Too much crap - Becoming Minimalist

11 First Steps to Becoming a Minimalist.

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Over the past 5-months I’ve been sorting and selling everything I own to travel the world. I’ve gone through owning excess to owning what will fit into a few tupperware bins and my backpack. This process has taught me so much about how to minimize my belongings and realizing what is more important in my life. Most of the items in my house hadn’t been used in over a year (some several years) and it’s easy to say that I only used 20% of my items 80% of the time. There were so many items that I rarely used and could easily do without. Our lifestyles allow us to value convenience rather than practicality.

In the beginning, I thought that becoming a minimalist was about narrowing down your items to the bare minimum for the existence you’re most comfortable with. Since I started this process, I’ve learned that it’s much more than that. It’s a way of life. A way of thinking. It’s more than what’s in your house or in your backpack. It’s also about the clutter that fills your mind, the things vying for your attention, and the things that take up your time.

  1. Don’t buy anything you don’t actually need. Don’t fall into the trap of buying stuff. If you do that you’ll end up with a house full of things, you’ve never even used or rarely used. Before you head to the check-out ask yourself, “Do I really need this item or can I do without it?”
  2. Reuse towels. Towels don’t get dirty after using them once. Try using 1-2 towels per week. This not only minimizes how many towels you need to have in your house, but it saves on laundry detergent and water as well.
  3. Sell or donate any clothing that has not been worn in the last 6-months. After you’ve done that try 60-days. You’ll end up with a closet full of clothes that you do wear. Re-evaluate every 6-months. Nina wore the same outfit for 7-weeks straight at her corporate job.
  4. Clean your desk. When your desk is clean and clear so is your mind.  Clear your desk at the end of every day. That way when you arrive in the morning, you’re ready to focus on your work and being creative.

    Clear Your Desk Daily!

  5. Be Present. Nobody wants to be talking to someone when they are busy checking their cell phone, e-mail, or watching their surroundings. This is sending a message that you don’t care and they’re not worth your time. So be present. Give the person you’re talking to your full attention. If you can’t give your full attention, apologize for needing a few minutes (or whatever time frame you need) and then give them your undivided attention. Listen.
  6. List an item on Craigslist everyday. Becoming a minimalist doesn’t have to be an overnight change. Start slowly. Since 80% of our belongings are not use regularly begin narrowing down those items to the bare necessities. Go through and list all the items you use every month and begin selling the rest. It’s hard to give away gifts that we’ve gotten over the years, but in the end, it’s a thing. If you can replace it, you can get rid of it. If it’s sentimental and irreplaceable, then make careful consideration.
  7. Unsubscribe to any e-mail lists you no longer read or want to pay attention to. A full in box can be extremely overwhelming. If you can narrow down the e-mails you get to only the ones that you care about, you’ll save time and energy. On that same note, unsubscribe from any store mailings. Ignorance is bliss. You don’t need to know that Macy’s is having a 20% off sale when you already have enough clothes. Don’t let advertising control your impulse to buy things.
  8. Improve your diet. We’re so busy running around that we don’t have time to create good wholesome meals. By eliminating the things that waste our time, we have more time for the thing most important to us, our body. Our body is what keeps us alive and in this world. Take care of it. Think of food as fuel and educate yourself on what your body needs to stay healthy. Get in the best shape of your life.
  9. Focus on one thing at a time. Give that one item your full attention. Rather than spend time working on several things at once doing them half-assed. Focus on one and do it awesome.
  10. Kick your old-friends to the curb. Say Whaaaa? Sometimes we outgrow people. Sometimes we just need certain people at certain point in our lives. If there are people in your life that you don’t relate to anymore or the relationship has dissolved, move on. Unless that person is worth (to you) having and cultivating that relationship, move on and focus on the ones that do. Why waste energy on someone that is meaningless to us. Focus that energy towards the ones that do. We live, we learn, we grow, we move on. Destroy your past life and start-over.
  11. Do meaningful work. This one is the most important one (and why I’ll never have a job). We all spent the majority of our lives working. Doing work your passionate about, doesn’t feel like work. You enjoy it, you look forward to going everyday. Doesn’t that sound a whole hell of a lot better than drowning in a job you hate just waiting for 5 o clock to come around? Why waste most of your existence doing something you hate. If you want a certain job make the decision to go after it. Take a step everyday towards your goal or start your own minimalist business.

These aren’t huge lifestyle changes. However, they are small changes to become a minimalist and the beginning towards living a more fulfilling life. Life is about experiences, not about how much crap you have in your house. Begin making these small changes, then once you get comfortable and confident move onto bigger more bold changes… like perhaps selling everything to travel the world.

