We’ve all heard about minimalism, but do you really know what it is all about? There’s more to it than just sparsely decorated interior pictures and muted natural tones. This is a guide to minimalism for beginners, based on my own experiences and the questions I initially had about this widely misunderstood philosophy.
Adopting a minimalist lifestyle has helped me not only become financially stable, but also a more calm, happy, and appreciative person in general. If you’re currently struggling financially or have accumulated way too many things than bring you no joy, then this guide is for you!
Whether you’re just curious about minimalism or ready to dive in, my comprehensive answers will provide motivation, tactics, and resources so you can minimize possessions and activities to make room for what truly matters. Let’s dig in!
1. What Exactly Is Minimalism?
At its core, minimalism is a lifestyle focused on:
- Reducing excess by keeping just essential, useful possessions
- Removing clutter, distractions, and activities that don’t align with your personal goals and values
- Living with more intention each day rather than reaction and distraction
It’s often summed up as “owning less and living more” or “focusing on the essentials.”
While decluttering and minimizing physical possessions is a big component, minimalism is ultimately about living according to your priorities. It’s a lifestyle that replaces materialism and keeping up with the Joneses with intentionality and purposeful living.
For me personally, minimalism means:
- A clean, clutter-free home with space to think and just be
- More free time for nurturing relationships, exploring hobbies, learning, rest
- Decreased stress and anxiety and increased contentment
- Aligning my daily actions with my core values like family, creativity, and physical health
- Finding happiness in experiences and personal growth rather than shopping and accumulating stuff
There’s no single prescription for practicing minimalism. At its heart it’s about crafting a lifestyle that’s aligned with your personal values and goals, rather than society’s expectations around consumption and busyness.
Focus on finding more joy, fulfillment, purpose, contentment, etc. in your unique life by thoughtfully removing excess possessions and activities that no longer serve you.
2. Why Should I Try Minimalism? What Are the Benefits?
From my personal experience, adopting a minimalist lifestyle has profound benefits beyond just a tidy home!
Here are some of the key perks I’ve enjoyed that made all the decluttering and downsizing worth it:
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
I used to constantly feel scattered and overwhelmed trying to manage clutter, a busy schedule, and competing demands on my attention. Minimizing possessions and activities acted like a mental declutter, leaving me feeling lighter, calmer, and more focused.
When I cut out excess distractions in my environment like piles of stuff, unnecessary electronics, and time-sucking activities, I could finally concentrate on one task at a time without getting sidetracked. This helped me be way more thoughtful, productive, and present.
Substantial Financial Savings
Consuming and shopping mindlessly less allowed me to pay off lingering credit card and student loan debt way faster. With debt gone, I put the extra money I used to spend on unnecessary shopping towards maxing out retirement contributions instead.
Stronger Social Connections
I invested a lot of the time I recovered from minimizing into building deeper relationships – both in quantity and quality. I called far-away family more often, scheduled regular one-on-one dinners with local friends, offered to babysit for new parents in my community. My relationships became much more meaningful.
When I broke the habit of looking to new purchases for happiness and instead focused on personal growth and experiences, I began noticing and appreciating the simple joys each day – things like a cup of tea on the porch, my daughter’s laughter, the smell of flowers blooming. My outlook became way more gratitude-oriented.
Time and Mental Space for What Truly Matters
Owning less stuff and thoughtfully removing unfulfilling commitments created room in my schedule and headspace to focus on my core values like family, learning, creativity, and physical health. I could finally make self-care and passions a priority.
As you can see, the benefits of minimalism go far beyond just having a tidy living space! It can truly help you improve your whole outlook and quality of life.
I’d encourage you to give it a try for a month and see how even small changes help you feel less stressed, more focused, and more fulfilled day-to-day. Remember, your ideal minimalist lifestyle should be unique to your goals, values, and needs.
3. How Do I Know if Minimalism Is Right for Me?
If parts of the minimalist philosophy and lifestyle appeal to you, give it a try! There’s no commitment required.
Start by asking yourself these questions honestly:
- Do I feel stressed and overwhelmed from all the clutter and stuff piling up in my home?
- Am I constantly rushing between activities without fully enjoying any of them?
- Do I impulse shop for things I rarely end up using?
- Do I struggle to focus and feel distracted during much of the day?
- Am I dealing with growing debt partly due to overspending on non-essentials?
