How my life changed when I became a minimalist
I get a lot of questions around minimalism, so I decided to write my thoughts on being a minimalist and why it’s made an extraordinary impact on my life.
For me, minimalism is about living with what I need and appreciate, and making a conscious effort to remove all the extra clutter out of my life. It’s about living more presently and simply, and not relying on material things as a source of happiness. It’s also about using my purchasing power in a way that aligns with my beliefs and passions, for example, by purchasing from brands that do the right thing for our environment and communities.
There are different schools of thought around minimalism and everyone approaches it differently, but here is my perspective on how to live a simpler and more fulfilled life.
I reflect more and take the time to think about things. I deleted my Facebook account because scrolling through content from people that I hardly know isn’t fulfilling. I unsubscribed from the majority of email newsletters trying to sell me things I don’t need — unless they’re from brands that I value, trust and cherish. That’s only a handful of them.
I also realised that travelling makes me happier than buying anything ever could. Fact: I wrote most of this blog on a flight to Copenhagen.
The result? There are so many examples in this category, but minimalism has taught me to be happier with less.
Embracing minimalism has taught me to invest in key wardrobe pieces that will stand the test of time and keep my clothing simple but smart.
I started off by donating or selling all of the clothes that didn’t feel just right or I didn’t wear often, and that I knew would go to a better home. I focused on what I wore most of the time, what I felt great in, what was versatile. When shopping, I try my best to buy things that are easy to care for, that are durable, that I can wear in a myriad of environments. If there is something that I can wear to work, then out in the evening and also on weekends, I call it a ‘sweet spot’ item. This is something that I can justify spending a little more on as the cost-per-wear on it is worth the investment.
What’s the point of buying something high-maintenance that will only frustrate you?
Most people who are close to me know that I dress very simply and I’m usually always in black, white and neutrals — this colour palette ensures simplicity but combinability. Instead of having a range of coloured t-shirts, for example, I now own a really good quality black t-shirt and white t-shirt that go with everything.
If I want to buy something that I don’t need, I think about it and research the item. If I have something similar, I really need to be able to justify to myself why I want it, why this is different, and whether it’s just a phase or something I will really have for years to come. I always read reviews and really make sure I’m 100% comfortable in my decision to purchase the item. Impulse-shopping is now a thing of the past.
Through minimalism, I also discovered a range of brands that are transparent about their pricing and where their items are sourced from. For example, Everlane will openly share the pricing structure of each item (material, labour, shipping, etc.), what factory it’s made in and what the conditions are like. They also actively donate profits back to great causes.
It was also important for me to use everything that lives in my closet. My rule is: if it isn’t worth altering an item to make it fit just right, or if it isn’t something I’m going to reach for, it’s not worth keeping.
The result? All of my clothes match due to the neutral palette I follow and there’s plenty of space in my closet for storage. I can see everything I own, meaning I won’t accidentally buy a double-up. Everything gets plenty of wear. It’s also really great for travelling, as I pack a lot lighter than I used to before. Plus, everything I have sold or donated has gone to a better home where it’s being used and treasured.
I take a similar approach to my home that I do to my closet and keep things very simple. Personally, I like to keep my home very neutral and don’t have anything too bright or distracting. I like to see my apartment as a bit of a rescue from the rest of the fast-paced world… a calm place where I can relax and unwind.
I have some plants for added greenery, but I tend to stay away from nicnacs that serve only decorative purposes and get in the way. I also got rid of a bunch of packaging from items that I had purchased over the years that served no real purpose within my home. I stopped buying souvenirs, especially those that are made out of plastic and started taking photos to create travel memories instead.
I estimate I could pretty much pack up my life within two hours because I only have what I really need. It’s tempting to buy the latest trend, wine glasses (guilty habit!) or decorations, but if you’re not going to use them regularly and if they don’t serve a function, ask yourself: why do you want them in the first place? If you really want to make a purchase, what you will be replacing instead of just adding to the clutter?
A good way to minimise your home is to find versatile pieces — for example, I use a small metal side table as a coffee table in my living room, and then take it out into my balcony when I’m enjoying some afternoon sunshine. I don’t need two separate pieces of furniture that essentially do the same thing only a few meters apart.
Another tip is to keep your counters as clear as possible and hide away your items in cupboards or other storage — this makes a big difference visually and will make your living spaces look cleaner and brighter.
The result? A cleaner, less cluttered and simpler home. My apartment is already small, so getting rid of the clutter makes it seem a lot bigger as an added bonus.
Working in the digital industry has taught me almost everything can live in the cloud. Scan everything that can be stored online and get rid of all the paperwork that is cluttering up your desk — cue, a sigh of relief.
Keep things simple. How often do you use the 10 pens on your desk, the stapler, the sticky tape holder, the hole puncher? For me, hardly ever, which means I don’t even really need a desk in the first place (not that it exactly fits in my small apartment either). I use my dining table as a double-up workspace and store anything I need in a cabinet instead.
If you’re lucky enough to have a desk or study nook, keeping it clean and simple makes for fewer distractions when working. This makes a big difference.
The result? I got rid of my desk space and keep everything organised online. I never lost an important document again, I’m saving paper and I have a multipurpose space. I also found myself grabbing my laptop and working from a local café or our communal garden downstairs as a way to get out of the office and get a new source of inspiration.
Being a minimalist has made a massive impact on my finances. Although I focus on purchasing things that are high-quality and sometimes a bit pricier if you look at it in longer-term, it pays off as the shelf-life of your items is a lot longer. You won’t have to spend money on replacing items that are meant to last well into the future.
Some little habits I changed are: carrying around a reusable water bottle and coffee cup, having snacks in my bag so I don’t have to purchase food when I’m out, and embracing free activities — roaming around the city, going to art exhibitions, going for a hike, to the beach, or having picnics. There are so many things that don’t cost anything (or very little) in my city, and in most cities, that are equally as enjoyable.
The result? I managed to take better control of my finances and identified extra saving opportunities. I also discovered new activities to undertake in my spare time that I enjoy much more, and spend a lot more time out in nature.
In hindsight, here are a few things that I would have done differently:
– You don’t have to rush into minimalism, but once you start it’s a bit addictive. Take it slow and do one section of your house or life at a time. There’s no point in getting rid of things you use because you’re on a ‘minimalism roll’ and then having to buy them again later.
– Almost everything can be donated to someone. Don’t be tempted to throw things away because it’s the easy option. Instead, find a way to repurpose, recycle or regift your unwanted things.
– Initially, I thought it was just about having fewer things, but it’s really a lifestyle. Minimalism now affects every aspect of my life and decisions and before buying something — no matter how big or small — I always ask myself: do I need this? Do I appreciate this? Will it bring me joy? Do I have something similar already? Will I use it, and when?
– If you’re buying cosmetics or skincare, make sure to ask for a sample before committing to a full-sized product that you’re unsure of. Also, there’s no difference between men’s and women’s products for the most part apart from the smell, so see if you can share things with your partner or housemates, e.g. shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, moisturiser, etc.
– If I buy an item of clothing and it doesn’t fit perfectly, I always add the approximate cost of an alteration to the final price in my head. If I wouldn’t pay that amount for the item, I don’t make the purchase.