How to get started with minimalism today

If you’ve found yourself researching minimalism there’s a high chance it’s to reduce stress, remove distractions, or achieve an audacious goal.

Whatever it might be, getting started with minimalism will make a positive impact. Minimalism will help you uncover your values and ruthlessly prioritize them.

What exactly is minimalism?

Minimalism is the simplification of one’s life. It involves removing anything that distracts us from our values. On a surface level, this can involve owning fewer possessions. 

However, it’s really about taking control and being intentional with your time, energy, and thoughts. Whilst society glamorizes material possessions, minimalism is actively separating you from them.

A five-sentence summary of minimalism would be “A life with fewer distractions”.

There is no doubt the adoption of a minimalist lifestyle is becoming more common. The subscriber growth of the r/minimalism and r/simpleliving subreddit has grown steadily over the last 2 years.

1. Increased social awareness

Millennials and Gen Z are characterized as being more socially aware. They value their time and understand the long-term cost associated with owning more.  

There’s no shortage of TED talks discussing the negative implications of owning more. This is often discussed in the “quarter-life crisis”. Younger people tend to prioritize purpose and fulfillment over money. 

Even popular Youtube and TikTok influencers are also advocating for a more simple life.

2. Social media addiction 

Psychologists estimate that up to 10% of Americans meet the criteria for a social media addiction. This number is only going to grow. We’ve never been so connected. Everything is online. 

The Social Dilemma, a popular Netflix documentary, makes it clear that social media is designed to be addictive. Software engineers are doing everything they can to keep you engaged with their applications.

An article published by Harvard in 2018 points out that there are links between increased smartphone usage, increased levels of depression, and reduced sleep quality. The article also notes that there’s an increased risk of car injury or death as a result of social media addiction. 

Governments don’t seem to be regulating the addictive nature of social media applications. This is another reason why minimalism is essential in modern society. 

3. Information overload

The world is a noisy place. Inputs are coming from every direction. It feels like a new book, podcast, newsletter, article, tweet, video, or course is being released every second. And they all seem important! 

So how can we possibly keep up? How can we identify what’s most important?

The answer is we can’t and we shouldn’t. Information overload is overwhelming and stressful.  Minimalism helps navigate this. 

4. Decision dilemma 

The second you wake up you’re presented with an overwhelming amount of choices. 

Having guiding principles and values helps reduce the number of decisions you’re required to make.

According to Barclays research, these are the top 5 most time-consuming decisions we make:

  • Buying a sofa: 24 hours and 5 minutes
  • What color to paint a room: 18 hours and 53 minutes
  • What to buy someone for their birthday: 11 hours and 49 minutes
  • What to wear for a special occasion: 3 hours and 40 minutes
  • What perfume to buy: 3 hours and 12 minutes

5. Increasing levels of debt 

Gen Z and Millenials are burdened with high levels of debt and generally poor saving habits. 

Minimalism involves owning less. In doing so you’re bound to reduce your consumption resulting in less debt and therefore less stress.

According to Statista, on average, millennials are more concerned about the amount of debt they have than other generations. 

millennial financial debt

What are the benefits of minimalism?

The benefits of minimalism are far and wide but the main ones are:

  1. Lower stress level (lower levels of cortisol)
  2. Increased focus and concentration
  3. Less debt
  4. Elevated mood
  5. Increased sense of purpose
  6. Environmentally friendly

One study on PubMed found that less clutter led to an enhanced ability to focus and process information. Another study showed a correlation between home environments and cortisol levels.  

“Women with higher stressful home scores had increased depressed mood over the course of the day, whereas women with higher restorative home scores had decreased depressed mood over the day.” 

Darby E. Saxbe, Rena Repetti
No Place Like Home: Home Tours Correlate With Daily Patterns of Mood and Cortisol

How to get started with minimalism

The first step is knowing why you want to get started. Everyone’s journey with minimalism will be different, however, one common question to ask is  “what am I hoping to achieve by practicing minimalism?”

Some easy starting points with minimalism include:

1. Identifying your values 

Ask yourself  “what is most important to me in this life?”. This is a tough question and not one that everyone can answer immediately. 

A great guide to help you is the wait but why career guide. It is primarily focused on choosing a career path, however, the exercise is great at uncovering your core values.

2. Ruthlessly remove everything unnecessary that doesn’t align with your values

The KonMari Method is an easy and popular way of approaching your physical items. The end goal is to “have a house full of items that spark joy”. The idea is to slowly approach all of your possessions by category (i.e shoes, jackets, etc) and start eliminating all the items that don’t bring you joy.

This is great for your physical items and your environment. However, it’s also important to audit our commitments. If you find yourself committing to things that aren’t aligned with your values then you need to remove these as well. Of course, this is easier said than done. This “How to say no” guide can help you navigate this.

3. Make a list of all items you haven’t used in the last 12 months 

With a pen and paper, you can simply write down all of the items you own which haven’t been used in the last 12 months. 

With each item that hasn’t been used in the last 12 months ask yourself:

  • Does it bring me happiness?
  • Is it a necessity?
  • Will my life be severely impacted without it?

If the answer is no to all three of the questions above then you have successfully justified why you don’t need something. Feel free to sell it, give it away, or throw it out.

4. Eat healthier and similar meals 

Minimalism approaches life with the “less is more” philosophy. This tends to be true with your diet as well. Considering 32.5% of American adults are obese, consuming fewer calories is generally a good idea. 

Especially if this means shifting your diet so it’s as healthy as possible. Focussing on a whole foods diet where the majority of your food is unprocessed is a great starting point. Introducing spices you like can be great for enjoying “boring” foods. 

Of course, you should always consult with your doctor before adjusting your diet. 

5. Journaling 

Journaling is a powerful way to help track progress and stay accountable for your goals. It’s also a great tool to help reduce stress and anxiety. 

To journal requires you to think about what you want to track and then write about it. If you’ve uncovered your values then it’s likely these will be the items you focus on. The great part of journaling is that it serves as a permanent record of your progress. You can easily check in to see how you’re progressing and make adjustments where necessary.

Some popular methods of journaling include the five-minute journal (gratitude), bullet journaling,  five-whys journal, and free journaling.

Resources on minimalism: