Many people may be turned off by the idea of minimalism, thinking it’s an austere, monk-life existence. While this is what it looks like for some, it’s certainly not the definition of minimalist.

Minimalism is simply living with less so you have room for the more important things in life. As Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, collectively known as The Minimalists, put it: “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”

They go on to say that it comes in many different flavors—each person is different, after all, so your version of minimalism isn’t necessarily going to look like other people’s.

Minimalism doesn’t just free up physical space but also reduces stress and mental clutter, gives you more time to pursue the things you love, saves you money, and gives you more time to spend with the people that matter. Read on if you’re interested in learning more about becoming a minimalist and are intrigued by the idea of making room for the more important things in life.

Ways to Live a Minimalist Lifestyle

Should You Consider Becoming a Minimalist?

Joshua Becker, bestselling author of The More of Less, lists some questions you should ask yourself to determine if you should give minimalism a go:

“Do you spend too much time cleaning?” Having more stuff means more time taking care of them and keeping a space in order.

“Are you trying to get out of debt?” A minimalist lifestyle will help keep you from spending money on things you don’t really need and thus help you get a firmer hold on your finances.

“Is there too much stress in your life?” Queer Eye’s design expert, Bobby Berk, linked a cluttered space with a cluttered life. Getting rid of all the noise at home can have a profound effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Would you like more time in your day?” Having so much stuff means time spent taking care of those things, whether it’s doing loads of laundry, organizing your papers, or taking the car for maintenance.

“Are you environmentally conscious?” Fewer things means less consumption. You reduce the amount of resources you need to sustain your lifestyle and also reduce the amount of waste you produce. 

“Are you frugal?” Minimalists tend to buy fewer things, which helps save money.

“Do you enjoy financially supporting other causes?” If you’ve always wanted to have an advocacy but never seem to have extra money to do it, minimalism can help free up funds for this purpose. Becker writes, “Once you become content with your belongings and have been rescued from the race of accumulating possessions, you have no need to hoard money. You find new freedom to support the causes that you hold most dear.”

“Are there things you value more than material possessions?” When you free yourself from focusing on physical things, you can start paying more attention to the intangibles such as your relationships and your passions.

“Are you not afraid of change?” Depending on your current lifestyle, minimalism might require a radical change—but don’t worry, it’s not all or nothing. You can take baby steps. Plus, as minimalists often say, there is no one way to be a minimalist.

“Is your life too valuable to live like everyone else?” Life is too short to be keeping up with the Joneses.

Keys to Minimalism

The Minimalists say that it all starts with deciding to want to make a change. This is day 1 of their 21-day minimalism journey, which tackles a different aspect day by day, from what to keep to what to get rid of to the barriers that may be holding you back. If a 21-day process seems a little overwhelming, there are smaller, concrete steps you can take right now to help jumpstart your minimalist journey:

Create a clutter-free zone. Whether it’s your desk, a kitchen counter top, your vanity, or your bedside table, choose a spot where, from now on, there will be zero clutter. After a while, you might be inspired to expand your clutter-free zone outwards.

Ditch the doubles. Go through your kitchen cabinets and closets to see if you have duplicates of anything—measuring cups, wine openers, an abundance of coffee cups. Get rid of anything you don’t use or need. The same goes for anything broken, chipped, or ripped.

Play the 30-Day Minimalism Game. The Minimalists encourage you to find a friend or family member to do this challenge with: Get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second, and so on until you reach Day 30. It can be towels, old files, broken electronics—anything at all. Whoever lasts longer wins. (Whether anyone wins or not, everyone wins just by getting rid of a few things.)

Have a capsule wardrobe. There’s a reason Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wears gray shirts all the time. It’s not just a fashion statement; it’s science. Wearing the same outfit day in and day out frees you from making that decision first thing in the morning and keeps you from getting decision fatigue. Thus, you save your decision-making energies for more important things.

While you still may want to retain your personal style, it’s a good time to evaluate if you really need all those clothes in your closet. Your style may be best represented by a few quality pieces that can stand the test of time. Bonus: Fewer articles of clothing means less laundry!

Become a social media minimalist. These days, minimalism isn’t just about physical stuff but also about other things that may be wasting your time. Try limiting your social media usage and see how much time it frees up for other things like your hobbies, your friends, or planning that business you’ve always wanted.