By: Christine Wood
I’ve been a minimalist for a few years now, gradually moving into smaller and smaller houses, decluttering my possessions and embracing a slower and simpler life. It’s one thing to declutter your home and embrace a minimalist lifestyle. It’s quite another to maintain it in the long-term.
Here are the principles that help me maintain my minimalism. In the beginning, it was difficult, and I found myself wanting more stuff. But now it is much easier. I follow most of these principles automatically now and hardly have to argue with my inner hoarder.
Here are the minimalist mantras that help me maintain my minimalist lifestyle:
1. Do you love it? Will you use it?
I am constantly asking myself this question about everything I own and everything I consider purchasing. If I don’t love it (I mean, really love it) or don’t use it often, I don’t need it. I can either donate it or leave it on the shop shelf.
I have also learned to accept that my preferences and needs change over time. There are things I used to love, but they no longer make me smile like they used to. There are things I used to use all the time, but things have changed, and I don’t use them anymore.
I used to do a lot of scrapbooking, beading and painting. They were crafts I enjoyed, and I accumulated a lot of supplies over time. Then, I moved on and found myself enjoying quilting and crocheting. It took me a while, but I reluctantly gave my unused craft supplies to friends who love those crafts. It freed up space in my craft room, made my friends happy, and I haven’t missed them.
2. One In—One Out
This mantra stops me from accumulating more and more. When I buy new towels, I throw out an old set. When I buy a new pair of jeans, I throw out an old pair. When I buy new mugs, I get rid of old mugs. You get the picture.
This means that whatever I buy has to be better than what I already own. It stops me from impulse buying things that are on special. Being cheap is not a good enough reason to buy something. It has to be better than what I already have.
This also means that I have a home full of things that I truly love and find useful. Look around your home. How can you make this true for you?
3. Where will I store it?
When I am considering a new purchase, I ask myself where I am going to put it in my home. Now that I live in an RV with very limited storage, this question has become very important. I have little space, and everything has to be stored carefully so that we can travel safely. But the question is relevant, no matter how large or small your home is.
Don’t buy new kitchen appliances when your appliance cupboard is already overflowing. Don’t buy new linen when your lined closet shelves are stuffed full. Don’t buy more shoes when your wardrobe is already full.
4. Why do I want this?
This question is a motivation check. Sometimes I want something because I’ve been watching tv commercials or seen something on Instagram. Sometimes I see something in someone else’s home. I get tired of my limited wardrobe by the end of the season and find myself wanting new clothes. If I go grocery shopping when I’m hungry, I tend to want to buy everything within reach.
Doing a motivation check stops me from being swept up by clever advertising or temporary discontent. Sometimes I buy things anyway, but it helps to understand why.
5. It’s okay to miss something and not want it back
This was a big one for me. I’ve decluttered a lot of my past. I needed to so that I could embrace my present. There are things about my big house, big kitchen and big garden that I miss, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I made the wrong decision; it just means that my life is different now. There are good things from my past that don’t fit my present season, and it’s okay for me to miss them sometimes. The fact that I miss them doesn’t mean that I want them back.
6. It’s okay to admire something and not buy it
This principle has changed the way I shop. In our new life on the road, I don’t get to wander around shopping centres very often. We recently came back to our hometown for a visit, and I spent a day killing time in my old shopping centre while our van was getting some work done.
Years ago, I used to come to this shop to walk its aisles every week or so. I used to go shopping for fun until I realised I usually went home more stressed than relaxed. I used to wander through the centre looking at the window displays with a growing feeling of discontent. If only my bed looked like that. If only I were skinny enough to wear a dress like that. If only I had somewhere to wear those shoes. I left the store feeling less than.
I avoided the shops for a long time for my own peace of mind. Now, a couple of years down the track, I am able to enjoy wandering around the shops, admiring all the new pretty things, and be perfectly content to leave them there.
7. Be content with what you have
This one comes straight out of the Bible (Hebrews 13:5). Practising gratitude is a powerful tool against materialism. Being content with my minimalist life helps me say no to all the things that look shiny on the surface but will make my life cluttered and complicated again. Minimalism comes at a cost. I can’t buy everything I want and keep my simple life. I have to decide on what is enough and be content with that.
I practise gratitude daily. I write down what I am grateful for in my journal, and I never have to think for too long to come up with something. My life is full of blessings, and many of those blessings are possible because I’m not distracted and stressed by a life of excess.
I hope these minimalist mantras help you to maintain a simple and meaningful life. These are the seven that help me, but I’m sure there are many more. Leave your favourite minimalism mantra in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!
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