(Minimalist) Baby Steps

The worst thing to do when delving into minimalism it to do so head first, and cut yourself off from the material world. This advice stems from experience, as that was my initial approach to the lifestyle. After reading a multitude of minimalist blogs, I confidently opened my closet, determined to throw everything out, before panicking. Bear in mind, these bloggers make minimalism look easy. They’ve achieved the lifestyle (or so we believe, through the presentation of their posts) over time. At one point, they all went to their closets, found a purpose for every piece of junk, and proceeded to fill up their lives with less meaning

I came across a post by Courtney Carver from be more with less titled 7 Tiny Steps for the Beginner Minimalist. For anyone facing the fear of unpacking their lives, the concept of baby steps seems ideal. Ideal is great, but are they realistic? I was attracted to analyzing this solely because Carver’s categorization of wannabe minimalists, like myself. She says we fall into three categories: The first, heading straight to their closet to throw away everything; the second, Denying that they even have too much stuff; and the third, completely overwhelmed, most likely due to identifying with the two aforementioned groups. Who, me? I don’t have a problem. I have a purpose for all  of my junk. I mean, prized possessions. No, really, I’m not attached. Just watch, I’ll throw everything away right now. The cycle of the wannabe minimalist, is one I am beginning to know well.

Carver’s list of seven steps is as follows:

STEP 1: Write it Down

Find a notepad or piece of stray paper in your sea of stuff and write down the reasons why you want to declutter your life. I can see this step working to an extent, primarily because I am an incessant list maker. My pros and cons list make me a natural Rory Gilmore. But lists remain thought and theory unless you can motivate yourself to manifest them into concrete reality. Can I do this, considering how overwhelming my materially possessed life feels?

STEP 2: Discard the Duplicates

Carver makes an excellent point with this step. Having more than one of something can cause more clutter than use depending on the item. The solution: put all of the duplicates in a box and put the box out of sight. If, after a month, you don’t need anything in the box, then donate it!

STEP 3: Declare a Clutter-Free Zone

Pick a spot in your house, and organize it until it’s spotless. Carver suggests using this single, decluttered space as inspiration to declutter the rest of your life. I’m doubtful of this one. Could having a single, organized space only create a place for my other stuff to move to?

STEP 4: Travel Lightly

This step of Carver’s list is one of the main reasons I wanted to live with less. I travel between Syracuse, New York and Connecticut often throughout the school year, many times on the amtrak. Have you ever tried traveling on trains  with what feels like 100 pounds of luggage? My inability to travel lightly is the reason why I dread traveling. The next time you travel, Carver suggests packing for half the amount of days you will be traveling. I’m not sure how I feel about being forced to live with less, but this one may be worth it.

STEP 5: Dress with Less

Alright, clothing hoarders, it’s time to empty out your closet. Carver suggests your new best friend will be Project 333: dressing with only 33 items in your closet, and doing so for three months. I tend to list thrift shopping as one of my many ‘hobbies’, often times adding to my clothing collection with impressive speed. 33 has never seemed like such an absurdly small number.

STEP 6: Eat Similar Meals

Of all the steps on Carver’s list, this one I can definitely do. I am a creature of habit, specifically in my diet. Being a vegetarian with a grain and dairy allergy, I don’t have a lot to work with when creating variation in my meals. This isn’t a problem when living minimally. Carver suggests having a select menu of meals and rotate them throughout the week. Eating simply minimizes time spent on thinking about what to eat.

STEP 7: Save $1000

As a college kid, I know the ‘broke college kid’ life all too well. In retrospect, however, if I gave up the couple of coffees I buy in a week, I could easily save up $1000. Carver suggests that having at least $1000 in an emergency fund will reduce stress and make it easier to live minimally.

These “tiny” steps for the prospective minimalist may seem simple, but the true test will be trying them out. Now to find a spare notebook to start on step one!

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