Have you been hearing about minimalist living lately? Capsule wardrobes, tiny homes, and the “Japanese Art of Decluttering” are all the rage right now but can be a little off-putting for some. If you’re intimidated by the thought of sorting through piles of belongings or uninterested in making do with white walls and a single chair, you’ve probably written this trend off.
The good news is, you don’t have to give up anything meaningful to benefit from the principles of a modest lifestyle. In the last few months, I’ve been attempting some endeavors into minimalism. To my surprise, I’m really enjoying it! I learned a lot from these small experiments: I made my home feel open and spacious and devoted more time to my true passions along the way.
Are you in? Here’s a brief room-by-room guide to get you started on the simpler path. Keep in mind that these are just small first steps. Feel free to go nuts and look up everything there is to know about minimalism afterward.
The “maybe somedays” are some of the easiest things to eliminate from your kitchen. Do you have a stash of tiny packets of parmesan, soy sauce, salt, and plastic utensils? We always tell ourselves that we’ll use them for a picnic or family gathering, but we never do. You have to be realistic with yourself about the things in your drawers and cupboards. There’s no reason to keep a bunch of expired foods and spices in your kitchen either. If you haven’t used an item in more than a year or so, it’s probably time to say goodbye.
The mostly empty containers are the next things to ditch. When I inspected my cupboards, I found a container with half a scoop of coffee in it, one with just a tablespoon of peanut butter, and at least a half dozen condiment jars with no more than scrapings left. Clean them all out, recycle the jars, and enjoy your newly spacious shelves!
Do you have bottles of unused goop left over from failed beauty regimens? More floss from your dentist than you’ll ever get through? Bathroom clutter is easy to accumulate and can come from something as simple as a change in habits, like switching toothpaste brands and forgetting to throw the old tube away. Toss your old products! If they’re unopened, you can donate them to a food pantry.
Be sure to dispose of any bathroom items, especially any old medications, in a safe and environmentally-conscious manner. Many communities host medicine take-back events to keep pharmaceutical chemicals out of our water and trash, where an animal or person could accidentally ingest them. If you don’t have access to a take-back event, fill your pill bottle with Elmer’s glue to trap the medication inside. Let it dry before tossing it in the trash.
This is a tough one. Everyone has clothes that no longer fit them but apparently will again “as soon as they lose a few pounds.” Do yourself and your community a favor by donating those clothes! Someone else can use them now, and when you do lose that weight, you’ll have an excuse to go shopping for new outfits.
I just had way more clothes than I needed. I went through my drawers and pulled out anything that I didn’t love, even if it fit me. What remained was still a fully functional wardrobe. I donated the things I didn’t want and now have a much easier time getting ready in the morning. Anything I throw on will be something that looks and feels great on me!
All of my reading material is in my living room, including piles of newspapers on interesting events, magazines full of recipes to try, and books. In the process of decluttering my home, I realized that I didn’t have to give up any of these things if I could just store them more efficiently. I took photos of the newspaper and magazine articles that I wanted to keep and imported them to my computer. Now I can easily search for and access recipes from anywhere. Plus, it doesn’t take up shelf space in my home.
I chose to keep a lot of my precious books, though I did get rid of some. For starters, I tossed the college textbooks I hadn’t even thought about since graduating. I also got rid of the books I knew I wasn’t going to read again. The most difficult decision I had to make was choosing to eliminate anything that I knew I could get from the library or in digital form. I still have plenty of paper books, but way fewer than I did before.
There are many more rooms to consider when adopting a minimalist lifestyle, but this is a great place to start and scratch that springtime cleaning itch. Remember, the key to modest living isn’t getting rid of things but cutting back on purchases. Once you’ve finished decluttering, you’ll have to fight the urge to fill the cleared space with new stuff. Next time you consider buying something at a store, ask yourself if you really need it. Will that purchase improve your life? If not, leave it behind. It’s just one less thing to clean, repair, and store.