Reduce, reuse, recycle: the 3Rs of sustainability. We often focus on reusing and recycling items, but the first one on the list is actually 'reducing'. Having fewer belongings ultimately means less waste, so we would like to introduce you to minimalism and give you some tips to start de-cluttering.
All around us we see advertisements about how all sorts of goods make our lives better. But is that really the case? Does having lots of things actually make us happier? According to minimalism, the answer is simple: 'no'. Having many belongings can in reality be a burden, so say goodbye to your possessions and start minimising.
What is minimalism?
According to The Minimalists, minimalism is "a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”.
This doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with owning things. If something is important to you, then that's fantastic! Minimalism allows you to make more conscious choices about which items are important and valuable to you.
This may sound a bit vague, but the way I see it is that minimalism means you only own things that you need or that make you genuinely happy.
You can apply minimalism not only to physical objects, but also to other aspects of your life. For example, apply the minimalist idea to your calendar and to the people in your life. Ask yourself if you really want to do something and if it gives you energy or just takes it away. Only do things that positively contribute to your life.
Benefits of minimalism
The advantages of a minimalist lifestyle are different for everyone, but reducing your possessions to a minimum often makes you feel more free, more grateful for what you do have, and saves time and money.
For me, one of the main benefits of a minimalist life is that it helps me find peace of mind. Do you know that feeling when you are working or studying at home, you first want to tidy up your desk or the room? A house full of clutter gives many people a restless feeling. Minimalism and a tidy home reduce stress and help you achieve inner peace.
What is the biggest advantage of minimalism for you? Here are a few reasons that are important to me.
- Less cleaning and tidying; most people hate it and so do I. The fewer belongings you have, the less time you spend tidying up and the more time you have left for more agreeable things in life.
- Never look for your stuff again; do you also always lose everything? Fewer goods = less chance of losing something.
- You need less space; for someone who lives in Amsterdam, this sounds like music to my ears. I do not have an attic, a shed or a pantry, but I don't need them. Minimalism allows you to live in a smaller place and spend your money on other things.
- You save more money; you don't just spend less on your home, but as a minimalist you spend less in general. This money can be used for experiences or for buying higher quality products that actually make you happy and last longer.
- It gives a feeling of freedom and independence; this may be a bit more difficult to explain, but not 'having to' buy anything makes me feel more free than ever.
And last but not least in a zero-waste blog: minimalism is better for the environment. According to Babette Porcelijn's 'The hidden impact', goods have the biggest impact on our environment. They have to be produced, they use raw materials, then they have to be transported and they often end up on the rubbish heap. Fewer belongings = a smaller ecological footprint.
Tips for minimalism for beginners
It does sound nice: a simpler life, but where do you start? De-cluttering is easier than you think. Here are a few tips to start minimising your home:
- Sort through all your belongings and ask yourself if it still makes you happy. Or as the Japanese tidying guru, Marie Kondo, always says: 'Does it spark joy'? If not, maybe it is time to say goodbye.
- If you find it hard to determine whether something makes you happy, it can also be good to ask yourself whether you would buy it again. If not, chances are that it doesn't make you happy anymore.
- Do not go through all your possessions at once, but divide your stuff into categories. Books, clothes, kitchen utensils - that way it's also easier to see how much of something you have. Do you really need ten sports outfits or thirty mugs?
- Start with things that are broken or clothes that no longer fit you. Do you plan on fixing something? If it has been lying around damaged for years, maybe it is time to say goodbye too.
- Do you also have a box full of chargers and cables and don't even know what they are for anymore? If you buy something new, label it so you always know what it's for. No longer have your old camera? Then you don't need the charger anymore either! The same goes for spare buttons for clothes or screws and keys you get with furniture.
- Sort out your laptop as well, you probably collected a lot of 'stuff' there by now. Photos, programmes, accounts, e-mails… Tidying up your laptop will also help you feel more relaxed.
- A very easy one: put a 'no junk mail' sticker (NEE/NEE) on your mailbox. This immediately reduces waste, but it also ensures that you are not tempted by seducing offers.
- The easiest way to have fewer belongings is to buy fewer new items. If you want to buy something, think about it for a few days. This prevents impulse buying and after a few days, you are usually not so enthusiastic anymore.
Minimalism for the advanced
Getting rid of items with emotional value
I myself find it the hardest to get rid of things from the past. CDs, DVDs and books that you have fond memories of and want to keep for that reason, even though you know you will never use them again (because do you still even have a CD player!?). But how often do you really look at them? They are probably in a box stocked in the closet or the attic somewhere. Getting rid of memento's does not mean saying goodbye to the memories. The memories are not in the items themselves, but will always be present in your mind.
Another issue is to get rid of things that someone gave you as a present. It feels silly and disrespectful to throw away something someone has put an effort into, but if it doesn't make you happy, this should not be a reason to keep it around. Do you have a birthday coming up? Ask your friends and family for something you really want to have or ask for an experience. This way, you avoid getting gifts that you don't really wish for.
Learn to say ‘no’
Setting boundaries is not easy, especially if you are offered something (for free). Try to say 'no' more often, you can decide what is and what is not allowed into your house and declining something politely does not mean that you are ungrateful. If necessary, explain to people that you want to live a more minimalist life and that it is nice that they thought of you, but that you do not need anything at the moment. Then they will understand where you are coming from.
Rent or borrow items
Rent or borrow things and clothes. Often, there is someone around that you can borrow something from. Especially if it is things you only use once or twice. It saves you a lot of money and space if you do not buy everything yourself. The same goes for clothes, how often do you wear certain (party) outfits? I rented a dress for a wedding last year and never got so many compliments on my outfit. It is definitely worth a try! An easy start when it comes to borrowing things is the library: you usually only read a book once and if you want to read it again you can borrow it as many times as you want.
One more thing…
Minimalism is meant to make your life more fun and easier. So don't see minimalism as a restriction but as a challenge. An opportunity to get to know yourself and to find out what you find important in life. Minimalism is a lifestyle and lifestyle changes take time. Enjoy the process and the obstacles you may encounter along the way!