You are convinced by the reasons to become minimalist, and as a new convert, can’t wait to tell everyone. But before you do, there are some things to consider. If you start from the wrong place, it can be that your chances of changing the minds of the people closest to you will be worsened for good.
To make sure you can get your movement started when you are ready for it, here are five simple steps you can start your minimalism from.
1. Start from yourself
As a new minimalist, it’s easy to see things to throw away or processes to improve in other people’s lives. I look at my kids’ toys and can’t help but feel that half of them could be thrown away. And it’s much easier to tell a friend that his huge movie collection is wearing him down than to criticize my own urge of buying ever more books.
But if you give in to your natural ways of seeing flaws in others and ignoring them in yourself, you will not only be behaving terribly but also giving a bad impression on minimalism. The things you point out in others are most likely true, but most of the time, it makes more sense to stay quiet.
Worry about your own walk, and only then (if you really have to), tell others how they too could change their ways.
2. Find a low-hanging fruit
Minimalism is a journey, not a destination. And like any journey, it starts with small steps. Every small step you complete gives you a feeling of accomplishment and an important boost for the next one. So, instead of jumping right into living with 50 things, a much more sustainable way to get into minimalism would be to pick one small, clearly defined area in your life and simplify it.
If you are into computers, a nice way to start would be to simplify your computer experience: clean up your desktop (I like to have mine completely empty), pick a calm, minimalist wallpaper, remove applications that you rarely use and don’t need for anything, remove all but the most important shortcuts from your dock, maybe switching completely to using something like Google QuickSearch Box for browsing the computer. Then, you could simplify your email process by going for inbox zero and checking email only a few times a day (whether this is a low-hanging fruit or not is debatable).
In the physical world, a nice low-hanging fruit would be to clean up a closet, let’s say your wardrobe, or maybe your bookshelf. I found it very refreshing and enjoyable to get rid of most of my old magazines and a big bunch of books that I never read.
What is easy for you might not be the same thing as what is easy for me, but skip something just because it sounds too easy to be ”real” minimalism. No one is counting, and small steps often get you the longest way.
3. Continue to the next step
Once you complete one step, move on to the next one, and again the next one.
It is easy to become content after reaching a step on your journey. But don’t let that fool you, the journey has just started and you haven’t arrived yet. This is something I need to tell myself every day: keep pushing your minimalist edge. That is the only way you keep growing as a human being.
At first, that edge could be throwing away an old item you have been saving for years. When you do that a few times, the edge moves, and maybe next you’ll find yourself hitting the edge with your wants: you notice that you keep wanting new gadgets that you will probably never need for anything (This is pretty much where I am, drooling for an iPad). Give in to your edge and you plateau. Fight it and you’ll find new experiences that you thought impossible.
4. Choose your own route
This is a step where it’s easy to get it wrong, so let me be totally clear: Minimalism is not to each his own. Minimalism is always about living with less than the society as a whole and giving up on your wants in order to live a fuller life. Minimalism is about looking for the sweet spot where you can live with as little as possible to fulfill your own dreams and goals.
But your dreams and goals are uniquely yours. And so is the route your life will take. Based on your best assumption, try to unclutter and simplify the areas in your life where you need minimalism the most. If your work is what matters the most to you, use minimalist principles that help make your work more productive. If your number one priority is your family, you may want to create your minimalism around working as little as possible and maybe building a minimalist business. If you want to travel the world for long periods of time, minimalizing your possessions down to fifty items may be the way to go.
Keeping in mind what minimalism is about, choose the route that suits you best, and your movement will follow. People are good at recognizing authencity.
5. Live the life
When you know what minimalism means in your life today, live it. This is where you learn the most about yourself, and where the real impact takes place. Trying things out, you notice what works and what doesn’t, and gather new ideas on what to try next.
Talk is cheap, and gets you nowhere.
6. Encourage others
When you are living your minimalist movement, you have something to share: your experiences. People will see you make choices that seem to counter the ideas we have learned to see as normal, and some of them will follow your lead. If you write about your values, people will read about how you see the world, and they can learn from you. Like-minded minimalists will be encouraged by hearing that you are going through similar questions as they are. Don’t be judgemental but encourage people in their attempts to live a more sustainable, minimalist life — and slowly but steadlily, you are changing the world by building your own minimalist movement!
After a while, if all goes well, you will find yourself in a moment when you realize that now, you are a minimalist, just like Matt from No Meat Athlete explains in his post about the moment he realized he was a vegetarian rather than just someone who doesn’t eat meat. But until you get there, ancient wisdom tells us that if one acts like a wise man, he will be considered one. Don’t wait for minimalism to come naturally before starting to practice it. Practice comes first!