Practice Mindful Minimalism
Minimalism — the art of living with less in order to create more time and space for what we cherish most — is worth striving for. Over the last six years, I’ve downsized to smaller and smaller homes and embraced a more minimalist lifestyle. Now the challenge is in maintaining my new minimalism. I know how easy it is to fall back into mindless consumption and unconscious accumulation.
The minimalist’s life requires a process of continual reevaluation and awareness of what is most important. And to be continually aware of what we bring into our lives and what we choose to let go. Mindful minimalism is that process. It has not only helped me become more of a minimalist, but to stick with it.
Here’s a few ways mindful minimalism has kept me on track:
Practice mindful minimalism while shopping
We live in a consumer driver culture, constantly bombarded with commercials, emails, text messages, and sales that incentivize us to buy, buy, buy. These incentives are geared towards our emotions: the feeling we might miss out on a great deal or we’re not keeping up with the Joneses.
I’ve been seduced by a good sale or Black Friday Deal. But now I use a screening process before I buy anything. Whether it’s a new tool for the garden or another kitchen gadget, I pause and ask myself:
Is this something I need or I want? Ideally it should be both. But asking this question gets to the core of why I’m buying it, and prevents me from spending money just to fulfill a momentary need for retail therapy.
Is it something I will use often enough to justify the cost and the space it will consume? My house is small, and I don’t like clutter, so I'd better have a place for it. If it’s something I’ll use only a couple times a year, why not rent it or borrow it from a friend or neighbor.
How much time and effort will go into maintaining it? Everything we own requires some degree of maintenance. Whether it’s dusting the nicknacks, watering the plants or seasoning the cast iron skillet. Am I willing to put in the effort to keep that item in useable condition?
Practice mindful minimalism in your wardrobe
After purging more than 150 pieces from my wardrobe, mostly in the color black, the last thing I want to do is slip back into mindless accumulating (my nice word for hoarding). I’ve created a cohesive capsule wardrobe in a few colors and styles that compliment my body shape, skin tone, eyes color and hair color.
I used to buy the same black T-shirt over and over again, as if I’d forgotten I ever had one. Now when I shop, I have a list of my key pieces, a list of exactly what I am looking for, and a snapshot on my phone of my primary pieces so I’ll know right away if something I see coordinates with the rest of my outfits.
No matter how much I love an article of clothing, I won’t buy it if it doesn’t work with the rest of my wardrobe. No more bringing home something I love and then having to buy more clothes to go with it.
Practice mindful minimalism in the kitchen
I’m currently setting up a second household in France, and I’m keeping minimalism in mind. I’ve purged dozens of kitchen tools and widgets the previous owners left. And when it comes to purchasing anything new, I ask myself if I really need to duplication every gismo I have in my US home? How often do I use a melon baller anyway?
The other area of the kitchen I like to purge regularly is the pantry. Even if it’s one shelf at a time, I’m creating more space, and I know exactly what I have and what I need, which makes shopping so much easier.
Practice mindful minimalism at garage sales and thrift shops
I can’t resist browsing through a good thrift shop or garage sale. I used to spend a whole day at neighborhood yard sales collecting way more vintage, household and décor items than I ever needed or had room for. I sometimes wish I could have that time back. What I didn’t know then was it’s easy to accumulate things, but it’s a lot of work to get rid of them. Yes, I can sell them on craigslist, eBay, Facebook marketplace, have yard sales and donate to Goodwill, but it all takes time and effort.
Now I consider a thrift shop, antique mall or yard sale an occasional treat. I exercise conscious restraint — to the best of my ability. It’s so tempting at yard sales, when it’s only a dollar or two, to buy, buy, buy. I have to pause and ask the questions I noted above. Yet, if something has no useful purpose, but it sparks joy, costs little and I have somewhere to put it, I won’t deny myself. Life is too short. And if I get tired of it, I can always donate it to a thrift shop.
More ways to practice mindful minimalism
Minimalism isn’t limited to our home and wardrobe, it can extend to every aspect of our life including social media, emails, finances, relationships and more. I’ll be writing more about how to use mindful minimalism to simplify all aspects of our lives and create more time and space for what matters most.