It’s a lifestyle of clearing your mind by living with fewer material goods - less stuff. Or as Josh Becker of Becoming Minimalist puts it, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”
I believe that minimalism has the power to change not only how you think about your home, but your health and eating habits, too. Let’s dive in.
How Minimalism Started for Us
For the past four years, Hans and I have lived in a 750 square foot apartment. Before that, I was in a smaller shared space.
The closets are limited, the bedrooms are small, and there’s no yard, garage, or real outdoor storage space.
I’m not saying we live in a tiny house, but it’s no sprawling space, either.
When I first moved into these little apartments, they were packed with all my stuff. I’d hung onto every t-shirt, notebook, framed picture, and kitchen utensil I’d ever bought or been given. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it left me with overflowing drawers of stuff I didn’t really like. The clutter would slowly build up, giving me constant low level overwhelm.
Everything changed when I read Marie Kondo’s famous book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
I felt instantly inspired, like someone had given me permission to get rid of things that didn’t spark joy.
The next day, I opened every drawer, cabinet, and closet and started purging anything I no longer needed. It was a shocking amount of stuff. I gave away sweaters I never really liked or wore, donated office supplies, and sold my extra furniture.
I was instantly hooked. Hans was living across the country that year while training for the Olympics, and it got to the point where I’d hold up one of his t-shirts on FaceTime and ask, “do you really think you’ll wear this again?”
We still laugh because I was so passionate about this while he repeatedly had to tell me, STOP TOSSING MY STUFF WITHOUT ME!
It had such a positive impact on our lives that we’ve been on a mission to reduce clutter ever since.
Don’t get me wrong; we don’t live some kind of spartan lifestyle or have a capsule wardrobe. But I do find enough joy in owning less stuff that we’re still practicing it, all these years later.
Physically, it’s kept the house cleaner and more organized. Mentally, I’ve felt lighter, more clear-headed, and less distracted than ever before. The house only contains things I really love, not things I was only keeping because I felt obligated to.
Amazing how our surroundings have such an impact on the way we feel.
How to move towards a Minimalist Lifestyle
Curious about moving towards minimalism? These are the two questions I constantly ask when evaluating what we’re getting rid of, or better yet, what we’re about to buy:
Do I need it?
Do I love it?
If the answer to both of these is no, then there’s no reason to keep it in our home.
It’s about decluttering your space to make room for more happiness and freedom. It’s about focusing on what you truly love and stripping away things that don’t matter.
Minimalism in your Home, Step 1: The Great Cleanout
A few years ago, our friends moved across the country and we helped them go through their belongings before they packed up. We sat on the floor as they hauled out drawer after drawer of stuff that we went through together. It was surprisingly fun to help them organize their stuff and get rid of things they no longer needed.
By the end, we’d donated over 10 boxes and bags of stuff to those in need and our friends didn't have to haul it 3,000 miles. A win-win!
Even though we weren’t moving, Hans and I decided to do the same cleanout in our house. We called it “The Great Cleanout” and spent an entire weekend purging our own stuff. It felt amazing.
Now, we do The Great Cleanout every April. We set aside one weekend in the calendar and block the time.
We go through:
- Clothes, including workout clothes, outerwear, dresses, hats, and belts
- Every closet and drawer in the house
- Filed papers - we scan to PDFs and toss anything we don’t need
- Desk supplies
- Electronics, including cords
- iPhone apps - this one is so satisfying!
- Food: pantry and fridge
- Dish towels
- Bathroom drawers
- Wrapping paper and holiday decor
It can feel hard to give things away, especially if they feel sentimental or you think you might need it. I find it helps to remember that someone else will get so much more joy out of it than I do.
As for the things you think you might use “someday,” like that box of old nails, the travel size can of hairspray you’ve had forever, spare keyrings, or 100+ pens, remember that if you can buy it again for less than $20 if you need it or else it’ll sit unused in your home for the next 10+ years, it’s probably better to give it away.
The Great Cleanout has turned into one of our best annual traditions.
Minimalism in your Home, Step 2: The One in, One out Rule
The Great Cleanout happens once a year, but we use the One In, One Out Rule year-round to keep the clutter at bay.
It’s simple: any time we buy something new, like clothes, running shoes, pots or pans, we get rid of the old version. One pair of shoes in, one pair of shoes out.
We donate old clothes to the local donation center and we give our old running shoes to the Nike Grind program to be repurposed.
It’s a simple but impactful way to keep the excess stuff to a minimum.
Minimalism with Your Health
Did you know that minimalism isn’t just for your home? The minimalist mindset can apply to eating and grocery shopping habits, too.
Minimalism with food isn’t necessarily about getting rid of pantry items. It’s about raising your standards so you only consume foods you truly love, rather than eating lesser quality foods simple because they’re there.
For example, you could get that tiramisu from your favorite Italian spot once a month rather than eating mediocre frozen tiramisu twice a week.
You could treat yourself to a good quality chocolate peanut butter cup, rather than settling on the leftover Halloween candy, just because it’s available.
The idea is to treat yourself to reasonable amounts of the foods you adore, rather than unlimited amounts of food you don’t truly love.
The next time you're about to have a treat, ask yourself: do I absolutely LOVE this? Is this worth eating as one of my treats for the day or week, or would I rather have something even better?
The ability to separate the things you truly love with the things you don’t could make a huge difference in your health and wellbeing. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!