Minimalism for Beginners & FREE 14 Day Challenge PDF
As a Christian, I can reference many things in the bible which talk about living in this alternate manner, and not relying on the things in our world - 1 John 2:15 "Do not love the world, or the things in the world." While this verse is addressing societal desires/morals and the world separated from spirituality, I also view this verse in the way of material possessions. We should love the relationships we form with others, our experiences and ability to give love and kindness to others - we shouldn't base our happiness on material items: clothes, stationery, phones, shoes and everything you can see around you right now. By placing our value on the items around us, when we are removed of those things we cannot be ourselves. We need to learn to hold value in the love we give to others and for me the love of God.
It is because of this that I really connected to minimalism as a concept. It seemed like a practical way of living out the scripture I love, and a way to be consistently reminded that my value isn't held in what I own. Our society tends to run on a yardstick of desires, obtaining 'The American Dream' and always wanting the next best thing, minimalism doesn't follow that ideal.
Marie Kondo has become a sort-of icon when it comes to simplicity and living with less. Asking yourself if things 'spark joy.' But I feel like this approach can be too naive. You might think an item sparks joy, but that might be because you feel like it should, or because you saved up a long time to buy it. You may find joy in successfully owning something, having fulfilled the ideal yardstick stretch for one area of your life.
I think that some things you own hold complete practical value. Take for example my sticky tape holder, does it spark joy? Not particularly. But is it functional and allow me to live out my life without unnecessary stress (such as trying to find the end of a stick tape roll)? Yes. Minimalism isn't just about owning what you love, but also owning what is practical.
So where do I begin in starting a minimalist lifestyle?Minimalism can feel like it is focused solely around decluttering and owning the least amount of stuff possible, or having an aesthetically pleasing closet or house - I think this is where 'looking visually appealing' has influenced minimalism and essentially battered it down to yet another fulfilling of societal expectation. This doesn't mean that decluttering isn't a part of switching to a minimalist lifestyle. If a lot of the stuff you own is not worthy to you, or provides no purpose except collecting dust, then you should declutter and remove those things from your space. Clear spaces enable you to reduce distractions and allow you to focus on tasks and ultimately improve your productivity.
This idea of 'clean space' can also apply to your digital life (with social media and computer files) and financial life (unnecessary and vacant spending) too. Bad habits of absorbing too much useless media and spending on things we don't need can create a buffer of stress in our brains and environments. Minimalism is about eliminating those buffers and creating a space where you can thrive!
To help with a start into this type of lifestyle, I created a 14 day challenge / list of goals, shown in a lovely simple infographic below (you can also download the free PDF here), which I will now be explaining each step!
Day 1: Evaluate your current spendingClearing out a bunch of stuff without consideration for how they got there in the first place is completely counterproductive. If you don't limit the income of items into your possession, then even if you declutter, you will end up refilling that space with more things over time. Take the time to evaluate what you spend your money on.
- What were the last 10 items you purchased?
- Did you really need those items?
- Were these items a result of retail-therapy or unhappiness?
- How much money do you spend on clothes?
- Do you order online or go into shops to buy new things?
Day 2: Declutter 10 items from your closetOut of the likely 100+ pieces of clothing in your closet, there are definitely 10 things you don't wear regularly or have never worn. Identify 10 items to declutter and take them out of your closet immediately. If that was easy, try 20, or even 50! I wrote a post recently called 3 Tips to Effortlessly Declutter Your Closet, which includes questions you should ask and techniques I use to declutter my clothes effectively. Clothing is probably something you buy more of than other household items, so it's a great place to start. Consider which pieces you consider 'essential' and which you bought on-a-whim or unnecessarily.
Day 3: Create your perfect morning routinePart of living a minimalistic lifestyle, involves simplifying the habits and routines that dominate your life. Having a good morning routine is essential in ensuring your day starts off on the right foot. You may want to consider cutting out using your phone in the morning, or introducing an earlier wake-up time so you have space to read a book before your day begins. Implementing meditation, prayer or writing in a gratitude journal can ensure you focus your day around values that really matter, not being absorbed in social media and other people's lives.
Day 4: Outline your monthly income budgetNow you are aware of your spending habits, and have focused your mind onto more important things than a new shirt, outline a budget for each area of your life. Minimalism doesn't have to mean you spend less, it can mean spending on experiences rather than things. Write down your monthly income and start by taking off required spending (rent, bills, food, savings). The remaining balance is probably what you consider 'spending money'. Now dedicate yourself a spending allowance for different categories, try to prioritise things that matter. Experiences are much more valuable than things, so if you love going out for dinner be sure to budget for that! Consider reducing the amount you budget for things and either add that extra cash to your savings or put it towards experiences such as travelling or spending time with friends.
Day 5: Empty out and decutter your junk drawer
We all have that drawer, you know the one - where you chuck random things, shut it and forget it exists. Now is time to conquer the junk drawer! Take everything out and sort through each thing one by one. Maybe some of the things that have been stashed in this drawer have proper homes elsewhere in your space. Finding a functional space for everything is essential. If you have a place for everything, it makes cleaning 10x easier and you will get into habit of putting things back where they belong. If you don't have enough space for everything to have somewhere to live, you need to declutter. Use your space wisely, it is okay to have a miscellaneous drawer, but make sure it is easy to find what you need.
