If you’re curious about, new to, or simply interested in learning more about minimalism, this is a great place to start. Below you’ll find various definitions of minimalism, the benefits, challenges, and real-life examples so you can decide if minimalism is right for you.
Spoiler alert: it probably is.
Ironically, this isn’t going to be a minimal post about minimalism. It’s a more comprehensive one—so get comfortable, and enjoy the learning process.
For my wife Amy and me, it all started in early 2014 when we learned about the idea of minimalism. While we both had explored concepts around mindfulness and intentional living, we hadn’t yet come across the concept of minimalism outside of modern art.
We had no idea minimalism would have as big an impact as it did. Looking back, it has been one of the most important changes we’ve implemented in our lives.
Minimalism is how I reduce distractions in my life so I can do more of what matters.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the idea of doing more of the things that matter most to you, your calendar is overscheduled, or your physical space is filled with items that don’t serve you and your family, minimalism will help you make more space in your life. Space to take bigger risks, try something new or simply spend more time with the people you care about. Over time, minimalism can potentially help in making a radical lifestyle change like moving to a new city, changing careers or exploring entrepreneurship.
Minimalism, An Overview
What is Minimalism?
Here at Break the Twitch, we define minimalism as a lifestyle practice focused on minimizing distractions that keep you from doing what matters to you.
Minimalism is all about owning only what adds value and meaning to your life (as well as the lives of the people you care about) and removing the rest. It’s about removing the clutter and using your time and energy for the things that remain. We only have a certain amount of energy, time, and space in our lives. In order to make the most of it, we must be intentional about how we’re living each day.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
– Annie Dillard
There are many different approaches to minimalism, but it’s really just a tool to help you prioritize what’s important in your life.
Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist offers this definition: “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things that bring you joy and the removal of those that do not.” It might be called simple living, tiny living, intentional living, and a myriad of other things—but there is at least one common thread: the idea of curating the things we own to best reflect our priorities and vision for our lives.
If the idea of minimalism sounds intimidating to you or if you’ve seen some images and thought, “that’s a nice idea, but I’d never want to live like that,” don’t worry. You can benefit from applying minimalism in your life whether you live in a tiny home, suburban house, or a mansion. You can use minimalism as a guiding philosophy and customize based on what works best for you.
Here are some minimalism guidelines that have worked best for Amy and me over the past several years of intentional living.
Common Misconceptions of Minimalism
Contrary to what some people think, there aren’t any actual rules to minimalism. There’s no official board of minimalism to determine whether or not you’re doing minimalism right. Minimalism truly looks different for everyone.
You don’t have to own below a certain number of items. You can still have nice things, and no, you don’t need to get rid of your favorite collection—whether it’s books, shoes, or music. Minimalism doesn’t have to look like white-walled, modern and sparse homes you’ve probably seen in magazines and videos, a common minimalism mistake.
Minimalism is also not a one and done project. Amy and I have used minimalism as a continual practice to ensure everything in our lives is working for us in our vision, not against us. We’ve used it over the years to make substantial changes in our careers, home, lifestyle, buying behaviors, and more recently, our big move across the country.
Everyone can benefit from applying the principles of minimalism to their lives. It’s a process of removing distractions and things that no longer add value to our lives.
Realistically, everyone should be a minimalist.
It would be silly not to be, right? Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by everything that’s important and nothing that weighs us down? It makes a ton of sense when you start to think about it. Here are some additional thoughts on what it means to be a minimalist.
There are no credentials needed to call yourself a minimalist and no official governing entity on whether you’re doing minimalism right. But you don’t have to call yourself a minimalist either. The way I see it, minimalism isn’t my identity or some goal to achieve; it’s a tool Amy and I use as part of the framework of doing more of what matters.
Why Minimalism Is An Effective Tool For Living An Intentional Life
In the end, minimalism is less about owning fewer items and more about actively making choices on what kind of things truly matter to you.
We exist in a society that creates false value on owning more stuff and having no time to use them much. The constant pursuit of bigger and better is an endless cycle. There will always be a nicer car to buy, a bigger boat, a larger home, and or a faster private jet. Did you know that there’s a website for billionaires to shop? Yeah. It never ends.
It may seem like an overwhelming challenge at first, but as you untangle the life you built around owning more things, you’ll find the stress disappearing and the world starting to slow down. Those choices you make will begin to build a muscle that will fundamentally change the way you live your life.
How to Get Started With Minimalism
Find one thing, remove it from your home.
