Most of us live a life that is characterized by excess.
And no, I’m not talking about wealth. After all, most of us don’t have the money to buy a yacht, private plane, and eight different temporary residences.
I’m talking about extra “stuff.”
The things that we keep around even though they don’t add value to our lives. The additional fluff that draws our focused attention away from the things that really matter.
One of the best ways to start living intentionally and designing your environment in a way that promotes success is to minimize your life.
Minimizing and simplifying your life will allow you to allocate more time and energy to engage meaningful pursuits — spending time with friends, building deep personal connections, learning new skills, etc.
In today’s article, we’re going to talk about various ways to minimize your life so that you can spend more of your days immersed in experiences that bring you joy.
What Does Minimalist Lifestyle Mean?
I wouldn’t consider myself a minimalist, but there are certain principles of minimalism that I’ve incorporated into my own life.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about the word minimalism, here’s a brief overview of what minimalism actually is:
Minimalism is simply the art of living with less. It’s about freeing yourself from excess and living a simple, uncluttered life. It’s living without an obsession of material things.
In life, your goal should be to spend as much time engaged in meaningful pursuits as possible — minimalism is simply about removing the distractions that get in the way of that goal.
When most people think about minimalism, they tend to think of the picture below:
And while there are some hardcore minimalists who have chosen to live that way, pictures like that don’t define minimalism.
One of the most common misconceptions about minimalism lies in the idea that it’s monk-like living, which is not true at all. It can be, if you decide to go that direction, but most people embracing a minimalist lifestyle don’t.
Minimalism is simply about getting rid of the non-essential things that sap your time, energy, and focus.
There are hundreds of ways to minimize your life. And most of them don’t include radical, life-changing shifts like selling your house or your car — despite what you’ve heard before.
Why You Should Minimize Your Life
Now that you have a firm grasp on what minimizing actually is, the next question you’re probably wondering is — “Why do it?”
As the conversation progressed, the topic of time management came up. When asked his perspective on how to effectively manage your time, Clear had an interesting take:
“At some point you have to be willing to cut out good uses of time so that you can make space for great uses of time. And that’s really easy to do when you’re talking about wasteful stuff like Youtube and video games. That’s the easy stuff to cut out. The hard stuff to cut out is numbers 4-6 on your priority list because those are the easiest things to rationalize.”
There are many reasons why you should minimize your life, but Clear hits on the most important one — when you remove everything except for your top priorities, focusing on your top priorities becomes easier.
Minimalism makes it easier for you to focus on high-impact activities, which bring the most joy and fulfillment to your life.
Benefits of Minimizing Your Life
Minimizing is counter-cultural. It goes against everything that our society prides itself on — the continuous need to strive for more.
We live in a society where people pride themselves on the accumulation of material things. And honestly, I don’t have a problem with that.
There’s nothing wrong with working hard to accumulate wealth and possessions as long as those two things don’t become the north star that guides your actions. Making money and buying expensive things is cool. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s a magic pill for happiness and fulfillment.
Here are some of the benefits of taking actionable steps to minimize your life.
You save money. Choosing to accumulate only the essentials often results in more financial freedom. By concentrating only on what you truly need instead of all of the things that you want, you’ll have more money left over to deploy as you see fit.
You will increase your productivity. Naturally, as you get rid of stuff you’ll have a less cluttered workspace and household, which will boost your productivity. When you sit down to work, there won’t be nearly as many distractions around — making it easier to engage in deep work.
You’ll have more time. Owning things carries a high cost. Inherently, the things you own require a time commitment and a financial commitment in order to maintain them. Investing less time and money into your possessions allows you to focus more energy on the essential few that you still own.
Less stress. Living with less possessions overall tends to lead to reduced stress since you have less to worry about. When you minimize your life, you remove virtual distractions and mental stress that typically comes along with everyday life.
13 Ways to Minimize Your Life
Here’s an extensive list of practical ways to minimize your life.
Some of these changes are more drastic than others, so don’t feel like you need to do everything on this list.
There’s value here for everyone, regardless of what your goals are.