Now take that money that you used to spent on useless crap and put it into a savings account. Use this savings account to save towards one of your dream goals. Is that to travel to Australia for a month? Is it to learn how to salsa dance in Argentina? Is it to get your SCUBA license? What is your dream? Do you have a bucket list? (If not make one) These are experiences of life that are worth having. By not spending money on needless things, you’ll now have more money for the things that are important, experiences.

Love this list? Here’s 103 more ways to simplify your life.

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  • Anonymous

    Minimalism is a mindset!

    Packing for my trip I was amazed at how much unnecessary STUFF I had. Everything that was truly necessary I could easily fit into a backpack. For me, packing was the easy part. I recently took everything out of my pack and photographed it. The final result is beautiful, but the best part is knowing that it all fits on your back!

    I’m struggling with clearing my mind. Reducing urges, simplifying and organizing my lifestyle.

    You’re onto something Jenny, keep at it!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yes. It’s a mind-set. When I started going through all of my stuff I realized just how many things that I bought and NEVER used. Never. Not once. What a waste of money, resources, and space. From there I made a conscious decision to never buy anything I don’t actually need.

      After you carry everything you own/need on your back for an extended period of time… you look at stuff much differently.

  • http://spicedpear.wordpress.com/ Heathre

    Although the entire list speaks to me, number 4 and 5 stood out the most. Hell yes to 11! That’s what I did today. I volunteered at one of my favourite places doing administrative work (instead of the job I had) and I enjoyed it!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Being present is so important. I can’t stand talking to someone that isn’t paying attention to what I’m saying, always checking their phone, interrupting me to yell at kids, or just going mmmhhmm mmmhhmm. I’d rather not waste my voice so I usually walk off and leave with a bad impression. I never want to do that to someone else. I may not remember everything, but I’ll give my full attention.

  • http://hessiess.com Robert Hickman

    The current ‘Minimalist’ movement actually has very little to do with minimalism. Fundamentally its about dedicating your life to things you love doing, the reduction of physical possessions is just a side effect.

    This is actually why I dislike the term ‘Minimalism’ in this context, it is very easy to miss the point. Just reducing your physical possessions is not enough, you must completely change your point of view.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Good point. However, maybe minimalism is a good term. It’s about minimizing the things in life that don’t matter whether it’s an object, time, or an activity so that you have time for the things that you love in life. The things that are most important.

      I agree, that it really isn’t clear in the beginning (and easy to miss the point – hell I did) that it’s more than just reducing clutter and stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Since I started downsizing, I’ve really noticed a huge difference in the way I look at things. I know longer mindlessly buy the latest gadget, I think about every thing I buy. Most of the times I put it back because I know that I’m just acting on impulse. Needless to say I totally agree with No. 1.

    Kicking your old friends to the curb is something I did many years ago and it has made a drastic change in my life. You are an average of the people you spend most of your time around. Why not hang around bad asses instead of the losers. Unless you like being a loser of course.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      It’s a completely different mind-set. Once you have to deal with possessions like that on a large scale, you tend to get disgusted… How did I ever get here in the first place? It makes you never want to go back!

      It’s easy now to recognize that I’m acting on impulse, but before I never noticed it. Like I mentioned in a previous comment, once you carry everything you need/own on your back for an extended period of time… you look at stuff differently. In a way that will never be the same.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      It’s a completely different mind-set. Once you have to deal with possessions like that on a large scale, you tend to get disgusted… How did I ever get here in the first place? It makes you never want to go back!

      It’s easy now to recognize that I’m acting on impulse, but before I never noticed it. Like I mentioned in a previous comment, once you carry everything you need/own on your back for an extended period of time… you look at stuff differently. In a way that will never be the same.

  • http://www.MyBeautifulAdventures.com/ GlobalButterfly

    These are some awesome tips!!! I think everyone should add these to their New Year’s resolutions.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks Andi!!!

  • http://twitter.com/BAbackpacker Breakaway Backpacker

    I love how a lot of us RTWsoon-ers realize this as we plan for our trip. Its crazy the amount of stuff we have that we just don’t use or don’t need. I am glad I was able to help kick start your declutter-ing & well now look at you. You have come a long way and I can not take any credit for it because in the end you did this for yourself and I admire you for that. These are some great steps ;) ~

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yes. It’s a great side-effect!

      We’re exchanging stuff for our freedom. I’ll take that trade any day.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yes. It’s a great side-effect!

