Tips for Minimalist Living [Updated]

This post was originally published in January 2015. I’m reposting it today because…well, I need the reminder…and maybe some of you do too. As I look around our apartment, I see more stuff than we had 3 1/2 years ago but even so, I’m hard-pressed to find things that aren’t used regularly or don’t somehow “spark joy”. Yet, there are days when I feel overwhelmed…by stuff, by obligations, by the thoughts in my head about what my life should look like at 45 years old (my version vs. other people’s expectations). It is in those times that I have to remind myself that the journey to a more minimalist lifestyle is just that…a journey…and each of our paths is different. There is no right way or wrong way to improve yourself.


Since we made the commitment to minimalist living in 2012, we’ve definitely had our ups and downs. We’ve given boxes and bags of stuff to Goodwill only to see new stuff come in to replace it. We’ve sworn never to waste time only to get to the end of a day, a week, or a month and realize that we’ve given our most valuable asset to things we care nothing about. We’ve promised not to accumulate debt (and thankfully we haven’t) but boy have there been temptations along the way! In short, the journey toward a minimalist lifestyle is a very human one.

Through these trials (and errors) I’ve found a good many things that really work in simplifying and bettering life.

1) Define minimalism for yourself. 

I recently read a blog about the definition of minimalism. The author was angry. He felt that minimalism was about living in a small space with very few possessions and attacked anyone who wasn’t taking this approach. I’ve said many times, minimalism is not just about your possessions (or lack thereof). It’s bigger than that. To be a true minimalist you must embrace a definition that works within your own life plan.

2) Decluttering is VIP.

You can’t have true freedom if you’re constantly encumbered by useless things – whether those things are possessions, people, or responsibilities. Getting rid of unworn clothing, unread books, unused exercise equipment, and excess furniture will make your home easier to manage and it really is cathartic to purge your closets. Getting rid of relationships that cause you unwanted stress and responsibilities that bring you no benefit is even more cathartic.

3) Buy less. Waste less.

I was raised in a Southern family where big meals were and still are the norm. So for me, learning to plan meals was hard. Learning to buy only what we would actually eat was even harder – especially when the grocery store is full of new and tempting goodies. Keeping a stock list of our most frequently used grocery items and shopping only from that list really helps. From a few basic ingredients we are able to make all of our favorite meals and have almost zero food waste. The same concept can be applied to other purchases too. Buying fewer clothes forces you to wear what you have and choose only things that you love.

4) Cut costs by prioritizing your wants and needs.

For a long time we had cable because everyone had cable. It was how you watched TV. I had a car because everyone had a car. It’s how you got around. We had a cell phone contract because that’s how you got the newest gadgets for free. When I discovered minimalism, I began to reassess my priorities. I sold my car, cut the cable cord, and switched to a prepaid cell service. I did these things not just to save money but to reallocate that money (and the time spent pursuing it) to things that actually bring me happiness – like travel and family time.

5) Keep it simple every day and in every way.

As human beings it is in our very nature to over-think and over-complicate our lives. We worry. We obsess. We plan. We do so much on a daily basis to ensure that our future is bright that we forget about our present. I’m just as guilty as the next person of doing this. In fact, I spend way too much of my time thinking about the weekend or the week ahead. If I were to pick one thing to work more diligently on in my life, this is probably it. Cherish every moment by making it the only moment that matters.

September Recap

Fall is my favorite time of year. There’s something about the cool crisp air that makes me feel alive and I want to spend every possible moment out there enjoying it. I want to hike. I want to camp. I want to sit around a bonfire with all my favorite people. I want to decorate pumpkins and get lost in a corn maze. I even want to rake leaves. Oh yes, I love Fall.

As much as I try to relish every day of this magical season, it also seems that Fall is the time of year that flies by fastest for me. October is just around the corner and I’m still wondering where September went. What did we do with our month?

We celebrated Caesar’s 15th birthday with a trip to the vet for his booster shots. He got a clean bill of health and the new vet couldn’t believe he’s a senior.

We started thinking about a tiny house again. 

We walked/hiked 41 miles and enjoyed 5 picnics.

We found 2 ride-on toys in the dumpster and repaired them for Ticky to enjoy.

We took Ticky to a kid’s festival in our community. She and Angie even made the newspaper! This was Ticky’s first time to ride a pony and she did not want to get off when the ride was over. The entire festival – food, rides, and prizes – all FREE! We had a blast.

We decluttered 21 items from the front hall closet.

We earned $65.65 from Easy Shift, made $30 selling on OfferUp, and $160 from extra grant work.

I think this was the first month this year that we’ve actually felt unhurried. Summer was a blur of food. Between gardening and picking up 2 CSA baskets a week, it seemed we were always up to our eyeballs in preparing or preserving fruits and vegetables. It was fun but exhausting and the result is probably more than what we can actually eat by next Spring. The lesson learned for next year – just one basket and a few tomato plants in the garden (not 32 of them!).

On Sunday, we set off for our road trip/camping adventure in Canada, followed by a 7-day cruise along the New England/Canadian coast. We are very much looking forward to this time away, unplugged, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t somewhat worried about being away from home for 1/2 of the month. My niece is still homeless (for more details on thatsee the I am grateful section of this post) and my mom is still nursing a new fracture in her spine. I know deep down that foregoing this trip would not fix either of those things but the thought did cross my mind…as did taking Ticky with us.

The thing that we’ve struggled with all year (and what prompted our Happiness Project in the first place) is this vortex called “family drama” that we continually get sucked into. If you’ve ever been there then you know how hard it is to break free, even when breaking free is what’s best for everyone. When we sat down to write out what a year of happiness would look like, travel was a priority for both of us. So this trip is important. My mom is tough. The fractures are a recurring condition that she has lived with for years now and she assures me that she will stay off of ladders and out from under things while I’m gone. My niece, well…she doesn’t think homelessness is a problem in the first place and whether we are here or in Canada, that is not likely to change.

So we’re going to go and have fun. We’re going to keep worry in its proper place and we’re going to return all the better for having stayed true to ourselves and our goals for happiness this year.

Happy October!