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Want to be a minimalist? Start with these 3 areas of your life

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Simplicity, freedom, and peace ... reclaim your focus on life's essentials.

Live better with less: this sort of sums up the idea of minimalism. When applied to various areas of our lives, minimalism sets us off on a life that’s guided by common sense and the pursuit of happiness. So let’s take a look at the many benefits minimalism brings to our daily lives.

Minimalism is a concept that tries to determine everything that is truly necessary in our lives, liberating ourselves from all those excesses (and we’re not just talking about unnecessary items, but also needless tasks, obligations, and habits). There’s no precise definition of what it is to be a minimalist, just as there’s no precise list of things to do or items to throw out to become one. Minimalism above all is a state of mind, a personal development towards one’s aspirations, as far away as possible from those obligations that eat up our energy, time, and joy.

Basically, minimalism will help you to improve the day-to-day by concentrating on life’s essentials: by becoming aware of all the excess surrounding you, by thinking about what makes you truly happy, and by getting rid of everything that clutters your life, both physically and morally.

Minimalist consumerism: no more impulse buying

We’re living in a consumerist society. We’re surrounded by products that are inciting us to consume more: we could also say they are creating new needs, and getting us used to routinely buying unnecessary products — how do those “essential” candles and pillows just slip into our bags in IKEA? In this context, the first thing we must do is ask ourselves about our relationship with these messages or products, and also consider what they actually bring to our lives. Do I really want to eat this cookie I’ve just seen in the commercial? Do I need it? What value does it bring? If the answers to these questions lead you to doubt the merits of this purchase, you’re on the right track to resisting overconsumption.

We should ask ourselves if our view of consumerism is not deeply influenced by society, going far beyond our own needs and pleasure. Losing the meaning of our purchases doesn’t just harm our wallet, it also impacts our time, our image, and more generally, our lives. These little extra purchases don’t really bring us much, and in fact can actually make us lose other elements that are more essential to us. If you love spending time with your family or friends or going to the gym, ask yourself why you are wasting precious minutes, or maybe hours, in shops or browsing online looking for gadgets or a bargain pair of pants that don’t go with anything anyway.

However, minimalism doesn’t mean totally rejecting certain items or ways of consuming. A minimalist is allowed to have a few pleasures here and there, buying the odd thing that doesn’t really have a useful function. It’s really more about questioning our purchasing behavior and limiting mindless consumption. Everyone needs to find the right balance in their own consumption, and to concentrate on their own goals.

Minimalist interior: sort through your home and your life

If you manage to put a stop to those impulse buys, you could also take a look at everything you’ve accumulated over the years. Although you’re constantly surrounded by the same furniture and objects, many of them will have become almost invisible. Time has a great way of obstructing our vision, so we end up with things that serve no real purpose — and let’s not talk about those items that have ended up in the attic or under the bed! A cluttered interior creates a cluttered mind: a good spring cleaning can help free your mind of those trivial concerns. And imagine running out to work and being able to find those favorite black pumps in record time!

Time to take stock: do these items that have found a little space in your home make you happy or do they serve a purpose? Or as the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, would say, do they “spark joy”? Go through your home, make an inventory (mental or written) of everything in each room, and question yourself on each item. You’ll soon be astonished when faced with all those knick-knacks, souvenirs, or clothes that don’t fit or have been out-of-date for years.

Why not start off with attacking the closet? Among these clothes you’ve been hanging on to for years, which ones have not been used in the last year? Make two piles: one for items you still wear, and another for the clothes that have managed to stay hidden in the closet. Look closely at the second pile, studying each individual piece of clothing and asking yourself: why did I acquire it? Why don’t I use it? Can I give it a new lease on life ? If you come to the conclusion that it no longer has a place in your closet, it’s time to get rid of it. Then use the same approach in the rest of the house, going through your cupboards, bookshelves, and even objects hanging on the walls.

So what do you do with all your unwanted items? Once you’ve gathered up all your “junk,” remember it can be another man’s treasure. So don’t be tempted to head to the garbage: be environmentally responsible. By re-housing these items, you’ll help combat over-production and the pollution that goes with it. There are many options available: re-sell (if in good condition), or think about giving things to homeless shelters or charities, neighbors, or family members (it’s always cute to see cousins running around in their big cousins’ favorite blue sweater). And by keeping less, you’ll save energy as the overall upkeep of the house will demand less time — we’re all for less dusting and polishing! So your newly sorted home will allow you to concentrate, visually, manually, and mentally, on the essential.

Minimalist food: Simple and natural

Did you know that minimalism can also be good for your health? Food is an important factor for our well-being, and choosing carefully helps keep us healthy. To minimize our food is to above all simplify it. It’s not a question of depriving ourselves but of returning to the original sources of food, looking for healthy and natural products, cooked at home, and most importantly, savored.

Judith Crillen, author of the French language book Minimalism: The pursuit of happiness, freedom, and simplicity, explains in her book how to practice minimalism at dinner through six handy pointers:

  • Eat less but better: This allows us to rebalance our food habits by starting with consuming what we need and what is good for us, rather than just blindly serving ourselves.
  • Eliminate processed foods: This means avoiding too much salt, sugar, fats and additives, opting for natural foods that are basic and organic.
  • Cook simply: Good food doesn’t need lots of ingredients, or lots of cooking gadgets, or lots of cooking time.
  • Plan your meals for the week: This is the advice that Judith Crillen gives to organize our meals (and therefore our shopping), avoiding the frustration of not knowing what to eat every day, and preventing waste.
  • Take your time: This helps you to savor your meal and to help promote the feeling of satiety.
  • Pay attention to your body: Listening to your body can help you understand its needs and digestion and can help get rid of any issues linked to excess, or food that doesn’t agree with us.

Be inspired by minimalism to sort through your home and your habits and take advantage of your newly found spare time to do what brings you the most pleasure. Because in the end, minimalism is not just about less … it’s about less chaff so that there can be more wheat, less time wasted on unimportant things so that we can focus on what matters most to us.

This article was originally published in the French Edition of Aleteia.

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