Today I’d like to share my experience with leading a minimalist life and how adopting this philosophy can help you to reduce stress and become a happier person.
Let’s seal the deal from the very beginning: I’m not going to try to talk you into wearing only blue jeans with black turtlenecks, as Steve Jobs did. Or into inhabiting a big white room, furnished with nothing else but a lightbulb and a mattress. No.
All I want to do is show you how you can substantially reduce stress and household tasks by reducing the number of your possessions; how you can free space and a great lot of time for yourself.
You may not realize it, but the more objects you surround yourself with, the more you think about them, and the more time you spend dealing with them. At the back of your mind – always the unpleasant thought that there are so many cupboards and corners at your home that need tidying up.
If at the same time you’re a freelancer, all this is undoubtedly accompanied by the lingering thoughts of unfinished projects, approaching deadlines and bills. You get too anxious to feel happy with your work.
You wouldn’t feel that anxious at all if work was the only overflowing part of your life. So let me give you some proven and easy tips on how to reduce stress in any other aspect.
A Girl’s Wardrobe
I know, I know! I’ve been there, done that. There used to be a time in my life when, in order to consider myself pretty, fashionable and prosperous, I felt like I needed to possess a whole bunch of clothes of all types, colors and styles; pairs and pairs of shoes to go with every possible combination; not to mention all those bras, scarves, bags, necklaces, earrings, etc.
Every time I had to go out with people, I used to spend an absurd amount of time searching for every element of the suitable outfits and then hesitating between various options.
Furthermore, when you have so many clothes cramped in your wardrobe (and all around the place actually), you can’t take proper care of them. They are all wrinkled, they start smelling funny from not being used often enough, you lose track of what is clean and what should go in the washing machine. All this makes you extra frustrated because when you need a certain piece of clothing, you have to spend the time to get it into the right shape.
For me, this madness lasted for years. And then I suddenly realized how much stress my wardrobe brought into my life. Day after day!
In order to reduce stress in my life, I got rid of every single rag, shoe or piece of jewelry that I hadn’t worn for the last twelve months.
And here I am now, a whole new person. You can ask me out for a business meeting or a night clubbing anytime you like! I can accept with no stress, because I know I’ll be quick in my choice of outfit, I know I’ll find my clothes clean, tidy and neat in the well-organized wardrobe.
And guess what, this change didn’t ruin my sense of prettiness a bit! On the contrary, now I feel more stylish than ever, just because I have а measured style now.
I stick to a limited color palette that suits my own personality and looks, so almost every skirt I own goes perfectly with almost every shirt I own, which goes perfectly with almost every pair of pants, too. Defining a certain color palette spares you from the necessity to buy shoes, handbags, and jewelry in all possible colors.
I have to pay special attention to my wardrobe only twice a year, because of the season switch. I bring the warmer or lighter clothes to the front, and I store the others to the back, once again getting rid of every garment that I’ve noticed I haven’t worn for the whole season.
A Guy’s Tool Shack
Even if you are not a guy, or even if you don’t own a whole house and a separate shack, there must be a place (or many places) in your home where you store tools and leftovers of different materials. You might want to consider the possibility of minimizing their amount, too.
Here’s what happens: you start crafting a Halloween costume, you buy fabrics and beads, then you are done with this particular project, but you still keep 9 patches of silk and 15 beads in a box; a month later you decide to build a small patio table and after you are finished, you just store the remaining planks and nails somewhere.
Next years, though, you’ll most probably need completely different materials for your new costumes or pieces of furniture. So the stored leftovers keep piling on and on. Do you know where they pile on? They pile on your sense of burden, of living in a squeezed and crowded place.
Sure, there is a slight chance that all of those 9 patches of silk will come in handy someday. You’ll eventually feel pleased with finding a use for them.
But when you come to think about it, is this brief moment of satisfaction a reason enough to pack your mind and living space with planks and fabric leftovers? Will buying them for the second time, IF EVER needed, considerably affect your budget?
Do you often throw out some of your kid’s stuff? You don’t? Maybe you feel sentimental because you remember your own childhood when you loved and treasured every toy you owned. Is it the same for your child, though?
