt D’Avella. Rule number one is no screens in bed. Think about the time in the evenings and mornings spent scrolling through social media. That’s time you could be sleeping or doing something productive! Rule number two is to schedule one specific time everyday to check and respond to emails rather than doing it randomly throughout the day. Rule three is to limit social media to thirty minutes daily. Ouch. Lastly, rule number four – limit all streaming to one day. Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, any video streaming. Oof.
These rules might sound awful, but the idea is to think about ways to stop letting devices take away from more important things. Matt’s four rules are just one way of doing that, they may or may not work for you.
Like I said, I am not good at any of this. It is a difficult area of life to break bad habits and form new ones. But I do think it’s very rewarding and I see major value in it.
Merriam-Webster defines a habit as, “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.” Minimalism is all about simplifying your life and minimizing distractions, and habits are great tools to use in this pursuit. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes, “Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so you can allocate your attention to other tasks.”
Here’s the thing – creating a new habit is hard. According to Healthline, it takes “an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.” However, once it becomes a habit, it is easy and can be very valuable. Here’s an example: you’ve never consistently made your bed before and you decide you want to start. The first day is easy because you have the motivation and excitement that comes with starting something new. The days and weeks following are harder, and some days you probably forget to do it. After two or three months, however, you don’t even think about it anymore – you just do it.
Here are some tips. First, start small and build one habit at a time. Trying to start making your bed, running, journaling, and meditating all at once is probably not sustainable. Start with whichever one seems easiest to you. Second is James Clears 3 R’s of habit change – reminder, routine, and reward. Do something to remind yourself of your habit, whether it be a sticky note in a visible place or a reminder on your phone. Get in a routine. If you’re building the habit of running, try to run at the same time every day. Make sure to reward yourself somehow. Do something you really enjoy before, during, or after doing your habit.
Quality over quantity is the idea that having a small number of nice things is better than having a lot of junky things. Embracing this idea can save you time and money and help you get the things you really want.
Every time my parents want a new phone, my mom will spend hours on Ebay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace looking for the cheapest phones that are funcional. Unsurprisingly, these phones will last them a year or two before they completely stop working, and then the process repeats. On top of the time my mom spends searching for phones every couple of years, they have to deal with the stress of their phones never really working well. I think it’s worth the money to buy brand new or refurbished phones that will last a long time (or can be sold for a decent amount of money after a year or two) and will not cause this kind of stress.
You might be wondering how having nice things saves you money. Well, high quality is one half of the equation. Low quantity is the other half. Last week I talked about decluttering, which is the process of getting rid of things and organizing. That really comes into play here. The reason this can save you money is that you will stop spending money on so many random things, and focus your money on a small amount of things that serve you really well.
Eventually, you can get to a place where everything you own is your favorite – you own your favorite clothes, your favorite phone, even your favorite car (ok, that one might take a bit of saving.) When you decide what is most important to you, invest in those things, and forget about everything else, you can begin to live a more focused, intentional, and happy life.
Decluttering is the process of eliminating distractions by getting rid of things that are unnecessary, organizing everything else, and developing habits that contribute to clutter-free living.
You might have heard of the TV show ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.’ In this show, Marie helps people declutter their homes in order to live more focused and happy lives. One of the activities she leads people in is going through their closets and deciding what they want to keep and what they don’t. She has them hold each individual piece of clothing and answer the question, “does this spark joy.” If the answer is yes, they keep it. If the answer is no, they get rid of it.
This is what the ‘getting rid of stuff’ part of decluttering looks like. It’s about being intentional with the things you own and getting rid of things that are distracting from intentional living. It’s deciding which of your possessions are serving you well and which are not. Donating or giving things to friends and family can be very rewarding. You can also sell things and make some money.
One of my old roommates kept most of his stuff at his parents house and the only stuff he had in his room was a mat to sleep on, a backpack full of random stuff, a small amount of clothes, and some camera gear. Probably less than 100 things total. Yet half of the time his room was a complete disaster! This is why organization is an important part of decluttering. You can pare way back on how many things you own and still have clutter if you don’t organize your things.
Another part of decluttering is developing habits to maintain a clutter free environment. These habits can look like making your bed in the morning, putting things back where you found them, and doing the dishes each day. It can also be looking at how often you’re purchasing new things and making changes to those habits as well.
Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to declutter the whole house at once. Take it one drawer, one closet, one room at a time. Don’t rush the process, move at your own pace. It won’t be long before you experience the payoff of living in a decluttered home.