#1 – Decrease Your Debt
Minimalism is about removing things that add unnecessary stress into your life. Debt isn’t a physical object, but it certainly gives you more to think about. And those thoughts usually aren’t positive.
Clearing debt will check one thing off the list of things that deserve your attention. As the debt trickles down, you’ll get a nice jolt of motivation that has the potential to cause a ripple effect.
Many people have reported that getting rid of debt is a keystone habit, which means it sparks change in other areas of their life.
#2 – Clean Out Your Contacts List
When you pull out your phone and look at your list of contacts, how many people do you see that you actually keep in touch with?
If you’re like most people, the answer is not many.
I was shocked when I looked through my contacts a couple weeks ago. It was astounding how many people were sitting there that I had spoken to once or twice, or not at all.
Deleting all of the non-essential contacts in your phone will make it easier to keep in touch with the people that deserve your attention.
#3 – Delete All Unnecessary Apps on Your Phone
Similar to the contacts in your phone, I’m guessing there are lots of useless apps on your phone that are doing nothing but draining your battery life.
Deleting these apps is yet another way to minimize your life. It will help declutter your home screen so that you’re only able to access the most essential apps.
If you’re really feeling motivated, try deleting one of your social media apps for a week or two. See if you actually need it!
Social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be huge time-wasters. So if you’re able to discover that you can live without them, that will be a huge boost to your productivity.
#4 – Limit Your Goals
When attempting to minimize your life, the concepts don’t just apply to your stuff. They are also relevant to your goals and ambitions.
When it comes to your goals, it’s crucial to narrow your focus. If you set too many goals and bite off more than you can chew, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed, depressed, and no further along the success curve.
My rule of thumb is to focus on no more than 1-2 habits at a time. Anything more than that will hamper my ability to solidify those habits into my daily life.
Your willpower is limited, so you must be careful in how you deploy it.
It’s much better to focus your attention on 1-2 goals and dedicate yourself to those completely as opposed to setting five goals and likely achieving none of them.
#5 – Clean Out Your Closet
One of the most common ways we live in excess is by over-extending our wardrobe.
It’s still mind-blowing to me when I walk into my mom’s closet and see 54 different pieces of clothing for each color.
All the while I’m thinking to myself, “How many of these outfits have I actually seen her wear?”
All of us have clothes in our closet that we don’t wear or don’t even like that much, which presents us with a perfect opportunity to minimize!
Simplifying your wardrobe is an easy process.
Pull out every piece of clothing that you have and simply ask yourself this question for each piece — “Do I actually like wearing this outfit consistently or is it something that I just keep around in the hopes that I’ll wear it one day?”
If it’s an outfit that you like wearing and that you wear consistently, keep it!
If you realize that it’s something that just takes up space in your closet, then either sell it or donate it to people who need it more than you do.
By the end of this process, you’ll have a closet filled with clothes that you actually enjoy wearing. Additionally, you’ll spend much less time in the morning figuring out what to wear, which will help eliminate decision fatigue.
#6 – Sell Your Car
As I said, this list will include some minimalist techniques that are fairly drastic. And if this isn’t within the realm of possibility for you, I completely understand. There are plenty of other ways to minimize your life.
After all, how are you going to pick up your kids from school without a car?
However, for those of us that are young, single guys/gals with not many additional obligations, it’s definitely something worth considering.
I live in Chicago without a car, and it doesn’t hamper me whatsoever. Most of my friends live fairly close to me. And given the fact that I live in a big city, the places I go are usually never more than two to three miles away.
If it isn’t possible to walk somewhere, Uber is a few minutes away no matter where I am.
Now, everybody’s situation is different. If you’re on the move a lot and removing your car from your life would severely impact your travel time, then just ignore me here.
However, if you live in a big city with good public transit, and you stay within a fairly small radius for work/social outings, then selling your car is something worth taking a look at.
Depending on the condition of your car, you might get a decent chunk of change. Additionally, if you decide to get a bike to replace your car, then you’ll get the added benefit of exercise wherever you travel.
If this seems like too much for you, don’t worry. We’ve got plenty more ways to minimize your life that don’t involve selling your own transportation.
#7 – Get Rid of Broken or Damaged Things
Have any items sitting around that you’ve been “meaning to get fixed”?
