Minimalism isn’t just a trend involving black, grey and white interiors. It’s not just a snobbish hobby for the bored middle-class, and it’s not about strict living and sucking the joy out of your life. Of course, as with everything, you can always take minimalism too far and be a minimalist for minimalism’s sake.
But there’s an aspect of simplifying that can have a truly beneficial effect on your life beyond feeling smug for following a trend. Here’s how embracing minimalism in certain areas of your life can help you be more productive and happy.
When your away from home, just a small suitcase for your belongings, you can truly harness the power of less. Sometimes you don’t even use half of what you’ve packed, even though next time you still might pack another pair of jeans, just in case. Like the fact that two was enough before a million times was an accident, and NOW you’ll be stranded without a third pair!
Still, after a few days with your limited options, you’ll find that just a few items — whether it’s clothes, the contents of your make-up bag, accessories — can be more than enough. Using just a couple of products in the morning is suddenly not limiting but liberating. You don’t have to spend any thought on what should you wear — there’s not many to choose from, to begin with. And that’s the beauty of minimalism: how less can equal more.
And this ‘more’ is not more stuff, but rather: freedom. More time for what’s truly important. More clarity on what’s truly important. When you know you don’t need to spend any unnecessary minute on deciding between mundane options, you don’t waste your valuable time. Bonus: even perfectionism and procrastination have fewer chances to butt in your business!
Avoiding analysis paralysis
Decision fatigue is real – Jonathan Levav et al. from the University of Stanford proved that we have a limited quantity of decisions per day, and there’s no distinction between deciding on important issues or boring ones. Whether you’re pondering between pizza and pasta or two great job offers, they still lower your daily allowance by one. The more decisions you make a day, the worse decisions you’re going to make by the end of that day — therefore, you can truly boost your productivity by opting out of certain situations that need decisions by simplifying your daily routine. Of course, deciding on the most important stuff first (and not procrastinating them into eternity!) also helps.
Do this instead: wherever you can, eliminate decisions from your daily routine. Here are a few ideas.
- You can have a signature lipstick for weekdays – you’ll look so put together if you stick with it! :)
- It’s also perfectly fine to just use one bottle of shower gel at a time in the shower, even if you love different scents. Just use them one by one, instead of having 6 half-empty (or half-full, if you’re an optimist ;) ) bottles balancing at the edge of your bathtub.
- Most people don’t need 10 bottles of foundation, twenty mascaras or five deodorants on rotation. Stick with what you know and what works for you, and limit your everyday beauty routine to just a few trusty products.
“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.”
― Francine Jay
― Francine Jay
- Declutter your things & start a healthy habit of regularly examining your surroundings and releasing what doesn’t serve you anymore. You might notice that a tidier home is less overwhelming and helps you relax and sleep better. You don’t have to be militant about this and please don’t feel like you need to do a big, all-encompassing decluttering session. Start small, set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes, and find just 10 things you can let go of — either recycle, donate, or throw them out (whatever suits the item you don’t want anymore). The next day, you can release another 10 things, and so on. You don’t have to declutter your entire home all at once — you don’t even have to do a whole room in one go, either. Start with one shelf, or a section on the countertop. That’s more than nothing, so it’s more than enough.
- Start taking notes of things you (& your family) eat and you’ll soon have a list of foods you like. This can help you write shopping lists & plan meals (snacks, too!). Meal planning can give a sense of structure to your days, and if you know what you’re going to eat in the next couple of days (even if just roughly), it’s one less thing to decide. Preparing meals can be as simple as stocking healthy foods at home, so when you get hungry, you have great options to choose from. If you don’t even let the not-so-good-for-you items in your fridge, there’s more chance you grab something fulfilling and nutritious after a workout or on a busy morning. By the way, planning your meals is also good for your wallet – if you have a plan, you don’t buy unnecessary things and you can save a lot of money. Surrounding yourself with healthy foods is also an act of self-care: you take care of your eating needs in a thoughtful and conscious way, and you know you’ll have something delicious to feast on whenever you get hungry. :)
How planning helps your routine
Writing a to-do list and an agenda can also help reduce the number of decisions you make in a day. If you give a rhythm to your days, take note of any ideas, tasks or events, you can see how your weeks shape up and then you can also schedule things that are important to you. (Remember, the secret of time management is you’ll never have time unless you make time.)
Do this instead:
- One of the first things you can do if you already have a planner is to look through your next couple of weeks ahead and find one or two you can skip — maybe because you agreed to go out of guilt, you’re not too enthusiastic about them and you’d rather do something else, or simply because they’re on busy days and your plate is already full. Ta-da, now you have time to do what’s really important – recharging, spending time with your loved ones, working on your dream project.
- Always prioritise! If you have a clear agenda and to-do list, whenever something new comes up, consciously decide whether it needs attention right that moment or if it can wait. More often than not it can — so to the end of the list it goes, and you’ll continue your day as planned. Sticking to your list can save you time and energy otherwise spent on multitasking, and you’ll feel more control of your day by not running around like a headless chicken, always pecking into tasks here and there but never finishing anything. It’s exhausting and you can stop.
