by Zara Mohammed, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 19th July, 2018
If you want to try living a more minimalist kind of lifestyle, there are plenty of ways to get started without having to trade in your entire walk-in closet for a 10 piece wardrobe consisting of black, grey and white multifunctional items that will fit neatly into a backpack. Not every minimalist is a one-bag travelling nomad, or lives in a monochrome world.
Minimalism isn't just about owning less, it is about minimising your belongs so that everything you own has a real function and purpose in your life, and also about approaching everything in your life with a sense of intention.
The great thing about this movement is that minimalism can mean different things for different people, which makes total sense, because we are, after all, individuals.
The easiest way to understand minimalism is to think about it in terms of freeing up mental space so that you can have more room in your mind to focus on the things that really matter to you, and which help you to lead a life that makes you feel focussed on what you want and fulfilled. It is all about gaining more control over where you want to focus your energy.
When you look at what you own, a lot of it is often clutter. We are programmed on a daily basis to believe that we need more and more in our lives in order to function better and be prepared for anything, but truth is we need less. Clutter is distracting, as is too much choice. Imagine how much more effective your life could be if there were fewer unnecessary decisions to make - for example, about what to wear, fewer unnecessary tasks - like dusting objects in your house that have no real meaning or function, and fewer unnecessary distractions - like social media notifications on your phone.
When you first set out on your journey towards a more minimalist life it can seem daunting, and you might not know yet whether this is really going to be for you. The good news is, that you don't have to make a decision about your future straight away, because minimalism is about discovering what works best for you in your life. So here are a few ways to dip your foot into the waters and try out minimalist living.
Minimalism is not only about creating a lifestyle that functions better for you as an individual, it is also about creating a way of life that functions in the best way possible for the environment you live in.
The human race has evolved to be a consumerist society, and it can feel like we have little control over the damage that is created as a result society developing. But there are still ways that we can help to minimise the damage being caused to the planet. One of those ways is to be more conscious about our personal contribution to waste.
A simple action like swapping over from using disposable items, particularly those that are not recyclable, to items that have a reusable function can make a big difference, not only to the environment, but also to your individual state of mind.
Minimalism is a way of life, and everything you do to follow what you believe in will strengthen your focus on achieving complete control over the way you want to live your life, and therefore make it more meaningful to you and more fulfilling.
Invest in a good quality shopping tote and stop using disposable plastic bags. It is useful to have one or two thin portable bags that you can fold up and keep inside of your main bag for the occasions when you are out without your main shopping tote and might need to carry something. Small folded bags can be bought very cheaply and come in neat little pouches that can clip onto your handbag so that you always have a handy carry bag with you.
Be more conscious of where you shop and what kinds of containers your food is sold to you in. Fruit and vegetables are best bought loose, and you can buy your own reusable vegetable bags to separate items rather than using the plastic bags in supermarkets. Go for recyclable packing if you can.
Only buy the food you think you will need and eat. If you find that you are throwing a lot of food out at the end of the week, take another look at your shopping list and see what changes you can make to your diet in order to be more efficient. Perhaps you can plan your meals ahead of time, or make use of leftovers in new recipes. If you are left with wasted food at the end of the week it is always a great idea to compost it if possible.
Analyse how you are using water on a daily basis. Small changes like turning the tap off when you brush your teeth or wash the dishes can make such a difference in your water usage. And likewise you can reduce your power usage by only boiling one cup of water in your kettle for one cup of tea, rather than filling it up. When it starts to get dark in the evening, light a few tea lights instead of putting on all of your lamps. Or invest in LED light bulbs.
It can be daunting to dive into your new minimalist lifestyle straight away with intentions to throw out all of your stuff. Break it down into bite-size chunks instead.
Think of a section in your house to focus on at a time, for example, your kitchen cupboards. Don't think that you have to be brutal immediately. If there is anything that you think you don't need but you have doubts about getting rid of, put it to one side and say to yourself - if I don't use this item in the next month then I don't need to feel guilty about donating it.
When you are minimising an area of your house, always use the "three pile" method. Pile one is for things you definitely want to keep because they have a positive function in your life. Pile two is for the things you definitely want to get rid of because they don't have a positive function in your life. And pile three is for all of the things that you are just not sure about yet. Don't worry if this pile is quite large at the beginning. As you grow into your minimalist state of mind, it will be much easier to part with things you thought you needed previously, or which you thought you had strong sentimental attachments to.
The other most important thing to remember when you are going through the process of adjusting to a minimalist lifestyle, is that there is no need to be afraid to purchase new items. The rule is that when one new item comes into your life, one old item must go out in order to make space both physically and mentally. Otherwise you can easily fall back into the habit of buying the same item of clothing in several different colours - "just in case".
Last but not least, one of the most important aspects of living a minimalist lifestyle is to create space. You can create physical and mental space in your home easily without having to throw anything out. The trick is to divide your home up into areas that each has a specific function, and anything within that area that distracts from the function can be moved into a more appropriate area.
For example, if you have a desk that you work at, move it away from any area that doesn't help you to focus on what you want to be focussing on when you use your desk. This may mean moving it out of the living room, or at least facing it in the opposite direction of the TV. Perhaps you have a spot where you like to sit with a cup of coffee and read, should you remove all traces of your kids' toys from that space? What about your dog - are their toys, food bowls, chews etc. spread all over the house? Or do they have a designated space, perhaps in the kitchen or by the fireplace where they like to spend a lot of their time? Design that space so that it functions for them, and for you.
Creating sections in your home like this will help to clear your mind and allow you to function more efficiently in your life.
You can also use this technique to organise other areas of your life, for example your vehicle, your mobile phone, your pc etc.
Once you get into your minimalist state of mind you will be excited to see your new minimalist life gain momentum. It will become increasingly easier to analyse how different areas of your life are functioning for you, and you will gain clarity and the ability to prioritise your needs better. The changes can only be positive, and because of this you will feel refreshed and always ready to embrace change and live your life to the full. Remember - less of one thing always leads to more of something else.