As we become more aware that buying everything won’t actually make us happy many people are moving to a more minimal lifestyle. There are so many tips and tricks on how to become a minimalist online and just like the zero waste movement you could be fooled into thinking you need to be perfect for it to be worthwhile.
Although technically two different movements the zero waste and minimalism movements are actually very connected. Both focus on making fewer, more purposeful purchases, both ask you to use what you have first and both lifestyles will be totally different for each person! Just because I don’t own a microwave in the name of minimalism doesn’t mean you have to not own a microwave to be a minimalist too!
After 3 years of moving towards a more minimal lifestyle, here are my top five tips for those wanting to start!
1. Make sure your everyone is onboard
Whether you are a couple, a family or you are flatting, it is so important to make sure everyone in the house is onboard before you start doing a household purge. You don’t want to purge the blender only to find that you're the only one who wasn’t regularly using it!
2.Take small steps
Yes, you could go through every room in your house in a weekend and find all the things you think you could live without, but chances are that in a few days or weeks, you may start to regret your fast paced purge and sooner rather than later you will be repurchasing more things to enter your home. If I could only give one piece of advice, it would be to go slow!
A simple way to work out what in your house is actually regularly used is to box everything up, one room at a time. Then over the course of a month, take out items only as you truly need them. Use these then put them away. At the end of the month the items left in the box are those that you may not need. Now you can easily sort them, and check there isn’t something you actually really want to keep in the box! If there is something you aren’t quite sure about parting with I would always recommend keeping it and looking at it again in a few months. If you still haven’t used it then you will feel much more sure about parting with it.
Once you feel ready, start the process again in the next room. I like to do a purge once every 12 months. Every time I find things that I actually no longer need and I am able to find them new homes and free up some clutter from my small home.
3. Purge with purpose.
Yes, you could open up a few dozen rubbish and recycling bags and all the items will be ‘thrown away’ and out of your life within a matter of days but the truth is there is no ‘away.’
Another benefit to purging on a slower basis is that you can purge with purpose. This means you can donate, sell or trade the items you no longer need and get them into a new home. It has never been easier to find a new home for your items, from Facebook community groups, to trademe or second hand stores, and not only could you clear your house from items you no longer need but you could also get some money too!
If you have weird items which you think you can’t rehome then I can not recommend enough jumping onto your local zero waste community facebook group before throwing them in the trash. On the weirder side I have seen 20 wine bottle corks, 100 pen refills and 30 plastic laundry powder scoops being advertised on my local group and they always have heaps of responses from people who could reuse or upcycle them.
4. Designate zones
I have found that a great way to motivate myself not to purchase random things is to designate zones within our home for different groups of items. A few zones in our home are my sewing nook, our board game zone and our book zone. Once the zone is full then we need to make a choice, will we increase the size of the zone - which then reduces the size of the neighbouring zone, purge an equivalent item from the zone so that the new item fits or simply not purchase the item. This helps us keep our ‘stuff’ under control and makes our annual purges much easier.
An easy example of this can be seen is in our wardrobe. Living in a one bedroom flat means our wardrobe is also the only non kitchen storage space in our home. It is split into 6 zones; suitcase storage, linen/towels, my partners clothes, my clothes, shoes and important documents. Because we only have a small amount of space we use a multi tiered shoe rack which allows us to have 8 pairs of shoes (that's only 4 pairs each) and that means we need to be purposeful in the shoes that we purchase, knowing we won’t be buying anymore until another pair can no longer be repaired. Luckily living in Wellington where comfy shoes are appropriate in a corporate meeting, a night on the town or sunday brunch and heels are not required I have found it super easy to limit my shoes from my once 26 pair collection down to a pair of loafers, two pairs of ‘tennis’ shoes and one pair of actual sneakers, and I actually went most of 2020 only owning one pair of shoes (which my mother did not approve of at all!). We often get asked why we don’t just buy more shoes, but that would mean having to move some of the items from out of our wardrobe, and others tell us having four pairs is too many for a minimalist. The truth is it's about what works for you and your lifestyle, which is why everyone's zones and zone sizes will be different.
5. Work against your values, not other peoples.
It's so easy to get sucked into the pinterest perfect minimalist homes but the best way to start on the journey of minimalism is to try your best to not compare yourself with others but instead make decisions based on your values and what will bring you happiness. Live a busy life but want to make your own bread? A bread maker could be perfect in your minimalist kitchen. Have a bread maker that you have never used and you don’t really ever eat bread? It may be time to give it to a new home. Every minimalist home will and should be different to match your lifestyle and values. Having something you don’t see on pinterest or your minimalist friend doesn’t own doesn’t make you wrong.
Not sure how to bring up moving towards minimilism with your cohabitors? Watch out for a next blog with tips on how to start the conversation!