      We’re exchanging stuff for our freedom. I’ll take that trade any day.

  • http://twitter.com/jenny_smythe Jenny Smythe

    I like this post. You laid it out in simple and very easy to digest steps! Thanks!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Glad you enjoyed it Jenny! :)

  • http://www.travelingwithsweeney.com Cathy Sweeney

    Very, very good advice for all of us. Of course, some are easier said than done, but the first step is recognizing what they are and that it is possible to do them. It’s easy enough to start with 1 tip and then move on to others. Thanks for the great tips and reminder to focus on what’s really important.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yes… some are definitely easier than others. But if each of us can make a few small changes, we can reduce some of our impact. :)

  • http://www.artofbackpacking.com Michael

    I’m an obsessed minimalist as well. Good pointers!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Right. It feels great to live with less!

  • http://www.chickybus.com Lisa E @chickybus

    Great list! I especially like #5 and # 9.

    I also think that if you’re clear on your goals, then it’s easier to scale back a bit. What isn’t part of your plan doesn’t fit and so, you drop it…this frees up time for what’s important.

    Great stuff here–thanks!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks Lisa. I agree.

  • http://www.ryanrenfrew.com Ryan Renfrew

    Hey Jenny,

    Ive just stumbled across your blog. I love it I cant wait to delve in and see what other gems you have written.

    Im a total stickler for #5. I cant do antyhing without everything neat and tidy, present and correct. I thought that was just an ocd I have, glad your the same.

    bLAZE yOUR tRAIL

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Hi Ryan! Thanks for stopping by. I never said I was ocd about my desk… far from it. However, when I clean my desk in the evening for the next morning, I’m so much more productive. My desk gets messy fast.

  • http://holesinmysoles.blogspot.com/ Jim

    Number 10…Destroy your past life…think that needs rewriting. Sure we move on, leave some friends behind, but they should stay friends. Hell of a nice feeling to catch up with friends you haven’t seen for so long. And it’s really easy these days to keep them in the loop by adding them to your email list. They appreciate it, and someday in the future, you just may appreciate their help.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      You’re right Jim. I prolly worded it wrong. There are just some people you outgrow though. Rather than continue to give them your attention, it’s better to give your attention to new people that are at your new level. Of course if you have an amazing bond with someone that’s different.

  • http://www.yTravelBlog.com/ yTravelBlog

    I love this list and agree with everyone, especially number 5. It is imperative to be a good listener and be present in every moment. You are going to miss so much of what you need to know if you are not- and that brings harsh lessons.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I can’t stand when I’m talking to someone (after I’ve just spent time listening to them) and they don’t even acknowledge that I’m talking. In those cases, I quit wasting my breath and move on. Most of the time, they apologize and ask you to continue or repeat yourself. Then when you do, they do the same damn thing. – Pet Peeve.

      • http://www.yTravelBlog.com/ yTravelBlog

        I used to, when this would happen, say “yeah and Mickey Mouse had a house” just to see what there reaction would be. Some would say “Oh, right.” and so I would just walk away. And then others would say “WTF?” and then I would have to say “Oh, sorry, it just didn’t seem like you were listening so I was just checking.” Was a great way to filter your friends.
        My biggest peeve now are those on twitter who you directly try to engage with and they blatantly ignore you.
        “Hey you’re not that important” – unfollow

        • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

          Ha. I’m going to try that one.

          Sometimes twitter is hard to follow. SO much noise. I’m thinking about minimizing my follows. It’s between engaging and following my followers or only following those I actively engage with. Torn.

  • http://twitter.com/aviewtoathrill Renee King

    I love # 10 and would like to add “Get rid of the emotional vampires in your life”. There are some people who really make it their life’s work to marginalize, criticize and judge your choices in life….most especially when it comes to traveling. There’s no polite way to tell these fangbangers to step off and find a hobby to keep them busy enough so that they won’t have time to worry about you and your business. Nothing will bring you (and your spirit) down faster than these unhappy Debbie Downers who are proficient in sucking the life out of anyone’s idea of a good time.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Ohhh. emotional vampires is a good one. I’ve had several big players in my life be emotional vampires. I don’t really get the point of someone’s life that has to do that. Someone told me to read the book, Nasty People and it really helped me understand this phenomenon. Funny story: I recommended my doctor read the book after we had a lengthy discussion. Next time I saw him, he told me that he read the book, decided his girlfriend was a “nasty person” and dumped her by handing her the book. LOL

  • Nicolas De Corte

    I notice you’ve been reading the 4 Hour work week, or at least the blog of someone who read it. :-)
    These are indeed quite easy to follow tips that will lead to more fulfillment in life.
    Only point 2 I find a bit ridiculous, I don’t think anyone ever got better by getting rid of a couple of towels, but I follow your point, you have to start somewhere and clutter can be found where you least expect it.
    The point is that the more you own, the more cluttered your thoughts will be and I can only agree with that.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I think everyone in lifestyle design is familiar with Tim’s work.

