7 tips for living a minimalist lifestyle

Are you dreaming of fewer belongings, tidier spaces and more mental clarity? If so, a minimalist lifestyle might be up your alley.

Minimalism uses the adage of less is more. Through decluttering and thoughtful purchases, minimalists could save money—and avoid things like buyer’s remorse. Check out this guide to living a minimalist lifestyle to decide whether it could be right for you.

Key takeaways

  • A minimalist lifestyle keeps things that add value to your life—and gets rid of the rest.
  • Minimalists could benefit by saving money, improving mental health and making a home more aesthetically pleasing.
  • Steps to living a minimalist lifestyle include budgeting, decluttering, shopping sustainably and building a capsule wardrobe.
  • Minimalism can look different from person to person based on their priorities.

What is minimalism?

A minimalist lifestyle reduces clutter to make room for more purpose behind the things you own. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to minimalism. Living a minimalist lifestyle might vary in terms of what you use, buy and toss out.

“Minimalism is a way of life that emphasizes simplicity and the elimination of excess,” says Jasmine Cheng, founder of health and wellness blog The Gentle Album. “Everything you use is intentional and meaningful in some way.”

Benefits of minimalism

There’s a reason one in five Americans practice minimalism, according to a study by YouGov. A minimalist lifestyle can help reduce spending, stress and mess. Here are three potential benefits of minimalism:

1. Financial benefits of minimalism

Minimalists try to buy and use things intentionally—which might help save money and decrease financial stress. “Minimalism can help you financially because you’ll be less tempted to buy things you don’t need,” Cheng explains.

Here are a few ways that living with less could help out your wallet:

  • Reduce spending: By getting clearer on which things you truly need—and which you don’t—it might be possible to cut expenses and even break free from living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Avoid impulse buying: Mindful purchases could make it easier to stop impulse buying—or making unplanned purchases outside your budget.
  • Live within your means: Living within or below your means comes with spending less money than you earn. It goes hand in hand with the minimalist idea of having only what you need.
  • Save money: Several tips to jump-start savings may come naturally with a minimalist lifestyle— like using the 30-day rule for nonessential purchases, rethinking transportation methods and sticking to a shopping list.
  • Pay off debt: Simpler finances may help with focusing on getting out of debt. And minimizing debt can open up more opportunities to spend time and money the way you choose.

2. Wellness benefits of minimalism

What if minimalism could do more than just help your bank account? It turns out that there may be a link between minimalism and mental health. Research points to benefits like lower stress, better moods and less procrastination for people with uncluttered homes.

“A less cluttered space can help you focus and relax more,” Cheng says. “It helps you be more grateful for the things already in your life.”

3. Aesthetic benefits of minimalism

Justin Hossle, craftsman and owner of Hossle Woodworks, designs minimalist furniture. You can find his work online as well as in galleries, art fairs and hundreds of homes. In his words, minimalism goes beyond a clear mind and savings account. Minimalism can be aesthetically pleasing and create an orderly environment.

“When I first decluttered my home, I felt more organized,” Hossle says.

He abides by a simple mantra: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” In other words, each possession is where it belongs.

A minimalist clock hangs on a wall.

A minimalist clock made by Hossle Woodworks.

Tips for living a minimalist lifestyle

Minimalism doesn’t have to be overwhelming—it can be practiced in everyday life with a few simple steps:

1. Make a budget

When it comes to keeping an eye on the items you own, it might help to start with a budget. Creating a budget can show how much money is spent and on what each month.

Hossle gives a few tips on how to build a minimalist budget:

“Look at your expenses in a spreadsheet and categorize them as needs versus wants. Then determine which of the wants actually bring you joy and contribute to your life in a positive way. Try to cut out the rest.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains there are “basic things people must have to survive.” And these things differ from “upgrades and other things that would be nice to have but aren’t necessary for living, income or protecting what you have.”

