Mindfulness and minimalism are practices that are inherently inseparable. Minimalism encourages us to let go, remove distractions, and de-clutter our mental and physical spaces. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on the now, living through moments rather than through things. Minimalism teaches us to create more space and only keep things that are beneficial and vital to our lives. Mindfulness teaches us to be in that space and connect with thoughts and emotions that support our growth and development. Using mindfulness, we can embody minimalism and let go of our attachments to material objects. Using minimalism, we can embody mindfulness and let go of our attachments to internal thoughts and feelings.
Both of these concepts are still relatively new to me. I have always moved around a lot, so compared to some people I have never had that much stuff. But I did not embody minimalism. I loved shopping and would often buy things that I ended up never wearing or using. I would buy things just because they were on sale. I would buy things even when I knew I had enough. After I started practicing mindfulness, minimalism sort of came automatically (yet mindfully) for me. After watching the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things by The Minimalists, I was inspired to write about mindfulness and minimalism, what it means to me, and how we can all apply it easily in our daily lives.
The most commonly discussed type of minimalism is in the physical environment. We live in a consumerist society, where money and things often equate to social status and even happiness. However, the problem with having a lot is that it will never be enough. There will always be a newer version of your phone. There will always be a different colour of your favourite dress. There will always be more modern designs for your home. There will always be more. Much like with our endless pursuit for the perfect body, changing one thing will never be enough. There will always be more things to change, do, and buy. While selling your house and all your possessions to move into a smaller home is a big step for most of us (although a fantastic goal, indeed), below are some things you can do to start de-cluttering your physical space today.
- Think before you buy. Before you buy something, ask yourself: Why are you buying it? Is it adding value to your life? Do you truly need it? Will it make you happy? Often we buy things too fill some void in our lives. We shop when we have a bad day. We treat ourselves to things when we need to de-stress. We forget that happiness, real happiness, can only come from within.
- De-clutter your space. I have found that something that really motivates me to de-clutter was finding a charity or a cause that I support and donating and selling things I didn’t really need. You can de-clutter by donating clothes that no longer fit, things that you have not used for months or years, and items that are no longer bringing you joy. If you choose to sell things, put that money to more important causes, like a charity, traveling or learning a new skill.
- Go purchase-free for a month. Apart from food, bills and necessities, try not to buy anything for a whole month. Wait with buying that new dress, that expensive watch, or even that new car. Take this month to really think about the things you want to buy. Are you buying something right now just because it is on sale? Is this purchase urgent? Can your money be better spent elsewhere?
- Borrow and share. Instead of buying a book you want to read, can you borrow it from the library? Instead of buying a new dress for an exclusive event that you will never wear again, can you borrow it from a friend? The same goes for sharing. Increase the utility of your items by sharing them with others.
- Invest in quality over quantity. Things that are of good quality can be used over and over again and will last longer than things of poor quality. And every item you wear or use will be your favourite!
In today’s environment, our digital space is just as important as our physical space. For many of us, it even takes up more time and causes more stress in our lives. We constantly keep checking our emails, our phones are never far away, and notifications demand our attention on a second-by-second basis. Here, the long-term goal would be a retreat away from technology, and this would be very beneficial to attempt at least once a year. In the meanwhile, you can follow some simple steps to de-clutter your digital space.
- Un-friend and un-follow. Follow only social media accounts that bring joy and value to your life. Be friends with people who are also your friends offline. This will not only reduce digital clutter and notifications, but also increase the added value of social media in your life.
- Delete accounts you do not use. We all have so many social media accounts (Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), but do we actually use all of them? Delete the ones that you do not use and turn off notifications for the less important ones (if not all of them). Then devote only a small amount of time once a day to social media.
- Turn off notifications. Turn off notifications for emails, social media sites, games, and any other apps that are not urgent, to stop yourself from checking your phone more often than necessary.
- Close those extra tabs. Many of us have jobs that require most of our days to be spent on a computer, checking emails, and multi-tasking. But do you really need all those tabs open? Try working on one project at a time and close down your email so that you reduce the time spent checking it.
- Take time off. Spend your lunch break away from your computer. Don’t check your phone for a whole hour. Don’t check your emails for a whole day. Take small steps to reduce the time you spend online.
Finally, it may be even more important to de-clutter our minds than our physical and digital spaces. With mental health problems on the rise, many of us are stressed, worried or anxious at some point throughout the day. Mindfulness has a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing, but it can also greatly enhance minimalism by making us aware of advertisements and the consumerist culture that surrounds us, allowing us to be mindful and in control of our purchases. Additionally, mindfulness helps us achieve what I call “mind minimalism”, de-cluttering our mind of worries, negative thoughts and ruminations. Mindfulness and meditation training is a journey that requires life-long practice and commitment, but you can apply it almost instantly to start de-cluttering your mental space today.
- Practice single-tasking. When we seem to have more and more tasks to do every day, we tend to multi-task to get through our endless to-do lists quicker. But this is very likely to cause added stress. Try to prioritise important tasks and do one thing at a time. Cross off things that are not important. Leave a day completely unplanned. Stay present in every thing you do (or don’t do).
- Be grateful. Practicing gratitude is extremely beneficial in all forms of de-cluttering. When we are grateful for what we have, we focus less on what we don’t have and on the things we think we want.
- Meditate every damn day. Be fully present in every moment by practicing mindfulness and meditation. Bring your awareness back to your breath and dis-attach yourself from your thoughts and worries. Come back to your practice every time you feel your mind getting full.
- Let go. This applies to more than just possessions and social media accounts. When we practice mindfulness, we learn to let go of past worries, concerns about the future, and negative thoughts, situations and people that add no value to our lives.
- Be alone. Learn to spend time alone and appreciate your own company. Time away from people can help you reconnect with your own values and goals, de-stress, and relax. Even staying off social media for a day can go a long way to de-clutter your mind and re-balance your mental space.
Set yourself a challenge today to incorporate one of the tips listed above every day and feel free to leave a comment below to share your thoughts and experiences!