      The point of the post was to give small baby steps towards becoming a minimalist. Reducing and reusing towels is a baby step. Once you move past that you can apply the same mind-set towards other things in your household which will over time change the way you live and think towards perceived necessity.

  • Kim

    Came across your blog/interview today via virtual business life, and what you are doing totally spoke to me. My partner and i left the real (so called!) world 2 years ago and are loving every minute. It’s amazing to see someone like you, a generation younger going that route… i wish you much success.

    Success not defined by $$’s more along a great path to living a life that means something more than just work. What you are doing is certianly going to be an interesting journey for you, and those of us who will join you virtually for the ride.

    I love you minimize your life list, was one of the biggest side benefits for me… letting go of all that. Give me my 100 sq ft rv and no stuff any day!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Kim, thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. Glad to have you here. I’m even more happy to hear that you escaped over 2 years ago! Hell yeah.

      I grew up being taught that success was having money and things. However, I quickly realized in my late teens and early 20′s that this wasn’t true. I’m stubborn and in my stubbornness I refused to ever get a job. Because of that choice I made many years ago, I’ve led a fulfilling adventurous-filled life. HOwever, it doesn’t really matter when we realize it, only that we realized it, and made changes.

  • http://twitter.com/budgettravelsac Jeremy Branham

    Great tips Jenny! Love #11 – just wish I could figure that out – ask Caz! I am frugal and very anti-materialistic so I definitely agree with your tips. I believe that the best way to enjoy life is to keep it simple and I really mean that. Hence, my anti-materialism/American dream rant.

    On the flip side, I tend to be a bit of a pat rack – I like to call it disorganized chaos. :) Good tips and these are things ALL of us could use regardless of whether we go around the world, travel, or just live our every day lives!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I can say that I like to have my things. It’s been hard to let go of all my stuff. So many memories.

      I like to think of it as an exchange for my freedom. Makes it a bit easier, for me at least.

  • http://twitter.com/swgraphic Sarah Wu

    I need to clean my desk or I can’t be creative anymore heehee..

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Sometimes, when my desk is messy and I’m on a deadline. I have to stop, clean my entire desk, and then I can get back to work. Otherwise I’m too distracted to get anything done or be creative.

  • http://atrampabroad.com Amy Thibodeau

    Great post Jenny! My fiance and I got rid of almost everything we owned to spend a year traveling last spring. I can honestly say that I don’t miss anything I got rid of. Stuff is replaceable but the experiences we’ve had over the past seven months are absolutely priceless.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Wish more people would realize that. Stuff doesn’t matter, experiences do.

  • http://www.hobotraveler.com/blogger.html hobotraveler

    I would list:
    A. Live out of a Backpack, you cannot carry more than the minimal.
    B. Spend less than 10 Dollars per day, the less you buy, the more minimal you are.
    C. Convert all your assets to cash, and be a cash only buyer.
    Andy Graham of HoboTraveler.com 12 years of living out a Backpack.
    Mobile Office

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks for adding to the list. :)

      You’re right that once you live out of a backpack, you look at your possessions a lot differently.

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  • http://www.travel-for-love.com Laura

    This is a great list, Jenny! I do ok with the physical stuff (less clutter, not buying things I don’t need) but really have trouble with the mental ones. I am such a multi-tasker and my mind is always wandering. And the meaningful work one? I need to work on that too!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      My mind wanders a lot too. I’ve learned to really focus and be present so that I can be 100% attentive to who I’m talking to or what I’m doing. Trust me, it takes ALOT of practice! Just keep at it.

  • http://travelerahoy.wordpress.com Alouise

    I’m not a minimalist, and but I know there is a lot of crap that I have that I don’t use, or need. I’ve already started going through and boxing things up for donations. These are great tips. I really like #7, because junk emails don’t take up a lot of personal space, but they take away time and attention from what I should really focus on.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Junk e-mails or e-mail newsletters that you’re no longer interested all take up time… it may not be a lot, but those few seconds can add up over time. Especially considering how much junk an unwanted e-mail we get PER DAY. Once I cleaned out my inbox and set up pre-sort rule folders, my time for e-mail is 1/20th of the time per day than it used to take. Score.