It’s reasonable to budget for a few wants. But minimalists might want to cut out some unnecessary expenses—like a new shirt every month, takeout for lunch every day or an upgraded cellphone. And they may notice some extra money left over for savings and other financial goals.

A minimalist desk where a person can budget and manage spending.

2. Manage subscription services

Recurring charges are a type of expense that tends to fly under the radar. But it might be worth monitoring recurring charges with a tool like Eno, your Capital One assistant.

Managing subscriptions to things like streaming services, magazines and meal plans may also help cut costs and declutter the home. Minimalists might find it simpler to watch shows on just one platform—or none at all—and to buy only the items needed from the grocery store.

This way, each purchase is a decision, not a default.

3. Declutter your space

When it comes to decluttering, there are several ways to go about it. Podcasters The Minimalists suggest a 30-day minimalism game in which participants choose one item to get rid of on the first day, two items on the second day and so on for 30 days. Items could be sold, donated or tossed—so long as they’re no longer taking up space in the home.

Hossle suggests another rule of thumb for decluttering: “If you haven’t used it or thought of it in six months, it should be donated to a thrift store.”

A tidy living space can also be easy on the eyes. Cheng says her living room only holds a couch, two pillows, a television, a coffee table, a plant, a lamp and a few small pieces of meaningful decor.

“It always looks clean, not cluttered,” she says.

4. Choose sustainable items

When making buying decisions, Hossle recommends choosing quality over quantity. Minimalists may opt for one high-quality or reusable item over a dozen cheap items that could wear down or break. They might even end up saving money in the long run and avoiding the trap of planned obsolescence.

“I’ve gone through so many tools for my furniture business that were cheap, not as functional as they should be or just not made to last,” Hossle says. “Now I purchase higher-end tools—they work well and I need fewer tools to perform the tasks.”

It’s also possible to purchase sustainable clothing, groceries, home goods, kitchenware and beauty products. Cheng says that with a little research and creativity, you can end up with products that are “actually useful to you.”

An organized container holds several high-quality beauty products.

5. Consider a capsule wardrobe

What if your morning routine only took a couple minutes of pairing staple items together to make an outfit? A capsule wardrobe holds a limited number of pieces of clothing that can be mixed and matched. Minimalists might consider it a way to own less clothing and take up less space. But Cheng suggests that “you first have to identify your own personal style.”

Cheng has around 35 pieces of clothing she’s able to wear over and over again. If she adds a new piece to her capsule wardrobe, she might donate another piece to stay organized.

“I recommend picking out around 30 to 40 pieces of clothing including tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear and shoes,” she says. “Try to add items that easily match with most other items in your wardrobe to make a lot of outfit combinations.”

A capsule wardrobe hangs from a clothing rack.

6. Try out minimalist apps

While the goal of minimalism is generally to have fewer things, not more, there might be a few apps that could help simplify your life.

  • Scheduling and to-do list apps: Cheng recommends “clearing your schedule for only the most important activities.” Cut down on a cluttered calendar—and free up headspace—with a scheduling or to-do list app.
  • Mindfulness apps: Learning to be mindful might take practice, but there’s an app for that. Many mindfulness apps are free and offer guided meditations.
  • Screen time apps: If you’d like to spend less time checking social media or email, there are screen time apps to monitor and limit scrolling. You might even end up with more free time to clean out that closet.

7. Figure out what works for you

While minimalism can be a way to reclaim your time and money—and spend it intentionally—the practice may differ from person to person. Focusing on what matters most in your life might help you decide what things stay—and what can go.

“There’s no one way to practice minimalism, so do it at your own pace,” Cheng says. “Minimalism is a journey, so just take small steps.”

Three people walk happily along a seashore.

Minimalist living in a nutshell

Minimalism can be a way to declutter your home, your mind and even your to-do list. Making a little extra effort to do things like budget and build a capsule wardrobe might help save money in the long run. A simpler life could be just a few steps away.

And if you’re looking for more ways to spend less and save more, check out these habits for financial freedom.

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