There’s a lot of reading you can do and plenty of videos to watch on minimalism (such as on the BTT YouTube channel). You can research yourself into oblivion, but the best way to get started is to just find one thing you don’t need anymore and let it go. You’ll get to experience what it’s like to start creating space in your home and get over that initial hump of not knowing where to start. Starting small is the best way to get started on something that feels like a big change. Check out these minimalism tips for the beginner for more inspiration on getting started.
Stop the influx of new things.
The next immediate step is to stop the influx of new things that you don’t actually need. Whether that means logging out from Amazon or not going to the mall anymore, take steps to prevent yourself from purchasing new things that will continue to clutter your home. Create some guiding questions about what types of things add value to your life and which types of things don’t add value. Beware of the false first step—buying something for the aspirational version of yourself instead of taking a minimally viable action using what you have already.
Find a decluttering method to try.
The best way to get started is to find a decluttering method that works for you and simply get started on building that decision-making muscle! Here are 6 of the most popular decluttering methods.
It’s important to remember that major changes don’t tend to happen overnight. Bit by bit, you’ll start to see the space in your home open up around you. Surfaces will begin to clear and closets will lose their overstuffed status. You’ll eventually have more time and energy to do more of what matters. When the going gets tough, you can find inspiration in these decluttering tips to motivate you to keep going.
Want more support on your intentional living journey? The Member Community is a way to support the work I do while getting access to member-only courses on intentional living, a private community forum and a one-on-one welcome call with me. Check it out!
Benefits of Minimalism
Imagine you’re driving home from work and hear your phone ring. You pick up (on the speakerphone of course) and an acquaintance lets you know she’s in the neighborhood and asks if she can pick up the jacket she left at your place. She lives an hour away, so it would be great if she could get it right when you get home.
Are you panicking yet? Usually, it takes you a half hour to tidy up the house before company comes over, but now you have only five minutes. Maybe less.
But, what if a quick clean up only took you a couple of minutes or so? Just picking up a few things here and there? Or maybe there’s no clean up involved at all? It sounds a lot less stressful, doesn’t it? While it might sound far off, it’s entirely possible—and it’s possible thanks to a lifestyle philosophy called minimalism.
Having clutter around your home and in your life also contributes to stress. When you’ve cleared off surfaces in your home and simplified other areas in your life, you’ll feel a sense of peace and marvel at the difference.
Time is arguably our most valuable resource. Once it is spent, it is gone forever. We never get more than 24 hours in a day and we never know when our time will run out. With less stuff to worry about, less clutter to organize and maintain, we regain time in our days. This provides the opportunity to begin implementing daily habits that will guide your life in the direction you want.
It is time with our spouses, children, friends, and family members that we look back upon fondly. I’ve never heard of anyone regretting spending quality time with a family member before they passed away. Similarly, a eulogy never seems to mention how big of a house the person had, how many sports cars owned, or how rich they were. Mentioned most often are the times that were shared and the memories created together.
A unused item cluttering your home or your mind is a finite object. In a very practical yet philosophical way, the item can only be what it is. The space created by the item’s removal, on the other hand, is infinite. The possibilities of how the cleared space might be used are completely at your disposal. When you continue to create more space, you become more flexible with your time, energy, and productivity.
By removing the clutter, the resources taken by that object are returned to you and more.
The principles can be applied to nearly every facet of life in the physical, digital and other realms. Instead of thinking of minimalism as a lifestyle, consider it to be a decision filter that you use to make important decisions in your life. Those decisions start small and might not carry much weight in the beginning, but the value you gain from it certainly grows over time. With each decision, you increase your ability to shift your life in any way of your choosing.
While the benefits may not come overnight, if you stick with it, you’ll see the benefits beginning to multiply. Check out three benefits we saw at the beginning of our minimalism journey, the exponential benefits of minimalism, as well as the fun video above on 15 ways life is easier for minimalists.
Minimalism Philosophy IRL (in real life)
Minimalism can be applied to many areas of life. Below are some real-life examples.
Walking into an uncluttered, peaceful home environment is an amazing feeling. A space where surfaces are clear for use, seating areas empty for relaxing, and no visual to-do lists competing for your attention the minute you walk into the door. Whether the space in your home is your living room, bedroom, closet, refrigerator or garage—you can benefit from applying minimalism in the area. Physical clutter in and around the home is the most common focus of minimalism. Here are some fun ideas on ways to reduce household clutter.