  • http://www.travelswithanineyearold.com Theodora

    Hey Jenny! A great list.

    Can I ask, though, if there’s anything that lies behind the kicking old friends to the kerb post? Old friends stay friends. It’s just, perhaps, at a time when your focus is so totally on travelling, that decision and the future plans, they don’t want to talk about what you want to talk about. They may not actively disapprove. But they may not agree with your decision.

    My son and I, as you know, are travelling longterm. And I think the focus zone that people embarking on travels get into can be meaningless, or even tedious, to those who aren’t doing the same thing…

    Are you going to do a farewell dinner or party with your friends? Once you’ve been away a while, you’ll miss them. Maybe just sit in a bar and invite people to come if they want?

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      There have been friends in my life that I’ve (mutually) outgrown. Maybe we lose interest in what tied us togeather, we change who we are, change our worldviews, or change the things we like doing… What I mean by that is that we no longer had mutual interests, we’d grown apart. When that happens, I feel that it’s better to let go and focus on the people in your life in the present that you can really relate and bond with at that given point in time. I’m not saying you have to completely ditch that person for the rest of your life (facebook has given us all a way to keep in touch much easier these days), but to kinda move on. Like leaving an old boyfriend… you see what each other are up to from time to time, but you go on with your new lives. It was never a specific event, but a realization over time.

      I’m not doing any farewell party this year. When I left for my 5-month backpacking trip around South America I had a huge going away party. What happened is I was running around tending to food, drinks, and all other sort of stuff that I didn’t actually get to spend time with the people I was saying good-bye to. So this time I decided to spend the last 2-weeks spending time one-on-one with people who wanted to spend time with me (and I them) before I left.

      I already miss my friends and I haven’t even left yet. :)

  • http://powerspercussion.com/blog MarkPowers

    This is one of my favorite posts from you! Most of these are great steps to be taking, even if you don’t have the desire to become a minimalist. Great list, Jenny- thanks!

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  • http://twitter.com/chris2x Chris Christensen

    That’s a lot of steps… you couldn’t get that down to say 10? :-)

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  • http://alwayswell.wordpress.com Sandra Lee

    Jenny,

    I really love this mix of practical suggestions (clean your desk each day) and suggestions for emotional and mental well being through simplicity of mind. My life is already quite simple, but I could definitely deploy some of these solutions. However, I don’t plan on kicking anyone to the curb or destroying my past life. Everyone is meaningful in their own way and I’ll respect that even if it’s time for me to move on.

  • Anonymous

    Great list Jenny and a handy reminder. Some of them I do regularly and well – others less so. Time to work on the ‘others’. Diet springs to mind!!!

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  • http://www.colorfulplaces.com Bluegreen Kirk

    I am a minimalist by nature I dont even have to think about it. I dont like clutter, dont keep things Im not using and #1 what I live by for the most part!

  • http://sunsetsandcervezas.com/ Oswald

    I got rid of all my stuff years ago and have never looked back – one of the best things I ever did. I can fit everything I own in a backpack and one wheelie suitcase.
    Great article! :)

  • http://www.TravelingGreener.com Sonya

    Great tips on becoming a minimalist. I just included your blog in my 10 Digital Nomad Blogs You’ll Love.

  • http://twitter.com/TravelMoments Loredana Pascal

    Very useful advices. I’m glad to see someone listed these tips and tricks, for they may seem simple and logical but so many people ignore them in everyday life. 

  • http://blog.anytrip.com Lindy

    It’s amazing I read this now, because I’m going home tonight already to throw half of my things away. I’m so ready to be a minimalist!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yay! Let me know how it goes!

  • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

    New reader here. This is useful since I’m prepping up for some long-term travel. I used to go with donating clothes that haven’t been worn in a year as rule of thumb. 6 months is cutting it a bit short considering the seasons yeah? Oh well, I’m probably complaining and could probably be more aggressive. 

  • Rajasthan Tours

    Excellent post .its amazing

  • Rekha

    Dear Author,

    Thank you for this post. I am starting my journey into Minimalism and this helped a lot. Now i know where to start, and I am not the only one… most of my family and friends think i am crazy for selling and getting rid of most of my stuff. But I learnt i really dont need them to be happy. Thanks again.

    ~Rekha

  • http://paivisanteri.blogspot.com/ Global Nomads

    Ditching mobile phone solves many points in your list. Luckily ours got stolen in Bali after the first year on the road and we did not get new one.