how to be minimalist without throwing everything away

Minimalism: bare rooms, spacious drawers, and empty closets.

It’s become increasingly popular to be minimalist and adopt the lifestyle of “less is more.” Why clutter your life with a ton of things you might not even be using?


Well, that’s easier said than done. When we’re so used to filling our spaces with material goods and having sentimental values attached to them, not many people want to toss that all into garbage bags and start from scratch. Not only is that a stark change, but it’s not a sustainable one, either.

So how can any of us be minimalist without having to sacrifice how we’re currently living? We may focus on the actions taken to become a minimalist, but minimalism is more powerful as a mentality, a philosophy. That means anyone of us, at any point we choose, can be minimalist without throwing anything away.

1. practice being present.

The main underlying philosophy behind minimalism is presence. The only objects you keep in your space are ones that are either practical and you use every day, or they have an important value to you that provokes joy.

The same goes for the thoughts that cross your mind and how you approach life. The past is gone, and the future isn’t promised. Why keep anything that resides in either place?

Think of when you declutter your closet. You give away the older items you haven’t worn in a while, or ones you only keep because a memory is attached to them. You also don’t keep things you bought and want to wear in the future but have yet to do so. They’re simply taking up space, and having them there won’t necessarily entice you to wear them.

We can live in the past and long for what we’ve already experienced. We can live in the future, worrying over all the “what if’s” and possibilities that aren’t within your control. However, neither of these mentalities are healthy or align with minimalism.

Allow thoughts to remain thoughts and ground yourself in the present moment. Appreciate what is. Meditate on the sensations of simply living, right now. Do this by grounding yourself with your five senses: right now, what are you really seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, and hearing. If thoughts come to you, let them float by like clouds. Notice your breath and how the air enters and leaves your body. Practicing meditation and grounding, even for a couple minutes every day, will help you approach more situations with presence and mindfulness.

2. make less trash.

I don’t mean decluttering and throwing away every object in your home. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, especially when it comes to plastic and single-use items. While we might focus on minimalism within our personal spaces, we neglect to look at our impact on the environment, all the trash we accumulate just from living a conventional Western lifestyle. It’ll take multiple generations before these materials would even begin to decompose.

The main culprits to watch for? Straws, plastic cutlery, beverage cups, Ziploc bags, plastic shopping bags, paper towels, wet wipes, water bottles, fast fashion, Keurig cups…these and so much more account for growing carbon footprints that, if we all continue living without a minimalist mentality, will not all stand on this planet.

Be minimalist by starting with easy, eco-friendly changes and recognizing areas in your life prone to excess waste. The kitchen and bathroom tend to be main contributors, but even when going out, avoid reaching for the convenience of single-use products. Look to ideas from the zero-waste lifestyle on how to easily become more eco-conscious and declutter our planet. Minimalism means living within only our individual needs and nothing more.

3. narrow down your stimuli.

This world is very stimulating. We could easily spend our lives distracting ourselves, consuming media and buying new things and immersing ourselves in the newest trends, social media posts, videos…the list goes on.

It’s overwhelming to think of everything there is to see and do and listen to, how much content is being made in every second. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never appreciate it all. If we focus on all we’re missing, we’re setting ourselves up for feeling anxiety and despair.

Many minimalist suggestions include “detoxing” your social media feeds or not using devices at all. That may work for some, but not all. Instead of cutting media consumption cold turkey, simply narrow down what you really enjoy.

Love music? Podcasts? YouTube videos? TV? Something else? Good. Then do that. Restrain yourself from having multiple tabs on your browser or having your phone at hand every second. Prioritize your time for one activity or medium at a time, and don’t dwell on every other place that wants to grab your attention. Your time is precious: minimize cluttered consumption with fewer media and more single-focus activity.

4. practice spirituality.

Keep an open mind with this tip.

I believe there’s a place in our souls that is perpetually empty. It’s this gaping abyss that we intuitively know is there. The problem is, it’s too easy to try and fill that place with all the wrong things.

We seek out fame, money, material goods, prestigious achievements…all these outlets that are supposed to make us satisfied and fulfilled, but once we really reflect on our lives, all those efforts are in vain.

Why is this? I believe that hole can only be filled with something beyond our physical realm, and that’s spiritual belief and practice. Spirituality allows us to recognize a greater perspective on our individual lives and purpose we each have, as well as knowing the limitations purchases and labels and objects have in living a full life.

Don’t pursue spirituality just because you feel the obligation, or you feel like settling on the ideas you already know. I believe we’re all drawn to certain religions and beliefs for a reason, and they’ll all point us toward the same place in the end. So why not explore all there is to know? Be open to wherever your soul-searching leads. Whichever direction you turn, you’ll naturally become more mentally minimalist by idolizing objects less and appreciating what you already own more.

What are other ways you can become more mentally minimalist, all without decluttering your whole house? Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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