What Is Minimalist Living? 5 Simple Ways to Live Simply

First you ask what minimalist living is. Then, you watch your energy and happiness skyrocket by pursuing simple ways to live simply! It’s as easy as that: define minimalism, then find ways to simplify life.

These tips for living simply will help you flow into a more relaxed, happier state of being.

Before the tips, a quip:

“There are really only two steps to simplifying.  Identify what’s most important to you.  Eliminate everything else.” – Leo Babauta, author of The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life and creator of  Zen Habits.

Mr. Babauta is right. The first, and most important, step to living simply is identifying what’s really important to you.  It’s sometimes said that if nothing is important, everything is important… and if everything is important, nothing is.  That’s probably why so many people have trouble with the idea of minimalist living and simplifying their lives.  Once you decide what matters most, it’s much easier to let go of the rest.

Once you’ve taken that first step, these tips will help you get started on the path towards minimalist living.

What is Minimalist Living?

What do you think of when you hear the word “minimalist”?  Many people think of a monastery with nothing but the barest essentials anywhere in sight.  That’s definitely one example of minimalism, but it’s so extreme that the thought of it causes people to miss the real point.  Minimalism or “simple living”, is a conscious lifestyle choice that rejects the notion that bigger and more is better.  Instead, minimalists strive for simplicity, clarity, focus, and a commitment to living an authentic life grounded in their core values.

In a world that is becoming increasingly more complex, fueled by technology and media that constantly bombard us with images of all the “stuff” we need to be happy, rich, sexy, and smart, it’s not surprising that more and more people are finding themselves feeling overwhelmed, overstressed, and overstimulated.  Depression and anxiety levels have never been higher, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Do you long for a simpler, more satisfying and more fulfilling life? A minimalist life, perhaps?

There are many benefits to living simply.  Letting go of the unnecessary material and emotional baggage in your life means less clutter, lower expenses, and less stress.  At the same time, you’re likely to experience improved emotional and physical health, greater clarity and focus, and increased spiritual connection.

5 Simple Ways to Live Simply

Here are five simple ways to live simply, and pursue minimalist living…

Identify the areas in your life that are too cluttered

Most people think of minimalism in terms of their physical space and material possessions.  That’s a big part of living simply, but not all. Minimalism also applies to processes and relationships.  Be on the lookout for ways to streamline everyday tasks that are time-consuming and not particularly gratifying, such as housework or preparing complex meals every night.  Figuring out how good is good enough will help you find activities that you can let go of completely, or at least do less often.  This is a simple way to live simply – and it will increase your happiness and energy levels! Relationships that are a constant source of stress and negativity may also require an honest assessment of whether you really want them to continue moving forward.

Stop buying things you don’t need

Buying things we don’t need is a common problem.  How often have you bought things you couldn’t afford to please or impress people you don’t even like?  Do you find yourself shopping more when you’re depressed, angry, or bored?  Be honest about why you’re buying things you don’t need. To live simply, try to find healthier ways to meet those needs. Find ways to live simply that complement, rather than contradict, your goals for a minimalist lifestyle.

Get rid of things you don’t need

Once you’ve gotten used to not bringing more things, processes, and people into your life, you’ll start to notice that there are things (and perhaps people) already there that no longer serve a purpose in your life.  Whether it’s clothes, books, furniture or just about anything else, if you don’t absolutely need it or love it, consider letting it go. Simple ways to live simply include re-gifting, donating to charity, or selling items you don’t need or want on ebay. If clutter is a struggle in your life, read How to Declutter Your Home and Be Clutter Free. Besides offering tips for living simply, this article will help answer the “what is minimalist living?” question.

Clear your surfaces

A sure sign that you’ve been bitten by the minimalist bug is that you’ll notice that your tolerance for material clutter will get lower and lower! That’s a good thing.  One of the best ways to live simply and minimally is to have a place for everything and put everything in its place.

Go deeper into minimalist living

Once your visible surfaces are clear, it’s time to go deeper into minimalism and simple living.  Start looking in drawers, closets, the attic, or wherever else you hide things.  Clear out those areas too.

It took a lifetime to accumulate all that stuff in your life that no longer works for you.  You probably won’t be able to dispose of it all right away.  That’s OK.  Remember that the path towards minimalist living isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey.  Celebrate your small successes, knowing that you’re one step closer to reaching your goal.

To learn more about minimalism, read Zen Habits Handbook for Life by Leo Babauta.

And, if you’re not enjoy who you are or where your life is going, read How to Get a Life You Like – Tips for Improving Your Life.

If you have any thoughts on minimalist living, please comment below.

Written by Sydney Tyler Thomas, a writer and small business owner living in Virginia.  She is author of The Joy of Soulful Knitting: Reflections on the Art of the Craft. You can also visit Sydney at her blog, New Calling.

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5 thoughts on “What Is Minimalist Living? 5 Simple Ways to Live Simply”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I think the best way to live simply is to tell your family and friends to stop buying you junk! It took me 5 or 6 years of Christmas’s and birthdays to convince my loved ones that I don’t want any gifts that I can’t use somehow. They complain that I’m hard to buy for — but I tell them I love spices/interesting kitchen condiments, lotions/body sprays, hats, and coffees/teas. Stop buying me ornaments, figurines, and stuff I’ll never use and will only regift next year!

    Seriously, one of the best tips for minimalist living is to make sure your loved ones are on board…and that takes time.

  2. Great suggestion, Alan! I agree with you completely.

    I hate carrying cash, but I’ve been doing the same thing with my debit card for years now. It has the same benefits you mentioned, and my banking statement (which I access online) provides a record of all my expenditures. I always had a hard time remembering where and how I spent what little cash I had. :)

  3. I find that paying cash for everything really helps me live more minimally. By paying cash, I have to save up for something first before I buy it, which is the exact opposite of the credit card user, who buys and then pays later. Living this way has not only enabled me to cut back on my purchases,live a simpler life, but also has helped me appreciate all that I do have.

  4. Great question, Laurie. I wish I had an answer for you! I know it must be frustrating at times.

    If you have some storage space available in an attic, basement, or garage that is out of the way, you may want to help him to neatly label and box some of those items that he doesn’t use. Label each box and agree to a “disposal date” of say six months or a year out. The agreement would be that anything he didn’t need during that time could be disposed of after the disposal date passes. While it takes longer, it may help him realize that he doesn’t need all those extra things as much as he thinks he does.

    Good luck!

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for this article, Sydney!

    I’ve been thinking about it all day…and I wonder what you’d suggest for couples who have two different perspectives on minimalism? That is, what if you’re a minimalist married to a packrat?

    My husband and I have two very different perspectives on what to keep and what to throw away. If I had my way, we’d through everything out….and if he had his, we’d keep everything “just in case we need it someday.”

    Luckily, we’re pretty good at compromising. He can keep whatever he wants in his den, workshop, and storage area :-)