Inside: Here you’ll find three important minimalist principles EVERYONE can adopt to live more purposefully and joyfully.
Yeah, that’s right. I said everyone.
Now, I typically take a more “you do you” approach to minimalism, but there is so much more to becoming a minimalist than reducing the number of material possessions in your home. Besides, contrary to what you’ll find portrayed in Google images when you enter the search term, “minimalism,” living as a minimalist doesn’t mean your walls are white and your furniture, uncomfortable. It doesn’t require you ditch your Insta-Pot in exchange for a Dutch oven, or your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one. Sure, it certainly can if that’s what you’re after, you do you. (See? There it is).
But there really are no rules or requirements when executing minimalism because it’s a lifestyle meant to serve you, not the other way around. It’s bendable, shapable, adaptable to your individual uniqueness. It’s for making your own so that your lifestyle aligns with your priorities, not mine. Not The Minimalists’. Not Marie Kondo’s. Not some picture-perfect minimalist family you’ve been following on Instagram. And certainly not with what your friends and family assume minimalism should look like either. Just yours.
Minimalism is meant to make how you spend your time, money and capacity reflect what you value most. How you execute it should therefore be unique to you.
This is why I believe, even if you’re uninterested in or unable to declutter your space right now, every single person can benefit from adopting a minimalist mindset.
Here are three minimalist principles everyone should implement in order to live each day with greater intention,
1. Intentionally Reduce Decisions
A minimalist mindset is one that is always on the lookout for ways to reduce the number of decisions we must make and simplify daily routines. Not because we’re lazy, but because we know our time and energy is valuable and limited. With fewer frivolous decisions draining away our bandwidth, we’ll have more energy left to invest in the things that matter, more energy to create meaningful work, and a greater capacity to show up present for the people and moments that matter.
I love these words by Lisa Avellan of Simple and Soul. She sums it up perfectly.
“Creating routines that require little to no decision making is a daily act of self-compassion.” -Lisa Avellan
Intentional simplicity is about working smarter, not harder.
For example, I pack my kids the same lunch every single day. Sure, now and then they’ll get hot lunch- typically if syrup is a condiment- or I’ll occasionally send along leftovers. All in all, most of the year, they are eating the exact same lunch, every single day.
I don’t do this because I’m out of lunch ideas… well, maybe some days. No, I do it because routines such as these leave me with a greater capacity for more important things throughout my day, and our mornings run smoother because of it. I can pack lunches blindfolded.
On top of simplifying lunch packing, I’ve also simplified our meal plan to the point where it’s almost ridiculous, and I keep a minimalist capsule wardrobe, wearing my same favorite outfits on repeat.
Which areas of your life if intentionally simplified, would reduce the number of decisions you make and free you up to find more joy, calm and purpose in your day?
2. Choose Quality Over Quantity
Choosing quality over quantity is a principle typically associated with how minimalists makes new purchases. It says, for example, that it’s better to own fewer, high quality tops you love, than thirty low-quality ones that make you feel wonky when you wear them or won’t last through more than a handful of dryer cycles. However, this concept extends much further than stuff. Deciding to choose quality over quantity can influence how we use our time and attention as well.
Having less stuff in my home has given me a space I’m much more capable of managing. While I used to shop clearance racks at outlet malls as if it were my part time job, I now would much rather own just a handful of higher-quality items I’m certain will last.
However, it’s important to me that we clarify that buying “quality” items, doesn’t mean high-end, trending, name-brand items from expensive boutiques. You can find quality anywhere from big box stores and high-end boutiques, to garage sales and thrift stores. Shopping thrift stores being my personal favorite. I recently found an adorable, high quality wool flannel on the rack at Goodwill for $4. Bam!
When we choose to own fewer high-quality items instead of keeping an overabundance of low-quality options, our stuff will last longer. On top of that, we’ll reduce waste, save money in the long run, and keep clutter from accumulating within our home. Thus, creating for ourselves fewer decisions and a home that is easier to maintain.
Instead of saying yes to every opportunity, extracurricular activity and task, get picky. Using your time like a minimalist means you’re more intentional about what you say yes to.
