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In 2015, I became a minimalist and started a journey I never thought possible. When people hear my story, they often ask what minimalism is, how to become a minimalist, and what is it like being a minimalist.
I will tell you that I LOVE getting asked about minimalism, because it gives me the opportunity to share the lifestyle that helped transform my life to one of purpose and intentionality.
My lifestyle is a dream come true for many reasons, but this post isn’t about me. It is about answering your questions about minimalism.
In this post, I’m going to address the following things:
- What minimalism is
- Why you should become a minimalist
- Does minimalism make you happy?
- How to become a minimalist
- Struggles you will likely have as a minimalist
- How to overcome your struggles of becoming a minimalist
- and a few things to remember
This is going to be an information packed post, so let’s dive right into it!
What is minimalism?
My personal definition for minimalism goes a little like this:
Minimalism is a guide to help you remove distractions, discover your true purpose in life, and live to the fullest – focusing on experiences versus material possessions.– Erin Tannehill
I truly believe that to fully live your life, you have to remove anything that doesn’t add value or promote your best life. Once you align with that idea, doors open and your life changes.
But don’t just take my word for it. Let me provide two definitions from a few fellow minimalists that helped me when I started my journey.
According to Joshua Becker’s definition of minimalism:
…intentionally promoting the things we most value and removing everything that distracts us from it.Joshua Becker [source]
I think this definition sums up what it is well, but let’s look at another definition from The Minimalists:
Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.The Minimalists [source]
Together these two definitions are the epitome of why I chose to pursue this lifestyle. I’ve found freedom, live distraction-free, and love discussing it with anyone who will listen.
Why you should become a minimalist
I get it! Changing your lifestyle can be scary. I’ve been there and was nervous for the changes.
However, you shouldn’t let fear of the unknown keep you from becoming a minimalist! In fact, you should lean into the fear and become a minimalist anyways!
Outside of my own personal opinion, here are a few benefits of being a minimalist:
- You create more space for the things that truly matter.
- You spend less time cleaning and more time living!
- You’re able to reduce stress and gain clarity.
- You’re tired of keeping up with the Joneses.
- You want the freedom to chase after your dreams!
There are many more points that I have shared in the two articles below, but I think you’re seeing the possibilities minimalism has to offer!
Dive deeper into the benefits by checking out these two posts:
These posts discuss deciding to become a minimalist and the benefits once you are a minimalist.
Does minimalism make you happy?
I think this is an interesting question, because happiness is subjective and ever-fleeting. It is something we have to continuously work to have.
The true answer is that minimalism does not make you happy. However, it does help you align better with who you want to be, and that can increase how often you are happy.
Again, minimalism is a guide or tool to help you live a life full of experiences and focusing on what is important.
The great news is that you don’t have to wait until you “are” a minimalist to work at being happier. You can start right now, and I have a post with lots of ideas to help you!
How to become a minimalist
Now that you know more about minimalism, let’s go through how to become a minimalist!
1 // Don’t wait with getting started with minimalism
Get started on your minimalism journey right this moment! If you wait, you may never get started.
The easiest and best way to start your minimalism journey is to establish WHY becoming a minimalist is important to you.
- Why do you want to live simpler?
Once you answer this question, ask yourself WHY that is important and keep going until you’ve answered WHY seven times!
You want to know the heart of your WHY, so that when things get difficult, you’ll know why it is important to keep going.
Next, you need to visualize your home decluttered.
- What does your home look like decluttered?
- How does your home feel after being decluttered?
- How do you feel in your home?
Then, you need to visualize the person you are after you’ve decluttered.
- How do you feel?
- What things do you have time to do now?
- What are you no longer doing?
The more clarity you have with visualizing yourself and your home after you’ve decluttered, the easier it will be to bring that dream to life.
2 // Declutter your life
Of course, you have to actually declutter your life to remove distractions from it. There are three areas to consider:
- The Home
- Digital Life
- Your Mind
Here are a few tips for each to help you get started:
The Home //
1] You’ll have the most success decluttering by category because you’ll gather everything within that category to be able to see all that you have.
A great example of this is a book collection. They are easy to spread throughout the house, and maybe you don’t even notice all of them anymore.
