You hear the word “minimalism” and picture white walls, plain furniture, and plants. Lots of plants. While some of that imagery is true, minimalism can look different to the person practicing it. And even though you love your stuff and can’t bear parting with it, you’re curious. You wonder if it’s possible to practice minimalism without becoming a minimalist.
Truth is, you can apply minimalism to any aspect of your life. You don’t have to become a full-fledged minimalist to reap the benefits of minimalism.
The short answer is yes, you can practice minimalism without being a minimalist. And I’ve put together a list of four key areas you can start with.
I’ll be the first to admit that once upon a time I had a bursting at the seams closet. I had five pairs of black leggings, at least six black cardigans of varying sleeve length and texture. And I had four striped white/navy shirts. I also had shirts and blouses that while looked nice, I never wore.
Clothes are something we all, at one point in our lives, have too much of. We pop into a store for one specific item and our eye catches a stunning new sweater or shirt. You don’t think anything except, “I must have that.” Then you bring it home to find you already have two similar items. You shrug and hang it up.
One of the first things I focused on when starting my minimalist journey was my clothes. I knew there were things in there I hadn’t worn in years and things I knew I’d never wear at all. Sure, the little voice in my head said, “One day you might need this.” Well, if that one day ever comes I can borrow something from a friend. Or my sister.
I want to clarify that to have a minimalist closet, you don’t have to go the capsule wardrobe route. You don’t need to have a specific number of items. Capsule wardrobes are a great resource, but they can be overwhelming. You can simply practice minimalism by choosing pieces that are intentional.
So instead of focusing on having a certain number of pieces, focus more on keeping items you know you wear and love. Get rid of anything that is:
- Not your style
- Too tight
- Too loose
- Torn and tattered beyond repair
There are a lot of resources you can use to ditch clothes you no longer want. Check out my Resources page for more.
Be honest: How many pairs of tongs do you have? How many whisks? The kitchen is another area we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. Chances are your cabinets and drawers are full of utensils, food storage, or coffee cups.
The best way to pare down your kitchen items is by stacking all like items on your dining room table. Start with something simple like dishes. Pile up every single dish, bowl, cup, and mug you have. Consider the number of people in your home to the pile you have before you. Is it enough to feed your son’s or daughter’s entire class?
Start by donating ⅓ of what you have. Or remove two items from every category. This is the hardest part of practicing minimalism. It’s telling yourself you’ll be fine without those extra cups or dishes.
But what if you have company? Believe me, you’ll still have plenty to use. If you absolutely cannot part with certain items because of foreseeable company, store them away. Label the container as “Company Dishes.” Take them out only when you have people coming over. If you find you didn’t need them even after the company was over, donate them.
The same goes for kitchen gadgets and tools. Pare down until you only have one of everything. One peeler, one whisk, one masher, etc. If a gadget is on its last leg, consider buying a replacement. Make sure to recycle the old one when the new one comes in. Follow that golden one-in, one-out rule.
Finally, declutter your food storage. I used to save every plastic container my take-out food came in. Then one day I opened my cabinet and the lids rained down on my lap. You don’t need that much food storage.
Recycle any that are stained or don’t have lids. Organize them in baskets, keeping lids and containers separate. Line up by size. One basket is more than enough. If you have three or more baskets with food storage containers, you have too much.
3. Bathroom + Medicine Cabinet
When was the last time you sorted through your medicine cabinet? How about personal hygiene products or makeup? If we don’t pay attention, the bathroom becomes a breeding ground for bottles of all shapes and sizes.
Start by checking all your medication. This includes prescriptions as well as over-the-counter. If any of them have expired, toss them. Don’t forget to check first-aid items. Unused bandages and gauze pads can get really gross if they sit around too long.
Next, look to see if there are any products you don’t use. Do you have a ton of little sample-sized products crammed into a corner? Decide to either use them or recycle them. You can even toss the contents within and hang on to the bottle for travel. If you do that, store the bottle away with your travel gear. Don’t leave it to sit empty in your medicine cabinet.
Check your makeup’s expiration date. L+K Home Organization has a great blog post about makeup disposal. Replace any expired makeup. Before you do, though, assess whether it’s something you want to replace. Sometimes when we run out of something, it’s a good time to decide if we want to keep using it.
Not loving your current shampoo? Before you buy the same one, look into something new. Don’t waste money on something you don’t like. Do a little research and find a better replacement. This is another great way you can practice minimalism. By training your brain to determine what you love and what you don’t.
One of the last things to sort through in the bathroom is towels. Again, take into account the number of people in your home. A general rule of thumb is two sets of towels for each person in the home. These include bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths. If you have frequent guests, keep a spare set or two, but no more.
A voracious reader, one of the areas my minimalism doesn’t show is my bookshelves. Compared to what I used to have, it’s vastly different.
Books are visually pleasing. Whenever I go into someone’s home I love seeing what books they have on display. They’re a great conversation starter and I’ve found many new favorites this way. But books can also accumulate fast. Instead of decluttering the books I read, I would buy more bookcases to hold them. Even titles I didn’t love. At a time I had seven bookcases!!! And they were all full.
Choosing to practice minimalism, I knew I’d have to make some hard decisions about my books. And honestly, it was easier than I thought. I went through every single book. I did the Marie Kondo method and took them all off of the shelves.
As I went through them I separated them into four piles:
One of my favorite events to attend each year — pre-COVID — was the BookExpo of America. I would leave there with 70+ advanced reader copies of books. I grabbed whatever looked interesting because it was free. Well, I probably only read ten of those 70+ books in a year. The rest, I realized when I read the blurb, wasn’t a genre I enjoyed.
My rule going forward is this: After I read a book, I ask myself what I want to do with it. Do I want to keep it, sell it, gift it, or donate it? Most of the time I gift it or bring it to my local Free Little Library. Others I sell. Very few I keep.
When sorting through your books, keep only the ones that left an impression. I’m talking about that strong feeling, you experience it every time you look at the spine. For everything else, sell, gift, or donate it.
If you’re a big reader like me, chances are you always have new books coming into your home. Instead of buying new bookcases, rotate old books out with new ones. More than likely, you won’t reread 80% of the titles you own. I’d rather gift it so someone else has a chance to experience the story rather than watch it collect dust.
That is the best way to picture it. You’re sharing this with someone else. It’s a basic principle of minimalism. Value people and not things.
Choosing to become a minimalist is an interesting journey to set yourself on. You’re going to learn a lot about the value of items and the importance of putting people and experiences first. You’re going to have setbacks, which is normal. But please, don’t beat yourself up if you buy a few things you said you wouldn’t.
My minimalism journey wasn’t perfect. I still have bad months where I spend too much on things I really don’t need. That’s why I love “No Buy Challenges.” They’ve held me accountable to only buy the essentials.
Do what works for you. Practice minimalism without becoming a minimalist. Or become a minimalist and do it your way. Start slowly. Work through your minimalist journey at your own pace. If you want some extra inspiration and tips, be sure to follow me on Instagram.