- Are my friendships struggling because I’m too busy to make time for them?
If you answered yes to some of those, then decluttering and simplifying your life could be very helpful for you! Based on the benefits outlined above, minimalism can reduce feelings of stress and being scattered, increase savings, strengthen connections with others, help you find focus, and allow you to craft more meaningful days.
Here’s a “mini” 30-day minimalist challenge you could try to see if small changes improve your daily life:
- Spend 15 minutes decluttering a small zone in your home daily
- Unsubscribe from at least three marketing or promotional emails clogging your inbox
- Replace 30 minutes of mindless solo screen time with quality time connecting with a friend
- Turn off all notifications on your devices for 1 hour while spending focused time with family
See if those small tweaks leave you feeling a little calmer, more present, or more fulfilled after a month. If so, consider exploring more minimalist habits! The key is to start small and then customize your minimalist approach based on the specific benefits and goals that appeal to you most. Give simplicity a try – you have absolutely nothing to lose!
4. How Do I Get Started With Minimalism as a Beginner?
Here are some helpful, realistic tips to begin simplifying your life as a minimalism beginner without getting too overwhelmed:
Start Small Initially
Resist the urge to overhaul your whole house or lifestyle dramatically in one massive declutter. Instead, pick just one small, manageable zone like a closet, junk drawer, or desktop to start with. Quickly tidying up a small clutter “hot spot” will give you an initial rush of accomplishment to build your minimalist confidence.
Focus First on Easy, Visual Wins
In your first month, look for a few quick, high-impact zones you can declutter easily for fast visual results. Some examples are tidying up your entryway bench, purging old emails from your overflowing inbox, organizing your medicine cabinet, decluttering the kitchen junk drawer, or displaying your closet clothes neatly so they look crisp and streamlined.
Schedule Short, Regular Decluttering Sessions
Block off 15 minutes 2-3 times per week on your work calendar to spend intentionally purging and organizing your home. Actually scheduling sessions, rather than just trying to squeeze in decluttering when you find time, forces you to make gradual progress. Even 15 minutes at a time adds up fast! Treat decluttering blocks like important meetings; don’t let other things bump them.
Have an Outflow System Ready
Before you start a decluttering session, have empty donation boxes, trash bags, and recycling bins at the ready nearby to immediately remove things you’re getting rid of as you go through your space. Don’t let the clutter pile back up again tempting you to second guess your decisions. Take the donate/sell items straight to your car trunk to drop off ASAP.
Go Room by Room
Rather than tackling decluttering randomly all over your home and feeling scattered, pick one room or zone – for example, the kitchen – to minimize completely first. Only then move on to systematically tackle the next space, like the bedroom closet. A room-by-room approach helps you make visible progress.
Photograph Sentimental Items Before Letting Go
I found this strategy very helpful. Before donating or selling sentimental items like childhood stuffed animals or old love letters I was ready to release, I snapped some pictures. That way I could keep the memories without keeping the physical clutter.
Balance Subtracting With Adding Meaning
In your eagerness as a minimalist beginner to joyfully clear out the excess, be sure you’re also adding in things that enrich your life – for example, devoting your newfound free time to family, learning a new skill, exercising. Don’t just remove stuff aimlessly without considering what fulfilling additions align with your goals.
Enlist Others to Support You
Share your minimalism goals with supportive family or friends who can cheer you on as you begin simplifying your lifestyle. They can helpfully remind you to stick to your decluttering vision when your enthusiasm starts lagging. Having accountability partners and cheerleaders really helps!
The key takeaway is to start small with whatever baby step feels manageable, instead of becoming so daunted by the big picture that you don’t begin. Just 15 minutes of tidying up and eliminating one visible distraction makes progress. Then build positive momentum gradually.
5. What Items Should I Get Rid of First When I’m Ready to Start Decluttering?
When you’re ready to begin decluttering your home, there’s no single mandatory order categories must happen in. But to build quick momentum, I’d recommend starting with these zones first for some fast, visual progress:
Expired Food and Old Spices
Check your pantry and fridge for any food that’s expired or old spices you know you’ll never use. Toss anything you can’t donate. Purging old items you’d just throw away anyway clears space without tough decision making.
Kids’ Outgrown Toys and Clothes
If you have kids, be brutally honest about which toys or clothing items they’ve outgrown or lost interest in. Only keep a few true favorites for sentimental reasons. Donate the rest so another family can use them.
