I have to admit, I have never considered myself a minimalist. In fact, until we made a move from Central Indiana to Southwestern Montana, minimalist living wasn’t even on my radar. We would collect things, store them in boxes, shove them onto shelves and not give any of it a second thought.
But, when we went to make that 1,300-mile move and squeeze our belongings from a 3,000 square foot home into a 1,000 square foot apartment? Yeah, it was time to let go and learn to live with less.
Not only did we have a 3,000 square foot house, but we also had two 2-car garages full of stuff. Tools, decorations, knick-knacks we never unpacked. You name it, it was all shoved into the massive amount of space we had. And we would spend weekend after weekend organizing the clutter. And I was tired of it.
If you find yourself spending all of your extra time and money trying to organize your things? You need fewer things. It’s that simple. It took me a long while to embrace that fact. It actually took my husband a little longer to embrace it. But, once we both got on the same page, and I talked my husband into minimizing our things. It was absolutely amazing.
What is Minimalist Living?
You know, people ask me this a lot. And the answer? It’s whatever you want it to be. For some, it means living with only the absolutely essential items. For others? It’s just letting go of things you do not love.
If you have an outfit you haven’t worn in 8 months and you’re not pregnant, it’s time to let it go. If you have an outfit that you haven’t worn in 2 months but it’s one of your favorites and was hidden behind all of the crap you never wear? Get rid of the junk and keep your well-loved outfit.
Some think that minimalism is getting rid of absolutely everything that doesn’t serve a purpose. I’m not that kind of minimalist. I like my house to feel like a home. I like to add photographs, signs, I have knick-knacks that are well-loved that my mother gave me. I add pieces of furniture simply for their beauty and add things to them. I have holiday decor that does get stored away.
I believe minimalism is about finding that balance. You have to decide if you want that old meat grinder to take up space on your counter or if you’d rather have perfectly clean counters. It’s up to you to decide if the hutch full of heirloom pottery is what you want to fill your home with. If that old farmhouse sign is a beautiful addition or an extra thing to dust.
I choose to have things hung on my walls, decor sitting on my console table and coffee table. To fill my bookshelf with old, well-loved books and pieces of decor. I feel like making my space beautiful and cozy. A place I actually love coming home to and feel proud of calling my own is minimalism. Filling it up with clutter that doesn’t bring a smile to my face and serve a purpose (even if that purpose is only to make my home cozier) isn’t.
32 Tips on Becoming a Minimalist
This is a list, albeit not complete, on things that you should seriously consider getting rid of in your home. As I said, if it serves no purpose, if it doesn’t bring you joy, if it doesn’t make your space feel like you want it to feel… get rid of it.
These are the things we got rid of while we were preparing for our move to Montana. We had a huge downsize to tackle because of the space constraints of our apartment. We did put a few much-loved items in storage. Why? Because we weren’t ready to part with them and had no intentions of staying in such a small space. We did wind up moving back, so it worked out in the end anyway…
How to Minimize Your Closet Clutter
- Toss anything that is torn up. If it has huge gaping holes, it isn’t doing anyone any good, get rid of it.
- Pick out anything you haven’t worn in a year and donate it or sell it on a local garage sale group (or eBay). I actually went with 6 months, aside from seasonal clothing, but this is a good starting point.
- Sell or donate anything that doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t belong in your closet! I’m bad at this because I recently had a baby and had just bought clothes that fit right before I got pregnant, but it’s time for those things to go, too.
- Decide how many clothes you really need. How many shirts do you really need? Pants? I find that I only wear a handful of outfits, truth be told and the rest is just taking up valuable space inside my closet.
- After you decide, keep only enough hangers to accommodate the amount of clothes you need. If you think 5 short sleeve shirts, 5 long sleeve shirts, and 3 pairs of pants is enough, then you need 13 hangers. I do always keep a couple extra hangers around for each person. Hangers break, or you have visitors that need to hang their coat. But don’t go overboard. You don’t need 100….
- Go through and pick the clothes you can’t live without. Keeping in mind that you limited yourself to x amount of shirts and pants.
- Shoes!!!!! Shoes are insane. Decide what you really need and donate or sell the rest. You honestly don’t need 25 pairs of shoes…. Think 1 pair of boots, 1 pair of yard shoes, 1 pair of workout shoes, 1 pair of dress shoes. Only shoes you will actually wear! If you don’t dress up, don’t keep 5 pairs of heels, ladies.
- Keep enough undergarments to last one week. Socks with holes, underwear that should have been thrown out with last weeks trash… yeah, toss those. Any more than a weeks worth, get rid of that too.
How to Minimize in the Kitchen
- Throw out any chipped or cracked dishes. I have a thing for mismatched dishes. I also have a thing for chipped pottery. Don’t be a me. It’s hard to get rid of. But, if it’s broken, it’s time for it to go….