Kids nowadays possess a much wider variety of games and toys than we did. They can’t possibly feel attached to every object they own. Yes, they have their favorite dolls, superhero figurines or stuffed animals, but many things catch their attention for five minutes and then get forgotten forever.
I strongly advise that once a month, when thoroughly tidying you kid’s room, you don’t throw everything back in the toy box, but say ‘goodbye’ to those items that your child never plays with. This would reduce stress not only in your but also in your kid’s life.
The Home Library
I agree that the amount of books we read is indicative of our intelligence and good culture, but I don’t believe the same goes for the number of books we keep.
Maintaining an unnecessarily huge library means granting The King of Dust more and more room in your home.
If you don’t feel like you’re going to open certain editions ever again, let them go. Donate them, give them to people who might appreciate them, or whatever – just don’t think that keeping them will make your library look more impressive. It’s like thinking that one of those ridiculous bookshelf wallpapers look impressive.
And one last thing, too: every now and then take a couple of hours, if necessary, to arrange meeting everyone you’ve borrowed books from. Not owning people different stuff is also something that can reduce stress on a subconscious level.
Culinary may be your hobby, your own way of relaxing. If you are not that into cooking, though, you can easily reduce the amount of time you spend daily thinking about tonight’s meal.
You can simply sit down and invent a healthy and diverse two-week or three-week menu, which can be repeated over and over again. This will automate your cooking life, and you’ll always know exactly what you need when you shop for the week.
When it comes to cosmetics and makeup, my minimalist rules are simple:
1. Maintain a decent minimum of what I really use;
2. Throw out everything that I don’t use anymore or has expired (same goes with medicines!);
3. Stick to certain products and brands I know I like. This way I’m not in constant search of new soaps, shampoos, toothpaste. If I want to rotate, I buy whole packs of those three different kinds of shampoo I know I like. Done: I’ve solved my shampoo problem for a year ahead.
More Storage Space?
I’ve noticed that what most people proudly do to cope with the mess is plan their furnishing with the thought of having more space in the wardrobe, more cupboards in the kitchen, more drawers under the beds, more storage boxes… The keyword is ‘more’! According to minimalism, it should be ‘less’.
Logically, if you have more storage space, it becomes a trigger for you to store things. You can always shove another electric appliance manual in the drawer under the bed. And you lose half an hour every time you need a particular document from the big pile of papers.
If you didn’t have that storage space at your disposal, you’d only lose half a minute, contemplating if you’ll ever need this document. Can you read it online, if you really need to? Yes? Off to the dustbin, then!
Do I have a chair next to my bed where I can pile clothes on? Yes! Then I’ll pile them on, of course, and I’ll feel frustrated every time I look at them, every time I rummage through them, instead of just putting every garment at its place the moment I take it off.
Having fewer cupboards, chests of drawers and storage boxes makes your place look more spacious. And that’s what people need to feel calm and free – space. Cramped little rooms might seem somewhat cosy and cute at first sight, but actually living in them makes us feel burdened and chained.
A Home or a Guesthouse?
I have also noticed that many of us plan their living space with the prospect of having guests sometimes. Would there be enough chairs, glasses, and cups? Is the table big enough for twelve people? Where would they sleep?
But are you really having people at your place that often? If your home is not too big, you might want to consider that it’s more important how comfortable you feel to live there every day, rather than how comfortable occasional guests would find it.
We, modern people, don’t only inhabit our physical space. Most of the time we live on the Internet, also through the TV and the radio. Actually, most distractions that prevent us from staying healthily focused come from our digital world. That’s why we need to pay special attention when applying minimalism there.
There’s a lot you can do to reduce stress through digital minimalism. Define certain time(s) of the day when you check the received messages and e-mails. If you keep checking them all the time, your work and private life will suffer.
Take some time monthly to unsubscribe from things you don’t really care about and delete useless files from your computer. Keep your TV and radio off, unless it’s time for a show or the news you are really interested in.
You can apply minimalism to every part of your life by just putting things to the time test. Have you used this for the last couple of months? If not, then maybe you don’t actually need it.
Trust me, occasional frustration over things that you suddenly need, but you’ve already let go, will be nothing, compared to the freedom of not having so many distractions in your life.
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