When you gather them all together, you disrupt things that blended into the space and open your eyes up to see how many books you truly have.
This realization helps you decide what books you really want to keep and what to let go of to create space.
2] Don’t be afraid to test your abilities to go minimal!
See how little you can actually live with for 30 days. Just box up what you think you don’t need and see how you feel.
If you don’t like being so minimal, just bring out a couple more items to make it more feasible for you. Don’t try to bring it all back into your space, because we are trying to minimize here.
3] Be honest with yourself as you declutter.
Listen to how your body reacts to things. Does it hesitate to feel something for an item? Do you feel very excited when you see that item?
When you listen to your gut about items and don’t try to say “well… I really love this at one time…” That mindset doesn’t help you declutter your life.
Digital Life //
Your digital life can crowd your life just like physical items, so decluttering it is a must!
1] Start with decluttering your computer!
Clean off your Desktop, delete anything in the Downloads, Pictures, Documents, and Videos files you don’t need, and remove apps you don’t use.
2] Declutter your social media accounts!
If you are following people that don’t inspire you or are negative all of the time, UNFOLLOW THEM! You deserve so much more than following people that don’t lift you up and encourage you to be your best self.
Also be sure to unfollow brands or companies that always push the newest products on you. This will help you reduce your urge to consume, which is very helpful!
3] Declutter your smartphone!
I have a blog post dedicated to detoxing from your smartphone, so you can check that out if you want!
Be sure to declutter your photos, text messages, contacts, apps you don’t use, and set up perimeters to help you become more intentional with the time you spend on your phone.
If you love checklists, I have a great Digital Declutter Checklist in my Resource Library! You can sign up here to gain access or by clicking the below photo!
Your Mind //
One of the most important things about becoming a minimalist is being conscious of your mental health. It wasn’t something I expected to gain, but have forever been grateful for getting!
There are several ways to declutter your mind, but there are three that specifically help me that I want to mention.
1] Journaling is my favorite way to keep my mind clear.
Regardless if you free write or following a prompt, there is always something to gain from journaling. I encourage you to spend a minimum of ten minutes a day doing this.
[If you enjoy using journaling prompts, I do have a Self-Discovery Journal Prompts eBook in the Resource Library! Get access to it now!]
2] Do a daily Thought Download [Brain Dump].
While this is similar to journaling, it is a more chopped approach. If you have a lot of things circling your mind that keeps coming back up, a Thought Download can help you release them.
This isn’t a way for you to create a To-Do List, because you aren’t trying to focus your thoughts. The purpose of this is to simply get everything on your mind currently out onto paper.
3] Get outside and go for a walk.
There is nothing like going for a slow walk to clear your mind and see what there is to see on your walk.
I try to walk for at least 20 minutes a day, and I always finish it feeling far better than I did before I started.
3 // Donate, Sell, Gift ASAP
All of the things you choose to let go of need to be gotten out of your house as soon as possible. Once you make the decision to declutter an item, you need to stick to that.
By getting these things out of your house right away, you’re committing to your decision and not allowing yourself to change your mind.
4 // Don’t make it about the stuff
Becoming a minimalist is about the person and life you want to have. If you turn your perspective towards the things you have, you instantly lose the clarity you started to create.
Stuff doesn’t make you happy, nor does it help you get closer to your dream life. Remember, this journey is about you, not the things you own.
5 // Be more intentional
Focus your efforts on living and experiencing all life has to offer! When you fill your life full of experiences, you get to hold that memory forever, and that is priceless!
Also, learn how to say “NO” more! It isn’t a terrible thing to say, so if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it.
If something doesn’t align with where you are headed, it is okay to focus your efforts elsewhere.
This is why I’m not on Instagram for 2020.
You can change your mind at any time, by the way. You don’t have to say yes or no to something forever. Allow yourself that flexibility and freedom.
6 // Reduce consumption
I previously wrote a post about Minimalist Shopping that you should read, as it explains this well.
When you reduce the brands you follow on social media, become intentional with staying out of stores unless you need something, and don’t online shop like a crazy person because of free shipping, your life changes.
Challenge yourself to only spend money on things you absolutely have to have! Yes, it can take some practice and persistence, but it is well worth the effort!