When you say yes to every engagement and opportunity, you leave yourself with less capacity for the ones that are truly important to you. Using your time with intention begins by first learning how to say no and then developing an understand for when to use it. Not everything is meant for you. Not every opportunity should be pursued. Knowing how you should be spending your time becomes a whole lot easier when you know who you are, where your skills lie, and your areas of weakness. If you want to know more about yourself, I highly recommend looking into the enneagram.
Read: How Understanding Your Enneagram Number Can Help You Live Clutter Free
Whether you like it or not, your capacity is limited. Stop overextending yourself and committing to any and everything. Instead, invest it in the things that matter most.
Showing up, present, whole heartedly and attentive, is another way we can implement the principle of quality over quantity into our lives. I tend to be very easily distracted, turning my attention from where I currently am to anything that pops into my brain.
My kids refer to it as my “Mmm hmmm mode.” It’s pretty much my superpower. “Mmmm hmmm mode” is when I suddenly become distracted and usually occurs when I’m trying to multi-task. I used to think I was really good at multi-tasking, but really, I was just very good at giving a fraction of my attention to multiple things at the same time.
In the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are be there.”
3. Stop Letting Changing Trends Dictate Your Style
Last year we gave the interior of our home a fresh coat of paint. It was time. How a child can manage to fling his body into a love seat with such force that it flips backward and crushes the corner of a wall is beyond me. I guess in his defense, we have been building them indoor ninja obstacle courses since they could walk, so it’s probably on us. This is likely why some families take a whole, “don’t jump on the furniture” approach to parenting. Hindsight.
I knew it would be quite a few years before we painted again so I wanted to get the paint color right. I decided on light gray with a hint of beige. You know, a perfect greige.
After approximately four thousand trips to Sherwin Williams, and about eighty-five thousand small squares of varying shades of greige painted on my living room walls I still couldn’t decide. They all just seemed too… well… gray. Now, let’s move past the obvious lesson on the trouble with too many choices and becoming overwhelmed by decision fatigue in order to address what took me way too long to realize.
I don’t like gray walls.
While it looks wonderful in other people’s homes, we are more of a tan family. I thought I wanted gray walls because gray walls are in style right now. However, after fifteen years of home ownership, I’ve learned how quickly, and frequently home decor trends change. It’s so important to know what you like apart from what’s trending, so you don’t get tossed around by paid advertisement and everyone else’s opinion. Don’t let new or changing trends tell you how or when to update your home. Discover and then own your style.
It doesn’t just start and stop with paint colors either. From jeans to boots to wall art, knowing what you like will help you avoid being pushed and pulled by every changing trend.
Is Minimalism for You?
After four years of writing in the minimalist space I’ve learned that creating a minimalist home isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone is interested in clearing out the clutter, building a capsule wardrobe, wearing a uniform or willing to live with fewer material possessions.
I’ve also learned that though one may want to create a minimalist home, there are plenty of factors that get in the way. Significant others may disagree, time constraints may prevent progress, work requirements can make decluttering next to impossible, physical health can be a major hurdle and then there’s this whole pandemic thing.
However, adopting these three minimalist principles, no matter your relationship with stuff, can help you craft a life that energizes you. Even if you don’t think minimalism is for you, a minimalist mindset is something that will lighten your load, bring clarity, increase your capacity and help you to feel less overwhelmed.
If you are considering minimalism, but unsure of where to begin or currently find yourself stuck in the process, here are some resources that will help…
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Thank you for the post and thoughts and ideas and encouragement! I can totally relate to being in mmmhmmm mode! sigh, I do it way too often….definitely need to get that under control. I really like that quote from Jim, well said! And I wonder where my 12 year old daughter gets it from :O(gasp)
I chuckled at the painting story! Our family has been blessed by living in a log home! No inside painting required…ever!! Yes, there will be outside staining for maintaining throughout the years, but overall the maintenance is not any different than a regular built home! I also appreciated the point of not letting tend decide for you…to take your line here…to do you! I find that too often people let that guilt the into…fill-in-the-blank. Not a fan of that myself. Not trendy, and I am fine with that. But what a deal for you on that plaid shirt! Love it!! If I lived closer and was smaller in size, I would totally borrow it from you!:)
totally on board with quality over quantity. I am that way with food too…people often try to replicate recipes, I say it is all in the ingredients. Quality ingredients makes for a tastier dish. Absolutely bang on with the higher quality clothes point! Well done!
