How to make the first step towards a minimalist lifestyle

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About a week ago I watched a movie called “Minimalism”. It made me realize we had already taken the first step towards a minimalist lifestyle. But let me tell you about us and about the movie.

3.5 years ago we decided to move to London. We knew we couldn’t take with us all that we owned. So we had to go through everything that was in our home: clothes, books, dishes, cables, shoes, toys, everything. And we kept only the essential.

That’s when we realized how many useless things a person can collect in a few years. We donated or thrown away old shoes, clothes we hadn’t worn in over 5 years, books we had read or didn’t want to read anymore, cables and not working computer components that we kept “just in case”, mugs and plates and dishes we hadn’t used in years, and the list could continue.

Do we really need this? Does this improve our life?

When we moved here, we had to buy dishes and electronic appliances and books and toys and clothes. But we did this in a smarter way than we used to. We bought only what we needed, at the best price we could find. This was our first step towards a minimalist lifestyle. Well, except for the books and toys (though we’ve made progress in this area too, you can read about our approach in the article about toy minimalism).

Mainly, when we want to buy something, we ask ourselves “Do we really need this? Does this improve our life?”, so as to buy not because it’s trendy or cool or in the sale, but to do so intentionally. “Live an intentional life” is one of the ideas in the movie “Minimalism”.

"Minimalism is about living an intentional life." Click To Tweet

When I was pregnant with my son, I was influenced by the market, as all pregnant moms are I guess. I bought a cot with a special mattress, sterilizer, milk bottles, push-chair that could have the seat rear or forward-facing, electronic bouncer, bathtub, special shampoo and creams and so on.

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After giving birth though, and until I had my daughter, I understood that none of those was necessary. For my daughter, I had a minimalist approach. The only thing I considered essential for her was a Skin-to-Skin Kangaroo Care T-shirt in which to carry her when she was too tiny for an SSC. We also had a Moses’ basket and a bathtub just because it was easier for me, not because she needed them. However, we had no sterilizer or milk bottles as I breastfed her (I did the same with my son, so at the time we had to sell these utensils). We tried to use the pushchair twice (the one we had bought for my son and hardly used). Soon we sold it. We didn’t even buy a special shampoo because we all use the same one, an earth-friendly type.

If you ignore what the media tells you, if you just stop and think about what a baby needs actually are, you might as well end up buying just a wrap.

Minimalism is about living an intentional life

About being conscious or mindful. It’s about shutting down the automatic pilot and being in charge of your decisions, of your choices. And it might be a strange concept in a world where all you hear is “bigger/more/newest is better” and “this latest fashion/gadget will make you cool/happy/popular”.

The movie “Minimalism” evolves around Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the authors of “Everything that remains” book. It presents their lives as well as some of the other minimalists. It also features interviews with authors, journalists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and architects.

It’s a great chance to see how minimalists live (I loved one of the flats presented!) and what determined them to take the first step minimalist lifestyle. It’s an opportunity to think about the idea that “bigger/more is better”. The movie questions this belief and it discusses fashion and social ladders and cars and houses and marketing.

"When you realize that this life is yours, and that it is your ONE and ONLY, […] everything changes." Click To Tweet

For example, a woman talks about how she chose, out of her wardrobe, 33 pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories (33 in total – this is also called “Project 333” or “Capsule wardrobe”). She talks about how she was fine and nobody noticed that she wore, for a whole year, only 33 pieces. I can’t imagine what would happen if every woman were to choose this lifestyle. I guess the fashion industry that wants you to change your look every week would go bankrupt!

Another guy talks about how he was a workaholic and managed, at quite an early age, to get a very big and important promotion. A promotion made him realize that he would feel trapped in that job. The life he had dreamed of – travelling, living, being free – would be gone. So he quit his job and became a minimalist.

He is the one to say “When you realize that this life is yours and that it is your one and only, and when that ceases to be esoteric bullshit when that’s not hippie poetry anymore when the pragmatism of that statement seeps directly into your bones and you recognize that this is it, everything changes.“.

The movie tries to explain the humans’ need to buy things and is not actually trying to convince anyone not to buy anymore or to become a minimalist. But the thing is that “you can never get enough of what you don’t really want“.

The first step towards a minimalist lifestyle

Stop and ask yourself what is it that you REALLY want. Write down all the things that come to your mind. Freely. Then read every line you’ve written and think about it. ‘Why do I want this? What will it bring to my life? How will it make my life better, if it would? Is this what I need or what others tell me that I need?’

Be more conscious of your needs, of what you want and what makes you happy.

Live an intentional life.

It’s worth it. It could make you happier.

Further reading on the topic of minimalism:

PS. Just out of curiosity, does your desk look similar to the one in the above photo?

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  • Luke

    Oh yes… minimalism! In addition to the realization of ones only life, mortality, singular chance etc., the effect of near death experiences and “close calls” is very therapeutic too! Such experiences also cause one to change forever. To reevaluate all things. Having had several of these events before age 20 I can attest to their salutary effects. Recommended LOL.

    Minimalism… sometimes one finds ones “needs” to be growing in proportion to ones present or developing interests. And since I am “into everything” I tend to accumulate a lot of “tools” with which to experience “everything”. Then it is time for a Purge and good clean out. But yeah… I have too many things of late accumulating around my #1 hobby of visual astronomy. Thankfully books are exempt from the minimalist rule…er… or are they? No, even they must succumb to the rule eventually, with later regrets of their disposal guaranteed! Stuff… closets bursting with junk, storage rooms loaded up, indeed it is a sickness that grips much of the world. Quite an affliction. Consumerism. That creeping mental illness fueled by Credit Cards. The epicenter of it all… the US of A of course! A Consumer paradise. Amazon Prime… now easier than ever to load up on crap you don’t *really* need.

    Nah… I am a revised Minimalist. Not a true Minimalist. Not really. My Desk? I don’t have one… the notebook computer is on the kitchen table with a pad of paper and a few pens. So not too bad… but the closets are an area of concern (LOL) due to a wide array of plastic cases and so on. Hmmm.

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