Day 6: Unfollow and unsubscribe on social media
Time to clean up your scrolling space. Unfollow anyone who you negatively compare yourself to, or someone who's content does not provide you with any benefit. For me, that was celebrities, I didn't feel that I needed to know what they were doing in their lives, so I unfollowed. If you are trying to cut down on your spending, I suggest you unfollow brands. Companies use Instagram and Twitter as marketing to SELL you things, so cut off the stream of free advertising you are giving them and you may find yourself not wanting new things. Recently I deleted the Instagram app, deleting social media may feel extreme, but try to detox for a week or even a day just to remind yourself that there is life outside of the internet!
Day 7: Declutter your laptop and phone
Your digital space is just as important as physical space, especially with us spending so much time using technology these days. Go through your laptop and delete any unused applications, old files/documents and organise your photos. I like to import my photos from my phone and organise them on my laptop, then I order photo prints (because I am paranoid that my laptop/phone could delete them by accident) and make physical photo albums. Having photos printed out just provides more meaning to me that looking at them on a screen. Delete screenshots you won't refer back to in the future, just clean up the space (you will gain so much more digital storage).
Day 8: Declutter 10 books you no longer read
Unless you have a great way to store your books, they can be bulky and take up a lot of room. If you buy new books often, implement a 1-in-1-out rule, so that you aren't overwhelmed with books. Try decluttering 10 books you didn't enjoy or wouldn't recommend to a friend. Maybe next time you want to read a new book, ask a friend if they have one you can borrow - that way you aren't buying more books, but you can still enjoy reading. Or you can use a Kindle or e-reader, meaning you can still refer back to books you have read and loved, without taking up physical space in your home.
Day 9: Turn off unnecessary phone notifications
This honestly changed the game for me in terms of feeling less distracted. You don't need a reminder every time someone likes your photo or retweets your tweet. Turn of notifications for the non-essential reminders. I keep notifications on for text, direct messages and missed calls. By being notified of new activity on your social media, the app is just trying to entice you back into using it for a few minutes - time you could have spent doing something else. Mute those group chats that aren't urgent.
Day 10: Declutter old or unwanted makeup
For some people, makeup is something they consider a hobby, or even use for their job, but for the everyday person, who wears the same makeup everyday, do we really need so many products? Sort through your makeup and get rid of anything that has expired or dried up. Pick out the 10 products you use regularly to keep and then consider the rest for decluttering. You may even want to consider wearing less makeup, I stopped wearing makeup altogether, so I need to really get rid of some products I'm no longer using and only keep the basics for a time when I want to wear makeup (fancy events). Also I find wearing lip products really impractical (it just comes off when you eat), so I will be getting rid of a lot of lip makeup, because I don't enjoy wearing it.
Day 11: Time-block your day and practice single tasking
The constant buzz and desire for ultimate productivity can make us feel like we have to multitask and juggle our to do lists. Try dedicating appropriate amounts of time to just doing one task. For example you could set aside 30 mins to clean, 1 hour of work, 1 hour of reading, 1 hour for a workout. When you complete these tasks, focus your attention only on those things, try your best to not get distracted or want to do 10 things at once. I recommend an app called Flipd for your phone for this - it locks your phone to only the life-essential apps so you can't scroll through Instagram out of distraction. You set a timer on the app and then you can focus on your work. Alternatively, you could simply set a timer on your phone and not go on it for that amount of time (whichever feel would work better for you!)
Day 12: Delete apps you don't use on your phone
This also applies to apps that don't provide you any value. For me that was games. I used games as a distraction from completing important tasks or to fill the time. Evaluate all the apps on your phone and consider which ones you use the most, which you only use for distraction purposes, or even an app that you haven't used at all! Try rearranging your home screen so that you can't unconsciously click on an app. I deleted YouTube also from my phone, because I would gravitate towards it when I was looking for a quick boredom-fix. Now I only watch YouTube when on my laptop. Are there any apps that you think you could live without having?
Day 13: Recycle old receipts and paperwork
Paper can build up pretty quickly if you don't take time to manage it. Sort through folders and decide which paperwork is essential and which you can either find online or don't need anymore. I recently opted out of paper bank statements being posted to me, and the amount of paper I have to deal with as decreased! Old pay slips and receipts are a good place to start for this. Clear out your bags, do you have any receipts to get rid of? Learn to say no to a receipt if its something you won't be returning e.g. food and coffee, or recycle them as soon as you get home, to prevent a build up.
Day 14: Write yourself some new minimalist rules to live byAfter completing this 2-week challenge, you will probably have learned a thing or two about your habits and lifestyle in general. What are some things you want to change? Write down rules for yourself so that you are maintaining this way of living. Whether that be: evaluate all purchases, 1-in-1-out rule for buying things, no social media in the mornings, put things back when done using them. Write a list of at least 3 rules and stick to them!
Let me know if you have tried out my minimalism challenge! I am just as much of a newbie to minimalism as most people reading this, and I will be going on a journey too. Writing about it on my blog is a motivating factor for me to live out my advice and continue on prioritising the important aspects of life, rather than on material things.
You can also download this 14 day minimalism challenge as a PDF for free!