Related Post: No Spend Challenge
7 // Simplify your expenses and pay off debt
By reducing what you spend each month, you free yourself of “having to work” and allowing yourself the opportunity to work.
Going from having to work to pay bills to getting to work to save up for a fabulous vacation automatically changes what you think about working.
You could also have the opportunity to reduce the hours you work, which means more time for living life!
One thing I do want to suggest, regardless of any circumstances, is to track where your money is going each month!
This is a simple thing that so many people ignore! They just look at the balance of a bill and pay it.
I had a friend lower her monthly expenses by $400 just by looking at where her money was going! Friend, that is too much money to be just giving away, unless you’re giving to a chosen charity organization!
Related Post: 39 Ways to Cut Expenses from Your Budget
Struggles as a Minimalist
I hate to tell you this, but being a minimalist isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. You are going to have some rainy days.
But that is life! It cannot be perfect all of the time.
Don’t worry though! I’ve been through this and can help!
First, I’m going to share the struggles you will likely face, then I’m going to share how to overcome them.
I’ve got you, friend!
Struggle #1 // Family/spouse not supporting your vision
This one can be tricky for many reasons. If you have a spouse that does not believe in living with only essentials, it can be a struggle to find a happy medium.
If you live at home with your family, it can be difficult to make your space your own, considering all of the influence in the rest of the home that may not support your vision.
Often times the missing key is communication.
Being open with them about what your vision is and why can open the door to achieving your vision.
Related Post: 6 Tips For Living With A Non-Minimalist
Struggle #2 // Receiving gifts that are not needed or wanted
I think everyone and their momma can say they have been on the receiving end of an unwanted or unneeded gift.
However, when you are trying to live more intentionally, it can be difficult to get other people to understand that.
Gifts have been a customary thing in our culture for so long that people aren’t necessarily questioning why they need to bring a gift, they just do.
Struggle #3 // Being unhappy with your progress
Minimalism is a journey, not a destination. You have to focus on doing the things you can and letting go of the things you can’t.
Getting my home fully decluttered took about six months, and trust me, I wish the process would have been faster. However, I was doing the best I could, which is all anyone can do.
Remember to enjoy the journey you are on, regardless of where you are in it.
Another reason for being unhappy with your progress is you feel other people are slowing you down with decluttering or tidying.
The other people in your home may not want to become a minimalist nor declutter their things, and you have to be okay with that.
It would be great to have everyone on the same page, but sometimes that takes time or doesn’t happen at all. Remember that you are the only person you can control.
Struggle #4 // Consumption
There are times that all you want to do is buy things. It can be a defense mechanism for your mind to keep from changing.
It can send you into overdrive and before you know it, you’ve bought an entirely new wardrobe.
Just remember that this is normal! Give yourself some grace, return the items, and find other ways to occupy yourself, like reading books or learning a new skill.
Struggle #5 // Judging your past self
It is easy to belittle your past self for making choices you wouldn’t make again.
I mean, I purchased very expensive clothes for a career I thought I wanted, then decided not to pursue. When I decluttered them, I got a whole $2 for just one item!
It was horrible and I could have ripped myself a new one, but I took it as a learning lesson and moved onto the new future I created for myself.
Struggle #6 // Discovering who you really are
Minimalism helps you clear distractions from your life to help you gain clarity in the life you really want. However, you could discover that you don’t like the person you are.
It happened to me, and if I can come out the other side, so can you!
Struggle #7 // What other people think of you
I’ll be the first to tell you that what other people think of you is none of your business, but that doesn’t turn off the worry right away, does it?
Honestly, I had a hard time telling my friends and family about my decision to become a minimalist. I wasn’t sure how to explain it for them to understand, which only left them confused.
People that saw all I was getting rid of asked me if I was so broke that I had to sell everything I owned to make ends meet. They couldn’t understand why I chose to declutter my life.
The truth is that people’s reactions to your lifestyle change have more to do with them than it does you. So take their reaction with a grain of salt.
Struggle #8 // Decluttering and becoming overwhelmed
The decluttering process is no joke and at times you may scold yourself for starting the process. It may completely overwhelm you to the point that you have to take a step back.