Keep on keeping on! Have a blessed 2021
Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you found it helpful and can relate with my “mmm hmmm mode.” Glad I’m not alone! 😉
Hi Rachel—your first photo contains the word ‘implent’ and I think you intended it be @implement”. I’m going back to finish reading now!!
Oops! Thanks so much for bringing that to my attention Anne! I’ve fixed it.
Thank you for this! It’s wonderful and inspirational. I follow a minimalist lifestyle and a mom to two boys ( 9 and 6). I love what u wrote about not following trends and advertising. We live a frugal life on one income and I’m grateful for all we have. I’m trying to build a capsule wardrobe (at this point 18 items) but any shopping tips? I’m a tjmaxx fan and value quality over quantity too Thanks again for terrific blog and looking forward to ur book. I also read “get out of your head” and was fantastic read. God bless u and ur family
Love “your get down to it” level of writing. And whether I want to quick-skim or do deep-dive reading, I personally get multiple excellent tips out of every post you write. Can’t wait to read your book. Thank you for pioneering forth into an accomplished and truly “helping profession” blog. We have all benefited greatly from your journey. I really respect your message AND that you chose to share that journey (yes I may just be one of your greatest fans)!
Brenda! You just made my day. Seriously, thank you friend!
Thanks for the post! Especially appreciate your comments on how high quality vs high quality also applies to what you spend your time on, not just what you own.
Awesome post!! Thank u love the last part of not giving into trends arc. I’m a mom of two boys 9 and 6 and keeping things as simple as I can. Happy and healthy new year. Any tips on capsule wardrobe? I’m trying to build a little one. I do tjmaxx a lot. Any other sources. As I get older I’m trying to do quality vs quantity as well.
Thank you so much. I do have a blog post from last winter with pictures of my capsule wardrobe. You can find it if you scroll a couple pages back through the blog tab. It’s pretty much the same this winter too except I’m only wearing half of it thanks to covid and I did add in a pair of leggings… obviously:;) Short capsule wardrobe explanation… I like to start by building a capsule around a base color and a favorite quality shoe in that color. I then make sure every item I wear that season matches that. For example I wear black duck boots all winter. Everything I own can be worn with those boots. It can get a little tricky if you go back and forth between dressy and casual a lot. But I think it’s a great place to start. I never buy something that won’t match the quality shoes I love and own. As for stores, I think you can build a capsule from just about every store, but that blog post does share a few stores I shop at too. Hope that helps.
Hi thank you so much great ideas! I’m on a pretty casual style these days (leggings) and just ordered a good pair of snow boots for colder days I’m on North east coast so we get rain snow etc. ur blog was very helpful for wardrobe. Thank you so much again. And I love the reference you used in one of ur posts about scripture how Jesus tells us to live a life to the full. Very inspiring and looking forward to ur book happy and healthy new year to u and ur family 😊
Love this. I’m from Waco and we call that Joanna Gray. I’m ready for green and blue and yellow!
Do your own thing.
The only problem with shopping thrift is if you don’t go in with a plan it is so easy to talk yourself into something because it’s too good a deal to pass up. Even old timers back slide. I eliminated all crafts but two of my favorites and bought a kindle a few years ago but still get tripped up buying clothes. Once again I need to declutter my closet. Bought warm comfort clothes due to being home so much. If only jeans were as comfortable as sweats!
That’s a great point. It’s just as easy, if not easier to accumulate excess at a thrift store. No matter where we shop, it’s important to first recognize how little we actually need. I like to tell myself, “I have all I need.” My kids see me practicing that and hear me say it out loud to myself as well as to them. Thanks for sharing! And I totally agree, sweats are so much cozier. 🙂
Thank you for the honest, down-to-earth insight into everyday life.
I really appreciate your simple ideas and thoughts.
Muchas gracias Rachelle!
Por tu claridad y tú valioso tiempo!
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