Stacks of Old Documents and Bills
Go through any piles of papers around your home like old bank statements, utility bills, invoices, etc. Shred anything with personal information you don’t need to keep. For the rest, set up a simple filing system – either physical folders or scanned digitally – to create future paper order.
Unused Kitchen Gadgets
Take a look at any kitchen appliances you bought for that recipe you never made or the trendy meal you didn’t stick with. If it’s less than a year old, return or sell. Donate quality older gadgets to charity.
Do you have any extra furniture like side tables, chairs, or nightstands that were impulse purchases and now just take up space? Offer them to friends or family, or list them for sale.
Magazine and Newspaper Piles
If you tend to let magazines, catalogs, and newspapers pile up into cluttered stacks, start recycling them promptly after reading rather than letting them accumulate. Only keep special editions you’ll really go back to.
Tackling these no-brainer zones first will give you some quick wins and the confidence boost needed to then minimize categories requiring more difficult decisions – like clothes, books, decorations, hobby items, etc. Use the “one in, one out rule” to maintain only your favorites.
Remember to focus on how good you’ll feel with reduced clutter when decisions feel tough. Decluttering is like a muscle – it gets easier with practice as you build momentum!
6. How Do I Get Over Sentimental Attachment to Items While Minimizing?
Deciding what special items to keep vs. minimize can be super challenging when you feel sentimentally attached. Here are some of my favorite strategies for overcoming attachment:
Take Photos of Meaningful Items Before Letting Go
Before donating or selling something with sentimental meaning – like the outfit you wore on your first date with your spouse – take some pictures. That way you have the memory documented without keeping the physical item taking up space.
Keep Just a Small Number of Your Absolute Favorite Items
For a collection like favorite books from childhood or souvenirs from past vacations, be selective and only keep your top 1-5 with the most meaning. As the saying goes, “you can’t put 10 pounds of stuff into a 5-pound bag.” Only make space for what you’ll truly treasure and use.
Find Creative Ways to Display Some Special Pieces
Rather than stuffing away sentimental items into a drawer, find ways to keep them visibly displayed without creating clutter – scan your kids’ artwork into a digital photo book, display your grandma’s vase on a living room shelf, make a memory quilt with fabric from old t-shirts.
Be Brutally Honest About Whether Holding Onto Something Actually Still Brings You Joy
Sometimes we keep items just from habit, because we feel like we “should.” Decluttering challenges you to be really truthful about what continues to add value and joy to your life vs. just taking up space.
Store Off-Season Items
Keeping everything accessible year-round creates clutter. Box up seasonal decorations, sports equipment, holiday-themed dishware, and specialized clothing during the months you won’t use them. Label the boxes neatly and access them again next season.
When Ready, Mindfully Pass Some Special Items Along to Others Who Will Cherish Them
When you’re ready to minimize a sentimental item, consider who in your life would truly appreciate and use it – maybe a musical instrument from childhood could inspire your niece or a favorite book might comfort a dear friend going through a tough time.
By creatively displaying some pieces and thoughtfully passing others along, you can maintain the significance without keeping physical clutter. Sentimental items require a sensitive approach but it’s very possible.
7. How Do I Actually Make Time for Minimalism in My Busy Schedule?
Like any new habit, finding time to declutter and simplify amidst the busyness of everyday life can be a challenge. But it’s completely doable! Here are some strategies that have helped me fit in minimalism consistently:
Actually Put It On Your Calendar
Add 15-30 minute “decluttering blocks” or “minimizing meetings” 2 to 3 times a week and schedule them into your work calendar like any other important task. Setting the time on your calendar makes it way more likely you’ll stick to it rather than let decluttering fall by the wayside.
Pair Decluttering With Existing Daily Habits
Tackle a small organizing task in the 5 minutes you wait for your coffee to brew each morning, or while you wait for your workout video to load. Do a speed declutter of your entryway bench when you get home from your daily walk rather than collapsing on the couch. Clearing even quick little zones makes progress.
Wake Up Early Before Others
If you live with family or roommates, take advantage of the quiet, uninterrupted time before others wake up to do some quick decluttering and tidying around the house. You can fortify your minimalist home base while not taking away from family time later.