Get ready for it, because it will happen, especially if you’re going through the full process and being 100% honest with what you really need and what is nice to have but can let go of.
How to overcome your struggles of becoming a minimalist
I hope that last section didn’t discourage you, but if it did, this section will get you excited again! I’m sure of it!
Let’s discuss how to overcome any struggles you will likely experience.
1 // Leading by example works far better than trying to control someone
When you lead by example, you allow people to observe you as you transition from where you are now to a minimalist.
It is also easier to have other people get curious and jump on board when you lead by example.
Again, you cannot control anyone except yourself, so don’t waste your energy trying.
2 // Understand the meaning of a gift and remove the pressure
If you received an unwanted or unneeded gift, know that it is okay to declutter it.
The act of giving is more important than you keeping that gift, so let go of the guilt. It is okay!
Think about how the gifter would feel if they heard you kept their gift for 10 years and you never did anything with it. They would wonder why you kept it for all of those years and tell you to let someone else enjoy it!
You can also use this as a learning experience as a gifter, too! Let anyone you gift an item to know that if it isn’t useful to them, it is okay to bless someone else with it and that you thought of them when you picked it out but you don’t want to burden them with it.
Of course, you can say it however you want to, but make sure they know it won’t hurt your feelings if they declutter it.
3 // Remove unnecessary pressures and timelines
There are no rules or regulations for how quickly you declutter or change your habits, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself.
Remember that you’ll most likely evolve with your ideas of what minimalism is for you, so go with the flow!
4 // Give your past self grace
Your past self didn’t know any better so be kind to them! After all, they cannot defend themselves anyways!
Instead of being mean or thinking badly of your past self, think about how they didn’t know what you know now and how you’re so glad you’ve had the opportunity to change your mindset.
5 // Identify triggers and set yourself up for success
Thinking about shopping sprees or getting back into old mindsets? These can be triggers that will derail your progress, but they don’t have to if you don’t let them.
When you think of shopping sprees and spending all of that money on things you don’t need, get out a journal and make a list of all the things you do have. By the end of it, you’ll find that you have more than enough.
This opens a space of contentment and removes the urge to overspend and buy things you don’t need.
The same goes for slipping back into bad habits. Become aware of them, acknowledge them, then work through them in a curious way.
When you approach any old behaviors with a gratitude list, it is hard to want to divert back to those old behaviors.
6 // Getting to know yourself is hard, but worth it
Since October of 2018, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know myself, because remember, I didn’t like who I was once I decluttered my life.
The journey to love myself was a rough and long one, but I am so thankful for it! I know myself better than I ever have and I also love myself for being able to put in that work to become the person I see myself being.
If I can do it, so can you!
Also, don’t be afraid to seek professional help! I have a therapist and life coach helping me become a better version of myself.
7 // Let go of caring what others think of you gives you your power back
Again, what other people think about you is none of your business.
When you try to make it your business, you lose the power you give them.
Stop caring what other people think of you. You do you, friend!
8 // Take it slow and steady
There is no reason to rush to declutter, change, or become a minimalist. Enjoy the process. Take it slow and steady!
Definitely do not set any kind of strict deadlines with yourself, because that only invites overwhelm into your life, which is no good!
Remember this //
As you go through the process of becoming a minimalist, keep your focus on WHY you want to become a minimalist. If you have to, write it down and keep it with you while you declutter.
Remember to take care of yourself, mentally! There is nothing more important than your health, so give yourself the care you need. If you need any ideas, check out my Mental Cleanse Challenge!
The longer you practice living a minimalist lifestyle, the easier it gets. You won’t always have to be so aware of the things you are doing, because they will become your new normal.
Now the most important thing to do during all of this is CELEBRATE your achievements! When you finish something, take the time to soak in how amazing of a job you did and celebrate your progress!
I love being a minimalist and want everyone I know to follow suite, because of the opportunities this lifestyle creates!
If you’re at all considering making the lifestyle change, shoot me an email [ erin[at]thetannehillhomestead[dot]com ] so that I can help cheer you through the process!
If you haven’t gained access to the Resource Library yet, what are you waiting for? There are so many resources in it that will help you through this process [even more than the ones I’ve mentioned]!
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