Minimalism is a hot topic right now, and one we're glad to see trending. We hope it sticks around and that more people begin to think about the impact human beings have on the earth. We're often asked for our advice on living with less, which makes sense. After all, in the past four years, we've downsized twice and have lived (off and on) in 160-200 square feet. Yet when we share our "methods", we notice the crestfallen looks. We don't have a one-size-fits-all methodology or a hard and fast rulebook.
When we decided to travel, it wasn't an experiment in living with less (meaning minimalism wasn't a driving factor). In our case, our reasons for traveling full-time were from a deeper, emotional place that wasn't tied to the amount of stuff we had filling up our home. It wasn't until we began the work of eliminating the clutter and excess so we could downsize to live in a tiny home that we began to notice how much lighter and freer we felt. Now, that's our story. Your reasons for minimizing may be tied to deep, emotional reasons, and that's one-thousand percent okay.
The important thing to remember is that you don't have to follow KonMari or live with only 33 things to be a minimalist, though if you are the type of person that needs a structure to get started, we highly recommend finding a guide that best suits you. We've definitely read Marie Kondo's book and flipped through Project 333's guidelines, but we find that our particular way of doing minimalism doesn't look very minimalist. We love thrifting and have a constant in-and-out of beautiful ceramics, wooden implements, art, rugs, and textiles that we pick up and then sell. We travel with a truck load of tools for work. Our Airstream home is rarely clean or organized, and if we each lived with only 33 items of clothing, we'd only wear ripped, stained, and threadbare work clothes because most of our job is physical labor. Yikes - not into that.
What does work for us is keeping our home tiny, along with other things I'll go into below, and to accept that minimalism is a practice, not a destination. We are constantly learning and reminding ourselves of not only this, but that it's okay to want things sometimes. It's okay to sometimes have an impulse buy. It's okay to have a dress in the closet that I only wear once a year because I love the way it makes me feel when I wear it. It's okay to love thrifting, but to be mindful of the purchases when we go...and that keeping a little vintage shop on the side to sell some of those finds is really fun and serves a purpose for us.
Minimalism should look different to everyone, but we find that the driving factor behind the practice is sustainability. We have friends who practice zero-waste, while my insanely busy life and demands keep me happily recycling as much as I can and taking my own water bottle with me to yoga class. For yet others, minimalism is voting with their dollar: buying only fair-trade, ethically produced clothing and wares for their home as opposed to fast fashion, while some shop purely secondhand for clothing and wares. For the record, we buy secondhand more often, as that's what's in our budget, but I do buy cheaper clothing sometimes for my kid when I can't find a secondhand item she needs. She goes through clothing so fast, it's hard to rationalize spending $100 on a dress for a growing child. We donate the clothing she grows out of to local charities wherever we are.
When buying an item, I do think about it's use, though it doesn't always have to have a specific function. The use, for me, may be making me smile or bringing warmth into my home, like a framed vintage photograph I found of the mountains and saguaros here in Arizona, taken the year of my birth (1985). I am a collector of pieces like this, found buried in stacks at flea markets or secondhand shops, artwork created by someone once and likely changing through many sets of hands before finding its way into mine.
Minimalism can be an incredibly therapeutic and mindful practice, yet I'm 4.5 years into my minimalist lifestyle, and I'm still learning what it means to me, and I still slip up even within the rules I've set for myself and the rules we've set for our family. If I had a big house again, I think that I'd likely be more of a maximalist and fill the space, though I'd maintain my personal goal of not buying mass-produced things and instead wait for the perfect vintage, secondhand item, just as I do now in my tiny space. There are times where I feel overwhelmed with the amount of vintage I've accumulated, and I know it's time to host a flash sale for it all. I go through my two drawers of clothing about four times a year and pull out pieces to donate, and we've digitized all of our bill-paying and the majority of our business, save our business cards and postcards, which are printed on 100% recycled paper. Even our client contracts are digital, and we use DocHub for signatures. Some of our decisions are influenced by our tiny space: our daughter reads like crazy, and can go through a 150 page chapter book in a day. Getting her a Kindle and a subscription for Kindle Unlimited keeps stacks of books from piling up around the Airstream. In my case, however, I can't read on a screen for anything and I buy used copies of the books I want to read, and then pass them along when finished to friends. These are just some of things that we do, which are quite intentional, to hold ourselves accountable to the standard of minimalism that we've set for ourselves and to maintain our own practice, which ebbs and flows just like anything else does.
Minimalism can - and should - be your own journey and practice, just like ours is. It doesn't have to be perfectly lined up and matching organizers in a big walk in pantry and hangers spread finger width apart with clothes in color-coordinated order, no matter what blog or catalog is telling you it should be. You needn't be a fan of neutrals or black, white, and grey to be a minimalist. You don't have to have a capsule wardrobe or live in a tiny house or apartment. You can do all of these things, of course, but it's not a requirement for minimalism. Minimalism could be letting go of a deceased family member's clothing you've been holding onto that makes you sad, or streamlining your wardrobe to only the things you actually wear and finding your true style that makes you feel amazing. It could be cleaning out the clutter under your bathroom sink and purchasing less product, and finding the ones you do use and sticking to those. It could mean buying things slowly, waiting until you're absolutely certain you can't live another day without the item in question. It could mean downsizing your 3,000 square foot home to something more manageable, like 1,200 square feet (like my parents just did!), with less space to hide things away.
Whatever your version of minimalism, practice it with intention and mindfulness, and give yourself grace and time. Minimalism isn't achieved in a weekend, it's an ongoing practice that often requires great diligence and emotional sorting in addition to the physical work. Start your journey by figuring out why you want to minimize, and identify small but definite steps to take to get started.