10 Minimalist Habits No One Talks Enough About

In a noisy, complex world, minimalism is an appealing choice.  Even if you don't want to stick with shades of white, beige, and gray in your decorating (which isn't necessary for a minimalist home, but many people think it is), you may wish for more order and calm in your life.  Even if you don't want to wear all black (which isn't necessary to a minimalist wardrobe, but many people think it is), you may crave mindfulness and focus.

Minimalism goes beyond a design aesthetic or decluttering.  It's a mindset that affects all areas of life.

But while you can find many articles and social media posts featuring stark minimalist homes (or the backlash against so much emptiness, maximalism) and 10-piece minimalist wardrobes, you don't see quite as much written about the following habits that can create a framework for more meaning, balance, and fulfillment every day.

minimalist living

The 10 habits

1.  Screen sabbaticals

Unplug technology and take a break from screens to improve sleep, boost creativity, and strengthen personal relationships.  The perfect time for this is one hour before bedtime and at least one day on the weekend.

2.  Time blocking

Divide your days into periods for work, family time, self-care, and hobbies.  By not allowing work to bleed into your time for everything else, your relationships, well-being, skills, and imagination will improve.  This also increases energy and resourcefulness when work emergencies or other crises arise.

3.  Mindful consumption

When you're more thoughtful about purchases, instead of letting your desires be swayed by ads, sales, neighbors, influencers, or the impulse of the moment, you exercise control over who gets your money and how much stuff enters your home.  You can choose quality, reduce waste, and look for more sustainable options.  Ask yourself:

  • Do I really need this item?
  • Can I use something I already have instead?
  • How was this item produced, and how far has it traveled to get to me?

Asking these questions will lead to purchasing less, but better

4.  One in, one out

You've probably heard this rule for maintaining a minimalist home.  Unfortunately, in our consumerist culture it's easy to misuse the idea.

When I was a binge shopper, I used the "one in, one out" rule.  As far as I was concerned, it meant that I could buy something new if I was tired of what I already had.  That didn't just include old, stretched-out tee shirts or a set of beginning-to-fray towels.  It also included new living room furniture because I wanted to change my style, or a new pair of shoes in place of the old towels I gave to the animal shelter.  Maybe I wasn't a hoarder, but I was still caught in over-consumption.

"One in, one out" works better when you set a boundary for how much you own (say a certain number of hangers in your closet).  Then when you see an item you want to buy, you have to choose something from that same category to donate, sell, recycle, or trash.  If you've reached the boundary you set, and your items are in good condition, why do you need something new?  Can't you use what you already have?

Use "one in, one out" for smarter, more thoughtful purchasing, with much less waste.

5.  Regular decluttering.

Decluttering is not a once-and-done activity.  Plan fifteen minutes each week to remove items that need to be replaced (see #4) or that were freebies or mistakes.  The goal is to get this session down to five minutes a week or less, meaning that you're letting less and less clutter into your home in the first place.  Like skipping desserts for a week or two when you want to lose a couple of pounds, regular decluttering keeps your home lean.

6.  Journaling

Writing by hand helps you slow down to process and reflect on ideas and emotions.  It also creates a cache of mindfulness and inspiration you can revisit whenever you like.

Journaling doesn't have to be an onerous task.  Here are some easy possibilities:

  • Write one sentence describing events, people, or thoughts of the day.
  • Make a short list (3-5 items) of things, people, or circumstances you're grateful for.
  • Write about one thing you're struggling with, and one tiny step you can take to improve the situation.

7.  Simple eating 

Choose foods that are minimally processed, take minimal preparation, and haven't travelled half-way around the world to reach your table.  Get away from your desk, put away your phone, and pay attention to what you're putting into your body, your surroundings, and who you're with.

These practices can improve health, save money, help the environment, and provide small islands of peace and mindfulness during your day.

8.  Capsule wardrobe

2019 surveys showed that the average number of items in consumer's closets had been reduced compared to previous findings – to 136 pieces!  I guess Marie Kondo had a tiny effect on people's wardrobes. 😉  But a 2022 report showed that we should only be buying five new garments a year if we want to limit global warming.  (The fashion and textile industries are notorious for pollution and energy consumption.)

This doesn't mean you need a wardrobe consisting of one dress, a pair of jeans, and a couple of tee shirts.  But it probably means we need to reconsider how often we shop, how much we buy, and whether we truly need something new for every occasion.

In addition to reducing the number of garments we purchase, there are other ways to create a more sustainable, easy-care wardrobe that reduces daily decision fatigue and lets us confidently wear our favorite pieces:

  • Buy second-hand instead of new.
  • Re-wear clothing more often before washing.
  • Wash garments in cold water and hang to dry.
  • Choose classic and/or retro styles instead of trying to keep up with ever-changing fashions.

9.  Limiting social media

Social media is a venue for comparison, envy, and the fear of missing out.  Many of us have experienced how "checking for a few minutes" turns into an hour or more wasted on these addictive platforms.

Setting healthy limits for when and how you check social media provides more time to nourish your face-to-face community and get active with creative pursuits, while reducing the pressure to compete.

10.  Abundance mindset

Many of us live with a scarcity mindset.  We fear not having enough for our happiness, and have thoughts like "There's not enough to go around" and "I never get my fair share."  A scarcity mindset leads to anxiety, selfishness, and competitiveness.  It creates a society of greed, hoarding, and conflict.

An abundance mindset recognizes that success isn't a zero-sum game, and one person's gain doesn't have to mean another's loss.  This attitude recognizes the many benefits we already possess, which creates a sense of well-being and gratitude.  It fosters generosity, creativity, and personal growth, and can lead to a society that exhibits collaboration, resilience, and shared progress.

Which mindset will make you happier and more hopeful?  Which world would you rather live in?  Gratitude and minimalism can help us get there.

From the inside out

Decluttering your physical surroundings is just the beginning of a lifestyle that lets you reevaluate your priorities and focus on what matters to you.  True minimalism changes you from the inside out, and affects your schedule, your budget, and even your beliefs and purposes.  Implement these habits one at a time, and you'll improve your life satisfaction every day.


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