4 Tips for a Minimalist Lifestyle in the New Year

4-tips-for-a-minimalist-lifestyle-in-the-new-yearI’ve been a fan of minimalism for years now, and I’ll be kicking it up a notch in 2017. This might sound like a strange thing to say for a fashion and lifestyle blogger, but minimalism, for me, is not sitting in an empty room or having all your possessions fit in a duffel bag.

A minimalist lifestyle is more about valuing what you own. My things have to benefit my life, or they have to go. Clutter affects my mood. When I walk into my home, I want to be surrounded by stuff I love. I can’t watch episodes of Hoarders because even watching people getting stressed out by owning mountains of crap stresses me out.

What helped me pare down was traveling a lot and living abroad. Nobody wants to drag around two or more suitcases, even if you’re away for a year. My essentials emerged from the trials and errors of knowing exactly what I need.

This book by the guys over at themimalists.com is a good guide on how living with less can help you accomplish more, form meaningful relationships, and live the life that you actually want, instead of what society expects of you. I watched their documentary on Netflix a day before New Year’s Eve, and it reminded me to keep weeding out the excess, focus on things that are important me, and to maintain mindful consumption.

It takes practice to get good at this, and I’m still learning. Here are some tips I collected over the years in areas people often struggle with.

1. Closets

Did you choose your home based on closet size? For a lot of women, this is a huge factor. My current closet is not that big, but less space = less shit.

I wish I took a photo of the closet I had when I was living in a shoebox apartment in Paris for almost three years. I was forced to have a capsule wardrobe before that was even a thing. Having a small closet was really a blessing in disguise as I learned how to live with less, and to make the most of what I did own.

To get started on a capsule wardrobe, there are plenty of resources online, including Project 333, which is mentioned in the documentary. I have an ethical capsule wardrobe guide based on the essentials in my closet, and I still wear these pieces constantly. If you’re timeless, you’ll never go out of style.

A friend told me this week that she has so many things in her closet, but she doesn’t want to throw anything out because they’re good clothes, and she might want to wear something from there eventually. However, the sheer amount of clothes she owns makes it hard to find anything and making outfit decisions can be a challenge.

I don’t think it’s a problem to have a closet full of clothes if you love every piece. It’s only a problem if you can’t let go of clothes you don’t wear or like, out of fear. I recommend looking at each piece and asking yourself when was the last time you wore it. If it’s been more than a year, it’s time to let go. Does it fit you? Do you feel good in it?

2. Memories

Got a million photos? Kid’s artwork? Souvenirs from travels? You have to ask yourself whether you’re keeping something out of obligation or because you truly like it and want it around.

It is possible to digitize a lot of things these days. I have one photo album. Everything else is on a hard drive. With the example of souvenirs or artwork from children, you can keep your favourites and let go of the rest. Organize it in such a way that it’s not cluttering your space, such as putting them together in a compact book.

I have a drawer full of receipts for tax purposes that I’m sick of. This month, I’m going to use an app to digitize them and throw out the hard copies.

3. Collections

The two main collections I have are books and makeup. At one point my bookcase couldn’t contain the amount of books I owned. Again, it’s not a problem if I loved every book, but I didn’t. I ended up selling or donating the books I didn’t want to read, or have read once and didn’t think I would read again. This year, I want to reduce my collection down even more, to only the books I’ve read and would want to reread. I borrow books from the library whenever possible, and will only buy my own copy if I love it enough to want to own it. If you ever do get an itch to reread a book you’ve given away, there’s the library or ebook readers that can store thousands of books.

As for makeup, I used to get sucked into the pretty packaging and trying the latest colors and trends. The problem was that I didn’t even wear a lot of makeup, like colourful eyeshadows, and still don’t. Now my collection is pretty small, especially since I switched over to nontoxic makeup. I’m only buying things that I know I’ll use on a regular basis, or when I need to replenish items I’m running out of. There’s no need for a dozen near-identical shades of pink blushes and have most of them collecting dust.

The point is, I’m not letting my collections control me. If you have to let go of some things because they no longer serve you, then do it. You’ll be left with the things that do.

4. Excess

Another friend recently told me that her sister encouraged her to buy a 12-piece pot and pan set because it was the same price as buying three. She only needs three. The other nine pieces are taking space in her kitchen. This is a perfect example of excess in our lives.

We tend to buy things because they’re cheap or feel we might need them someday. Own an instrument you never play? Self-help books you don’t want to read? Ski equipment when you never go skiing anymore? It’s probably time to get rid of them.

This is especially challenging coming from the holidays, when giving gifts are custom and good sales are big temptations.

I think giving is a beautiful thing. When someone gives you something, they derive pleasure from giving. As long as you’re happy to receive, you’ve made them happy. Now that the gift is yours, you can do whatever you want with it that gives you value—keep it, donate it, exchange it for something you really need. As for sales, never shop with sales goggles on. Ask a friend who knows you well for a second opinion.

What kind of junk are you clearing out this new year? Let me know in the comments below!

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