Declutter Rather Than Mindlessly Sitting During Down Time
If you have a few minutes of downtime between activities or are watching a TV show, do some light sorting or straightening up rather than just sitting there. Fold laundry during phone calls, or sort through a junk drawer during commercial breaks. Multitasking prevents wasted time.
Tie Decluttering to Major Milestones
Anytime you’re getting ready for a big event like a move, holiday party, or birthday, use the preparation period to declutter first. For example, minimize closets before a move, clear out old toys before a child’s birthday, purge unused kitchen tools before hosting Thanksgiving. Major events prompt you to tidy up.
Keep a Donation Bag Ready in Your Car
I keep a box or bag designated for donate items in my car trunk at all times. Whenever I drive by a donation drop-off location, I can quickly unload accumulated items to immediately clear my space rather than letting things pile back up at home. Easy access prevents clutter creep.
Involve Household Members – Make Decluttering Family Time
If you live with family or roommates, turn decluttering into an opportunity to bond – put on upbeat music and make tidying up a group activity. Kids can keep special toys while donating unused ones. Making it social prevents drudgery.
The bottom line when incorporating minimalism into a packed schedule is to use small pockets of time already built into your day wherever possible, even if just 5-10 minutes at a time. Quick tidying up actions repeated daily compound to big results over time!
8. How Do I Make Minimalism Work With a Family, Roommates or Significant Other Who Has Different Needs?
Living with a partner, kids, roommate or family who may not be quite as passionate about minimalism brings some unique challenges. Everyone needs to feel like the home environment reflects them too. Some helpful tips:
Have an Upfront Discussion to Get on the Same Page o
Have an open sit-down talk about why you’re drawn to minimalism and what benefits you’re hoping to experience. Assure them you want to find a comfortable compromise. Get their input on an ideal vision you can both feel good about.
Agree on Shared Goals and Ground Rules for Common Spaces
While individual bedrooms can stay more personalized, agree on some standards for shared living spaces. Maybe you’ll commit to keeping the living room and kitchen tidy with only minimal decorative items. Shared goals facilitate cooperation.
Schedule Regular Family or House Decluttering and Organizing Times
Block off set days and times like Saturday morning or Sunday evening where you’ll all declutter and tidy the house together. Put on some music to make it fun! When it’s a shared routine, everyone feels involved in the home environment.
Use Creative Storage to Keep Everyone’s Items Neat
Help family members keep their personal possessions organized through personalized bins, baskets, shelving and closets. Kids might enjoy decorating their own storage containers. Visible neatness prevents clutter.
Implement a “One In, One Out”-Rule
To avoid accumulation, only allow any new item to be brought into the shared home if something else leaves. This helps continuously maintain a minimalist equilibrium.
Store Off-Season Items Together
Help others box up off-season items they aren’t using for a few months – summer clothes in winter, sports equipment in off-season, etc. Storing things minimizes clutter during inactive periods.
Find Creative Ways to Display Some Meaningful Items
Cherished items like kids’ artwork can stay out without creating clutter if carefully displayed – like rotating favorite pieces on the fridge or scanning them into a shared digital album.
Lead by Example
As the minimalist, lead with a tidy, organized example. Gently remind others of goals when needed but allow differences in shared areas.
Suggest Small Changes
Rather than criticize, suggest trying out small tweaks like removing a few pieces of furniture from an overly crowded room or paring down excessive kitchen gadgets. Tiny improvements can snowball.
Focus on Being Patient and Flexible
Lifestyle changes take time and patience, especially with kids involved. Allow some concessions graciously. Stick to minimalist habits consistently and involve everyone – gradual progress will come.
The keys are compromise, patience and making minimalism a shared experience. Allow some differences while guiding gently toward an uncluttered home you all feel happy in.
9. How Can I Develop Long-Term Minimalist Habits So the Clutter Doesn’t Creep Back In?
Maintaining any significant lifestyle change for the long haul takes commitment and developing key habits. Here are my top tips for sticking to minimalism so you don’t backslide:
Keep Your Core Reasons Top of Mind
When your minimalist motivation starts lagging, pause and revisit why you were drawn to simplify in the first place – maybe it was reduced anxiety, more family time, financial goals etc. Remembering your “why” reignites passion on tough days.
Focus on the Lasting Benefits
When decluttering and organizing feels tedious, redirect your mind to the ongoing benefits you’re gaining – clear-headedness, peaceful space, improved relationships, reduced expenses, etc. Prioritize benefits over temporary discomfort.