- Keep 1 mug per person and a couple extras for company. You really don’t need 100 coffee mugs. One will do the trick. It will wash, after all. We keep 1 for each person and 3 more. We don’t tend to have a lot of company out here and even if we do, not everyone uses a mug at the same time.
- Sell or donate any appliances you don’t use. This is hard. I have appliances that get heavy use certain times of year that sit and collect dust the rest of the year. Look at it like this… if you’re going to use it enough for it to take up space, fine. If you bought some contraption you used once and never looked at again, let it go! I’m looking at you, magic bullet :P.
- Throw out duplicates. I had three sets of measuring cups and spoons! Three! That’s insane. I had crummy plastic ones that the dishwasher had chewed up. I recently invested in a nice stainless steel set and tossed the plastic out!
- Invest in heavy duty cast iron skillets and stainless pots. Throw out those teflon things. A good stainless or copper set will do just fine. I have a love for cast iron, so we use cast iron skillets and stainless pots. Try some yard sales or flea markets to get a good deal on used. These things will last you a lifetime!
- Toss expired food. I’m always amazed when people start going through their cupboards and find expired canned goods and such. Go through, toss out what is expired. Donate anything that your family won’t eat. We all have this stuff. I just found something that expired 2 years ago hidden behind my lazy Susan. Guilty…
- Toss out any broken stuff. This doesn’t apply just to the dishes listed above. Have a broken appliance, a bent knife, whatever it may be, get rid of it!
Minimizing Kids Toys
- Get rid of anything your kids don’t play with weekly. If they’re old enough, let them in on this. Just go through and make it fun. Say “oh, we don’t hardly ever play with this, let’s make another little girl or boy happy!”
- Toss anything that is broken. Anything. I know my kids have this attachment to anything broken. Doesn’t matter, I’ll be the “mean mom” if it’s broken, it’s gone.
- Donate or sell any toys that aren’t age appropriate. If your kids have outgrown it, it goes. At the very least put it in storage if you really think you need it for the next child. Remember, though. You can always buy a similar item at a garage sale.
- Pick toys that don’t take a lot of space. Blocks, legos, manipulative like that. A couple of dolls and voila. If you’re looking for more suggestions, this is our minimalist approach to kids toys.
- When you purchase, buy quality, not quantity. Something that will outlast your child and bless another child once yours has outgrown it.
- Stuffed animals. I should put this in a category all its own, because my kids and I struggle with this. We have so many stuffed animals. They drive me crazy. I don’t have a lot of room to talk on this subject, but make a limit and stick with it.
How to Minimize Bathroom Clutter
- Toiletries. Donate any extras. Keep only what you use. Don’t keep a bunch of extras. If you don’t use it and love it, give it to someone who will.
- Medicines. Make sure you go through and check all of your bottles. If they’re expired, call your county government office to see what regulations your area has, if there is a local med disposal program, take them there. Otherwise, here is how to properly dispose of them.
- Towels. Keep a few, of course. Just don’t go overboard. Honestly we use extras as shop rags/outdoor rags. Anything beyond that, donate.
- Appliances. Hair dryers, curling irons, straightening irons. If you don’t use them, donate them. If you do, one will suffice.
- Makeup. If you don’t use it, toss it. If it’s ancient, probably time to replace it.
Minimalist Living Tips for Your Living Room
- Get rid of your movie and music cases. We have a decent collection of movies and music. We ditched the plastic cases and put them in some cases like these what a huge space saver! Just recycle the plastic things they came in.
- Go one step further and digitize your music and movies! If you put it all on your computer, it will take up even less actual space. You might need an external hard drive, if you’re anything like us!
- Donate books you don’t love. I’m not going to tell you to digitize these. A lot of books aren’t available digitally and if you’re like me, you’d rather hold it in your hands.
- Use your library. My kids love going to the library. I think it is an incredibly underused resource! You can just borrow books you want to read and let your kids pick out their stories. Keep a few tried and true books at home, ditch the rest.
- Decrease your knick knacks. I have a few collectibles that I won’t get rid of because they bring me joy. The rest of it, sell it or donate it.
- Ditch cable if possible. With services like Netflix and Hulu, it’s pretty easy. You can also just use the movies you have. Unfortunately, for us, we live so far out we have limited resources for data and it’s slower than ancient dial up so Netflix isn’t an option anymore (boo), but we have the smallest package possible and DVR everything so we can skip the commercials that entice us to buy more junk.
These are just a few tips on how we are decreasing our possessions. It’s a work in progress, but I feel confident about it! Every time I donate something or sell it, it’s such a liberating feeling. The best tip I can give any of you on how to minimize your life is to take it slow. We don’t have a lot of time to get used to the idea, but we’re making it work.
And if you want to know more about minimalism and how to shop like a minimalist so your belongings don’t just start collecting all over again check out this article from my friend Heidi over at the Healing Harvest Homestead on How to Shop Like a Minimalist!