- To give structure to your days (which doesn’t mean there’s no place for improvisation or fun – quite the opposite!), try to stick to some routines. If it makes them more appealing, call them rituals. :) Whether it’s about how you start your day, or how you unwind after a busy Monday, you know yourself best. Make time for things that help you being your best: write your to-do list in your favourite app, or use a pretty notepad and the best gel pen to create notes and plans. You can also spend a couple of minutes every morning by a cup of coffee (in your favourite mug!) to think about the day ahead. Or, if mornings are rarely so calm, do it the day before, after having dinner or taking a shower. You can end your day by going offline at a certain hour, do a few minutes (or more) of yoga, or watch an episode of your favourite show.
- Deciding on rituals for yourself is also really helpful if you have trouble growing roots in your current life. Whether something changed externally (you moved, switched jobs), or internally (had a hard experience or lost someone), surrounding yourself with helpful, familiar activities can give you a sense of belonging and can make you feel safe. This is also taking care of yourself!
Impulse buys: bad decisions + unnecessary spending = guilt
As your to-do list, your shopping list can also save you a lot of decisions. If you don’t start thinking about your meals in the middle of the shop, you’re less likely to pay for unnecessary stuff. I’m sure you know this, but I’ll mention it anyway: it’s no coincidence that all the chocolate bars and overpriced bits and bobs are by the cashier. By that time you’ve probably made so many decisions you’re likely to make a bad one — and whoops, a chocolate bar is already on the conveyor belt.
If you start being a conscious shopper, you can save a lot of money, and not just on your weekly food shop. If you know exactly what is missing from your home, wardrobe or life, you’ll be saying no, thank you more easily to ‘once in a lifetime’, ‘closing sale’ and ‘half-off just today’ offers. If you don’t need it, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is, it’s a bad deal.
Do this instead of buying random stuff:
- Write shopping lists or even wishlists for anything you want to buy. For the latter, give yourself a couple of weeks and reevaluate: do I still need this?
- Before buying anything, look around at home and take inventory of what you already have. Look into the fridge and see what’s going off soon, and create a meal around it. If you need to buy something extra for that meal, buy just that.
- Be very specific with your wishlists, so you can be specific with your purchases! Look through your stash and figure out if you really need a ‘slightly greener blue’ nail polish or you can just use the one you already have. If you have 15 different shades of pink but wish for a blue one, do research online and find the exact brand you’re looking for and buy just that.
- Remember, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re easily swayed into buying things you really don’t need.
“A well-used minimum suffices for everything.”
― Jules Verne
― Jules Verne
Do your own version of a capsule wardrobe!
Creating a capsule wardrobe with carefully chosen pieces that go with other items in your closet helps you spend less time on deciding what to wear. Of course, this doesn’t mean that if anything that doesn’t go with 15 other items has to go, and you don’t even have to stick to just a few dozen pieces every season, if that’s not your vibe. Just think through the items you love the most and create outfits around them either using what you have or buying something new (or new to you, as in pre-loved). You can still think in terms of ‘uniforms’, items of clothing that flatter you and you happily wear them. They can be a trusty pair of mom jeans with clogs, A-line skirts with frilly shirts, or band T-shirts with denim jackets. Whatever floats your boat. This can be your signature look — a great secret in adulting 101 a.k.a. how to convince people you know what you’re doing. :D
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you’ll have to be the next Steve Jobs and wear the same turtleneck-and-jeans combo for the rest of your existence. :) This whole idea is here to serve and not limit you. Having fun and expressing yourself is still a priority!
- If you have a favourite skirt, pick 3 tops from your closet that go with it. Now you have 3 different outfits! If you add another skirt that also goes with those 3 tops, you already have 6 outfits. If you shop for new basics, always think of at least 3 other things you can wear that with on a daily basis, so you get the most of them.
- Prepare your outfit for the next morning by laying it out on a chair for example, so you don’t have to deplete your daily quota of decisions immediately by agonising over the contents of your closet. It’s easier if you have tried-and-tested outfits ready in your head. This also saves you time during busy mornings. Spend the extra minutes on a few asanas or two quiet minutes with your favourite tea!
- If you know the colour palette you like the most, you can also get the most our of your closet — just think of pulled together, not insanely matchy-matchy. Unless that’s what you want! :)
If you build your closet consciously, whatever you pick in the morning, you’ll never go wrong. An amazing resource in this topic is Anuschka Reese’s book, The Curated Closet. Highly recommended.
Don’t over-do it!
Variety is definitely the spice of life, so remember to only embrace those aspects of minimalism that truly serve you. You don’t have to deprive yourself of fashion, aesthetics, improvisation or having fun to be a conscious consumer. Life is here to enjoy, so please don’t strip your home of colour and switch your ginger tabby for a monochrome kitten. ;)
It’s all about looking at your everyday life and simplifying your routines in a way that it helps you live the life that feels good to you. You’ll have more energy (mental and physical), more time and even more money to spend on the things that really matter to you. Isn’t that the key to a happy life? I believe it is.
Now it’s your turn!
What is one area of your life you’ll simplify based on these ideas? What will make your days easier? What are the things you can do in order to make your days easier? Will you pack your lunches? Plan meals? Prepare your outfits? Write to-do lists in the morning? Put away half-empty shower gels from the bathroom?
Let me know in the comments!