Tips for Going Minimal

American philosopher Thoreau said “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” The minimalist movement takes this advice to heart.

Sometimes, it certainly sounds appealing to just sell all our stuff and move to Australia with nothing but a suitcase in tow. However, the practicalities of a traditional life and job usually weigh us down. Luckily, there are ways that you can adopt minimalist principles in your life without going to extremes.

With the spring cleaning season upon us, now is the time to sort through the clutter of your home and cut back on the unnecessary junk. Is that a difficult task for you? Well, here are some ideas to make it happen for even those of us who tend to be emotionally attached to things.

Store It Away

This technique is one of the most effective ways to cut back on your unwanted possessions. Instead of throwing something away straight off the bat, store it. Store away anything that you don’t wear or use very often. Pack it up and label it neatly, and put it in separate bags and boxes as much as possible. Label each package with the date that you stored it. If you have a spacious garage, you can keep it there, or you might want to get a storage unit. Now, for the next year, that stuff is still yours. If you specifically think to yourself “I could really use that gray sweater right now,” or “man, I miss my salad mixer,” then you can go get it back. However, if you go a whole year without even remembering the item, you really don’t need it in your life. This also works great with kids. Most of the time, out of sight really is out of mind, and you’ll realize that you simply don’t need that extra stuff in your life.

Do a Five-for-One Tradeoff

Oftentimes, we have extra items around because no one item answers all of our needs. For example, you might have a shirt that you wear only with a certain set of underclothes, another one that you can only wear with a sweater, so you reserve it for the days that it’s cold outside, and another one that you keep around only because it’s handy for doing chores in. This often happens with dishes too. You have one pot that you like to use for cooking rice, one that works really well for sauteeing because all the other ones are scratched and stained, and the wok that you only pull out once a year when you feel a little stirring of culinary adventurousness. Instead, have you ever thought of just having one or two dishes that work really well for just about everything? One of the major principles of minimalism is having less “stuff” but investing more into what you DO have. Pay more for quality initially, and then take good care of what you have, and get it repaired or cleaned when it starts to show wear and tear.

When you’re looking at making this transition, don’t fall for the trap of buying new expensive items but keeping your old stuff. Instead, only invest in something new if you can trade it out for 5 old items.

Release Yourself from “Should”s

So much of the stuff that we have cluttering our homes are things that we feel we ought to get around to. They’re projects that you feel obligated to do at some point, like painting or scrapbooking. They might be clothes that you know you’ll fit into just as soon as you lose 20 pounds. Or it might be a hand-me-down from an uncle that you mean to fix up and polish. That kind of clutter is actually mental clutter as well as physical clutter. If you want to not run into those reminders of what you “should” do every day, bundle up that stuff and put it in a storage unit.

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