My last post Why I became a minimalist garnered lots of questions from the readers. Most of them are curious to know how they should start their minimalism journey. Many of them are eager to become minimalists but do not know how to start. Therefore, I decided to write this follow-up post to clear their doubts. In this post, I talk about how you can start minimalism and do it on a daily basis.
Before I begin, I want to talk about a couple of things.
Firstly, Minimalism cannot be achieved overnight. If you try to do it fast, you will exhaust yourself and feel overwhelmed. Minimalism is almost like the yoga practice that you need to do daily. Over a period of time, you will gradually see the results.
Secondly, minimalism is not for everyone. Do not force yourself to become a minimalist. Some people actually function better in messy environments. The great film director Satyajit Ray always kept his working space cluttered. He used to say that he was able to think better around the mess. Many creative geniuses are said to be clumsy and unorganized. So if you are not an organizing Nazi then do not worry, you are in August company. There are also some people who find happiness in consumer goods, if it ‘sparks joy’ then keep it.
However, if you truly want to de-clutter and become a minimalist then here are the steps to begin.
Minimalism starts with mindful purchases. If you are an impulsive buyer (like my husband) then you need to control yourself. Think numerous times before buying anything. Ask yourselves questions like, do I really need this? how will this add value to my life? can I do without this? All these questions will keep you away from impulsive buying habits. There is no point buying stuff and then throwing them away. This is just a wastage of resources. Once you stop buying unwanted and unnecessary things, you win half the battle.
The second important step is mindful de-cluttering. Do not randomly throw away things to become a minimalist. Be mindful while throwing. Apart from being a minimalist, I also believe in a zero-waste lifestyle. We should always try to be mindful before throwing away anything. If this may sound contradictory then read till the end of this post. You can be both a minimalist and a zero wastage person at the same time. Follow the steps to do that.
Reuse or Recycle: When you start de-cluttering, take out each item and see if you can reuse or recycle them. This would save things from landing up at the landfills and causing pollution. I try to reuse and recycle as much as possible. I have converted old drawers into bookcases, old sarees have been turned into skirts, curtains, cushion covers, and table runners. Dupattas were converted to the table cloth. Denim shorts were made into a tote bag. I take inspiration from Pinterest and try to reuse and recycle as much as possible. I can write a separate post on ‘how to recycle’.
Gift: Not everything can be recycled, is the truth. Especially when it comes to emotional or new items we do not want to experiment with them. I recently read a book on Swedish Death Cleaning and in that book, it was mentioned that we should gift away things that we are no longer likely to use. In India, we do re-gift items, most of us are guilty of re-gifting ugly wedding gifts, or duplicate items received during our kid’s birthday parties. However, the difference is that in Sweden, they are honest and take the consent of the giftee. I have started doing that. If there is something that I am not going to use, I try to pass it to my loved ones but I tell them that this is not new and whether they will be willing to accept it. If they say yes, then I give it to them. Recently I gave some dresses to my beautiful nieces. I had bought those dresses during an online sale but they never fitted me. I asked if they would like to accept them. My nieces loved them. I am not a religious person but every year I receive photos or idols of Goddesses as Diwali gifts. My next-door aunty is very religious, so I asked her if she would like to take those photos and idols. She also loved them.
DONATE, DONATE, DONATE: We are going through the worst pandemic and many people are suffering. “Your trash is someone’s treasure” So donate as much as possible. However, just don’t give away rubbish in the name of donation. I give away clothes but always make sure to wash and iron them before giving them away. I volunteer with a local Christian missionary who runs an orphanage, old age home, and hospital for poor HIV patients. Most of my donation goes to them. I also give away to my staff. Our housing society also organizes donation drives during Christmas. I would encourage all of you to donate generously.
Sell: Many people sell their stuff on eBay, Olx, etc. Some even organize a garage sale. My mom used to buy utensils in exchange for old clothes. You can do them. I personally have never done any of that. However, I have exchanged old refrigerators, TV, washing machine, mobile phones while buying a new one. I also sell old newspapers and plastic containers to Kabbadiwala.
Throw away: The ones who don’t fit into any of the above brackets, However, I try to segregate my waste. The e-waste should be disposed of carefully.
Things to De-clutter First
Most of my readers are confused about where to begin with. My suggestion is, to begin with the items in your house that you are least attached to. My personal list was:
Old Newspapers: Earlier, I used to sell newspapers once in three months. Unnecessarily, a huge shelf used to stay occupied with old newspapers and magazines. My idea was that newspapers are useful items for covering, wrapping, cleaning things so let me have a reasonable stock. Now I sell newspapers every 15 days. Trust me that is enough.
Plastic bags and containers: Most Indian kitchens are overflowing with plastic bags and containers. We don’t need them. Start using cloth bags for going to the market. Remove plastic dabbas and let your kitchen breathe.
Expired medicines: I know many people have a stock of expired medicine even without knowing it.
Broken Toys: I once visited a friend’s house and saw that she has kept every single toy of her child. Even if the toys were broken. There were multiple happy meal toys, even duplicates. I do not want to judge her but I would have loved to donate them to some street kid who cannot afford toys instead of hoarding them in my house.
Old Chargers: We often keep old chargers even though the mobile is no more
Missing socks: Somewhere in the corner of your drawer lies a solitary sock. Dispose it.
Ugly souvenirs: We used to buy souvenirs wherever we went. However, now I think the photographs are enough and we do not need souvenirs to remind us of a trip.
Expired food items: In our refrigerator we often keep food and then forget.
Old Fairy Lights: Every Diwali we buy fairy lights and then store them somewhere, by next diwali the lights no more work but they stay occupying space.
The list is endless. Once you get rid of the less personal items, you should move to the more personal items like clothes and books. There are many ways to start minimalism. Some prefer the Marie Kondo way of one item at a time. However, I no longer follow the Kon Marie method because the concept of “sparking joy” is a bit confusing for me. I have my own way where I do daily cleaning of one area or corner of the house. Initially, it used to take me hours to clean only one section but then I started the ’15 minute rule’. Clean whatever you can in 15 minutes and then move to some other area or stop totally. The daily de-cluttering of one item or the 365 days rule is also a good method for beginners. Just remove one item daily and at the end of the year, you are 365 items lighter. Choose whichever suits you. I would love to help you out. Let me know about your journey. Love you all. Take care and stay safe.