Having your schedule jam-packed with meetings, errands, and activities can result in overwhelm, anxiety and exhaustion. By creating more space in your day and letting go of the nonessentials, you’ll have more time in your day to focus on what truly matters. Spending time with family, loved ones and friends. Reading a book while drinking a cup of tea. Heading to bed earlier and getting a good night’s rest. Working on a project you’re excited about. The opportunities open up when you have more space and time in your schedule.
The way you manage your money can also benefit from minimalism. When you spend more intentionally and buy fewer things, you have more money to use towards what matters most to you. Whether it’s fun experiences with family and friends, a new project, travelling the world or taking a leap into a new career or entrepreneurship— minimalism will help you better prioritize where your money is going. You may find this video on minimalist money management tips to be helpful.
When it comes to relationships, quality over quantity matters. Minimalism can be particularly beneficial in this area. Relationships with people who are chronically negative, unsupportive or abusive aren’t healthy for us in the long run. They use up our energy and resources that frankly, are better directed elsewhere. Toxic relationships distract us, put us down, and often prevent us from reaching our potential. If you have people who aren’t supportive, positive influences in your life, it’s in your best interest to either remove or reduce the time spent with them. It is often said that we become the average of the five closest people around us, and I find it to be true.
With everything becoming more digital and mobile these days, the digital realm can be a huge mess if we aren’t intentional. These alarming statistics show just how addictive our devices are. From email, apps, files, photos, to multiple devices, there is an overload of digital information coming at us. In order to maintain our sanity, it’s best to declutter and maintain our digital environment.
Free 7-Day Digital Detox
Create some much needed space in your digital life with this free 7-day email video series from Break the Twitch.
Ever become so exhausted that all you can do is scroll on your phone? We only have so much willpower and self-discipline each day. This mental energy is the decision-making muscle. Read more about decision fatigue and why minimalism is important to better managing your energy for loved ones, yourself, and your creative flow.
There’s also emotional energy. Let go of the old stories you’re telling yourself. Let go of the anger, resentment, and grudges—even if you’ve been wronged in the past. All of that is weight you’re carrying around at your own detriment. You’ve paid enough already; there’s no need to keep on suffering in the present.
Embracing minimalism in all aspects of life has helped us in more intentional use of energy. From the decisions we make to not engaging in past stories that don’t serve us in a positive way.
Challenges of Minimalism
Things often get worse before they get better.
Whether it’s the contents of a closet exploding all over the room or random things everywhere, things often get messier and more difficult before it gets easier. There will likely be challenging moments during your decluttering process. Work on the easy stuff first and then work up to the harder stuff. Know that it gets easier as you build your decision-making muscles and practice letting go of items.
Once you’ve decluttered, it can be difficult to know what to do with your decluttered things. Instead of automatically donating, consider selling, giving to friends or neighbors or other options in this intentional decluttering guide.
People in your life may not understand.
People who were in your life before minimalism may not understand. They may have questions or pass judgment on the changes you’re making. Their reaction may not be helpful, but remember, mainstream society is centered on earning more income to accumulate more. Explain to them what you’re doing, that you understand if it doesn’t resonate with them, but it’s what you need right now. Be living proof of what’s possible and lead by example. It may take time, but once people start seeing how much better you feel, look and live—they’ll begin to come around and ask questions.
There’s regular maintenance involved.
As much as I’d like to say that once you’ve applied minimalism to your life, you’re done—that’s not the case. We’re all evolving beings, and as our needs and lives change, so does everything else. Just like the weeds in your yard, embracing minimalism in your life requires regular maintenance. Minimalism is not a once and done thing, although it does get easier as you go along.
Eventually you realize minimalism is not the magic answer.
While there are definite benefits of minimalism that we’ve (and many others) have experienced, at some point you will reach a plateau on the benefits. At some point, you’ll realize that minimalism isn’t the answer to living a well-lived and intentional life. Breaking the “twitch” is only the start.
Minimalism helps you to create the space—physically, mentally, emotionally, and with your resources and time—but it’s not the end goal. What comes next is building the habits to form the foundation you need in order to do more of what matters to you. And with the space cleared and foundation of habits built, to create things, find your creative flow and make a positive impact in the world.
More Inspiration on Minimalism
While many resources can be found online or at your local library, there is a special place in my heart for books. Perhaps that’s the case for you as well and I’ve listed my favorite books on minimalism if you’re interested in exploring more.
There are also many different voices and ways to approach minimalism. Here are some other recommended websites and blogs on the topic.
Becoming Minimalist with Joshua Becker
Be More With Less with Courtney Carver
Slow Your Home with Brooke McAlary
The Minimalists with Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
Miss Minimalist with Francine Jay
Have any more questions on minimalism? Let me know at [email protected]