Track and Celebrate Your Progress
We often fixate on how far we still have to go rather than how far we’ve come. Make checklists and consciously appreciate progress milestones like filling multiple donation boxes or maintaining an uncluttered space for X days straight. Tracking successes keeps you motivated.
Do Regular Mini Decluttering Challenges
Rather than occasional giant decluttering purges, do monthly mini challenges – like tackling just one drawer, shelf or closet zone every day for 30 days. Daily quick tidy ups build long-term habits effortlessly.
Integrate Tidying Into Your Routine
Build 5-10 minute decluttering and organizing micro-habits into your regular daily and weekly rituals – make your bed every morning, put items back where they belong after using, empty the dishwasher while coffee brews, schedule Sunday tidying sessions. Habits build consistency.
Use Milestone Rewards (That Won’t Add Clutter)
After hitting a meaningful decluttering goal, treat yourself to something special that won’t sabotage your progress – a restful bubble bath, dinner with friends, live music night, hike in nature. Use minimalism-aligned rewards to reinforce habits.
Ask Others to Support You
Share your minimalist journey with family or friends who can cheer you on and gently remind you of your goals when your willpower slackens. Having accountability partners boosts follow-through.
Remain Flexible and Open
Stay open to tweaking your approach over time as life evolves – for example, decluttering methods pre-kids might need adjustment post-kids. Expect to fine-tune your minimalist lifestyle. Progress over perfection!
Keep Purging and Organizing
Decluttering just once is never enough. Maintenance is crucial. Keep donating unneeded items, schedule annual “reset” sessions, and tidy up daily. Continuous small upkeep sustains minimalism.
Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Your motivation will ebb and flow. By sticking to just a few new micro-habits consistently, minimalist living gradually becomes smoother and more natural long-term.
10. What Minimalist Resources Do You Recommend for Beginners Who Want to Learn More?
Here are my favorite minimalist books, blogs, podcasts, social media accounts and online groups to get started:
Minimalist Books I Highly Recommend:
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
- Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- The More of Less by Joshua Fields Millburn
- Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn
- The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
- Make Space by Regina Wong
Top Minimalist Blogs and Websites:
Minimalist Podcasts Worth Checking Out:
- The Minimalists Podcast
- Simplify Your Life Podcast
- Declutter Your Life Podcast
- The Slow Home Podcast
- Minimalish Podcast
- Sustainable Minimalists Podcast
YouTube Channels With Helpful Minimalist Content:
Minimalist Instagram Accounts To Follow:
Online Minimalist Groups and Communities:
- Becoming Minimalist Facebook Group
- Minimalism Subreddit
- The Minimalists Facebook Group
- Slow Your Home Facebook Group
There are so many great online resources! I’d suggest picking 2-3 books, a couple key blogs, and some social media accounts to start absorbing minimalist inspiration without feeling overwhelmed.
Minimalism for Beginners – Summary
If you’re new to minimalism and just want to get a brief overview of the topic, here are some of the core lessons and tips from this beginner’s guide:
- Minimalism is a lifestyle focused on reducing excess possessions, removing clutter/distractions, and intentional living. It’s about purpose, not just tidying.
- Benefits include reduced stress, more savings, improved focus, stronger connections, increased gratitude and contentment.
- Start small with quick clutter “hot spots” like your closet or inbox to build confidence without overwhelming yourself.
- Schedule short, regular decluttering sessions and have an outflow system ready to remove items immediately.
- Go room by room rather than tackling everything scattered. This creates visible progress.
- Balance subtracting possessions with adding meaning like family time, learning skills, etc.
- Overcome attachment to items by photographing special keepsakes, keeping just a few favorites, and passing along others mindfully.
- Integrate tidying up into daily routines like morning and evening habits. Consistency prevents backsliding.
- Involve family by designating shared decluttering times, using creative storage solutions, and leading by patient example.
- Revisit your “why”, focus on benefits, celebrate small wins, and enlist support to maintain motivation long-term.
- Recommended minimalist resources include books by Marie Kondo and Joshua Becker, blogs like The Minimalists, and Instagram accounts like @theminimalistmom.
The key takeaway? You don’t have to radically minimize overnight. Start small with what resonates. Less clutter creates space to focus on purpose. I wish you much joy on your path to removing excess clutter and discovering what matters most.