Steve Jobs, one of the most famous minimalists of our time, understood how overabundance leads to decision fatigue. Wearing the same outfit every day reduced the need to make another decision. He simplified areas of his life, like clothing and home decor, which allowed him to focus on more critical aspects of his life and work.
Minimalism, which started as an art movement in 1960s New York, and transformed how we think about material possessions and digital accumulations, remains a lifestyle still trending today. The pendulum may have swung too far in the “get rid of everything you own” realm at the height of the trend, but the overarching idea has settled somewhere in the middle, and many people are committed to simplifying their lives. Living with less goes beyond cleaning your desk and donating unused clothing to a thrift shop (though such actions can be a good start). When adopting the minimalist philosophy, consider every area of your life and where this could have the most significant positive impact. Here are some simple tips to help you remove excess baggage from your business and personal life.
What Minimalism Is and Isn’t
Minimalism isn’t about removing objects, actions, and people from your life just for the sake of it. The idea is to keep what supports you and cut back on the rest. To do this, you must first identify what’s essential and which items only take up space. This includes physical objects and all areas of your life, including your career or business, social life, and leisure time. It’s important to realize that just because something isn’t practical or profitable doesn’t mean it’s worthless. There are many ways to measure value.
Minimalism in Your Personal Life
Here are some ways to apply minimalism to various aspects of your personal life.
The word “clutter” is interesting because it’s pretty subjective. For example, one person’s precious collection of books, records, and figurines is another person’s clutter. If this describes you, there’s no reason to force yourself to change – at least not all at once. However, many people feel overwhelmed by crowded spaces, which can feel disorderly if not carefully curated. Here are some tips to help you declutter and gain more control of your area.
- Take inventory of your possessions. The popular organizing expert Marie Kondo asks clients to hold an item and ask themselves if it brings joy before deciding whether or not to keep it. This method is best for personal items such as books, jewelry, or artwork. For some things, it’s more practical to ask yourself if you’re likely to use it in the next six months. For example, your vacuum cleaner might not bring you joy, but if you rely on it to keep your floor clean, you probably want to hold onto it. However, there’s no point in holding onto things that serve no aesthetic or practical purpose.
- Clean out storage spaces. Items kept in the closet, garage, attic, basement, or other storage rooms can lie around for years or even decades without ever being used. Clean these spaces by throwing out, donating, or selling what you don’t need. Even if it’s out of sight, it’s still taking up space and is a hassle if you ever move.
- Use the “Find it in 5” rule. You should be able to find a document, appliance, article of clothing, or tool in five minutes or less. If you often spend more time searching for things, that’s a good indication you need to organize your possessions better. You can develop a system that works for you; the key is to put things that fit into a category together. Keep your important papers, tools, books, shoes, etc., together. It’s a simple idea that works wonders.
The prestige and security of owning a home, car, and other possessions are deeply ingrained in our culture’s assumptions about success. However, many people are rethinking the wisdom of the whole ownership model. For example, while there are certain advantages to owning a home, it also means a long-term commitment, property taxes, and the responsibility of maintaining your home. Renting is a more flexible option and, in some cases, more economical depending upon your living preferences and lifestyle.
Car ownership is another practice that some people are starting to question. For example, living in more walkable cities reduces the need for a car daily. Car-sharing services like Lyft and Uber and bike-sharing services like Lime are some options for people without vehicles. While owning a car is undeniably convenient, it’s another considerable expense that usually comes with hefty monthly payments and ongoing maintenance costs.
Your Social Life and Leisure Time
Here are some guidelines for applying the minimalistic ethic to your social life and recreational activities.
- Think before you commit. If you’re inclined to accept all invitations or requests, you’ll find it challenging to manage your time. Rethink social obligations. Don’t feel obligated to attend every family gathering, party, wedding, fundraiser, or other function. Instead, determine the most meaningful events and learn to say “no” or at least, “I’m not sure if I can do that. I’ll let you know later.”
- Analyze your downtime activities. Do you spend hours watching TV, browsing social media, or playing computer games? Everyone needs to wind down, but spending too much time on mindless activities can reduce your effectiveness in other areas. If you need to figure out how you spend your time, use a time-tracking app.
- Cut back on screen time. If you’re like most people today, you could benefit by reducing the number of times you check your email, social media profiles, and phone. If you have trouble doing this, apps like Freedom can help you.
Minimalism in Business
A large company might get away with a certain amount of inefficiency for a few years if it has a top-rated product. Small and mid-size businesses, however, almost always need to be lean and minimalistic to achieve their potential. The following areas may be good to audit from time to time:
- Advertising and marketing. Are you paying for ads or promotional spots out of habit? Make sure you’re constantly testing your results. Drop any campaigns that don’t bring results.
- Office. If you have your own business, you may not even need an office (obviously, this isn’t the case if you have a physical business such as a store or restaurant). Consider working out of your home or at work co-op spaces.
- Employees. It’s often more economical for startups to rely on freelancers than to hire employees. This lets you get services done on an as-needed basis. Even if you need employees, you can outsource many tasks.
- Equipment and services. Consider renting rather than buying equipment. Search for free or low-cost alternatives to costly services.
Improve Your Life With Strategic Minimalism
Minimalism isn’t an all-or-nothing principle. You can transform your home into a space that offers more mental and physical freedom without turning it into a monk’s cell and removing every non-essential object. The point is to declutter and simplify in those areas where it will make a positive difference in your life. It’s up to you to identify these areas and experiment. If your life or business seems cluttered, try trimming away some excesses and see what results you get.