Let’s be honest, if it was important enough, you would’ve gotten it fixed right away.
Minimalism is about removing anything that isn’t essential. And I’m fairly certain there are broken or damaged things you’ve been holding onto that need to go.
Just rip the bandaid off and remove them. They don’t deserve any more of your time and attention.
#8 – Buy Less Food at the Grocery Store
When you get home from the grocery store, how much of the food you buy just sits there for weeks, or even months, without being eaten?
Shopping trips can get out of hand quickly due to the fact you are exposed to visual cues the whole time you’re in the store.
“Oh that looks good!”
“Hmm..I haven’t gotten that before…let’s try that.”
One hour and $400 later, you’ve got a shopping cart full of food.
One month later, you’re throwing out some of that extra food because it just didn’t get eaten.
An easy way to minimize your life is to keep your shopping list down to the essentials foods that you eat on a regular basis.
Doing so will help you save money, and reduce the amount of time you spend stewing over what to eat at each meal. This leaves you with more brainpower to spend on other, more important decisions.
#9 – Clear Out Your Email Subscriptions
This is one of those items that everyone should be checking off their list when it comes to minimizing.
When you check your inbox, how much of what you actually see in there is important?
How many of those emails do you actually need to read, and how many are just clogging up space?
It’s time to undo the impulsive email opt-ins of your past and de-clutter your inbox.
You’re allowed to keep the important stuff. If there’s a store/person that you follow regularly, and you truly would like to be notified when they communicate with you, keep it!
Just eliminate all of the other garbage that you never click on.
#10 – Block Internet Ads
When you’re in a groove and working efficiently, there’s nothing more annoying than a pop-up ad that ruins your flow state,
Luckily, there are many different browser plug-ins that you can download to make sure that this never happens again.
These plug-ins will block ads from showing up on your website and improve the user experience on any site that you visit.
#11 – Automate Your Finances
One of my business mentors told me something that sticks with me to this day — “Anything that can be automated or outsourced is not an income producing activity.”
Rapid technological advancements have given us an excuse to be lazy — things that we used to spend hours doing can now be farmed out to an app or a freelancer and completed without us being involved.
First up, if all of your bills aren’t on auto-pay I would fix that right away. There’s no reason you should be spending time manually paying bills every month. (except in special circumstances like needing to change the card on file)
Second, you should automate contributions to your 401k, long-term savings accounts, and additional accounts like emergency funds. You can either do this through your bank and through your employer.
Third, create a budget based on your bills and account contributions, and then use a budgeting app like Pocketguard to make sure that you stay within that budget.
Having a budgeting app will give you clarity on your spending for the month so that you are able to meet your long-term financial goals.
Doing all three of these things I outlined above will help you minimize your life and spend less time on financial tasks that can be outsourced — freeing up time you can spend elsewhere.
#12 – Keep a Separate Calendar For Important Dates
With everything that we have going in on our lives, it can be hard to remember even the most important dates.
Things like our anniversary, the birthdays of our closest friends, Mother’s/Father’s Day — these are dates that should never be forgotten.
Yet, life has a tendency to get in the way which can cause us to forget these dates in certain circumstances. This doesn’t happen because we don’t care, it’s simply because we are bombarded with so many unimportant distractions that we sometimes forget the important things.
An easy way to solve this is to buy a calendar that omits days of the week and shows dates only, making it re-usable from year to year.
Use this calendar to enter important birthdays and anniversary dates that you need to remember — that way you’ll ensure you never miss anyone’s special day.
#13 – Outsource Errands & Tasks
One of the coolest things that I’ve recently done is started using Taskrabbit.
Taskrabbit is an online marketplace where real people meet local demand for freelance labor and offer their services.
People on Taskrabbit can help you with just about anything — general cleaning, furniture assembly, home repairs, organization, yard-work, moving, and even waiting in line at restaurants/specific events.
Just yesterday, I had someone assemble a new coffee table for me in an hour for just $30. And while I did spend money to have the task outsourced, I was able to lock my door and get an hour of focused work in instead of spending likely 2-3 hours doing the task myself.
Sometimes, minimizing your life takes a little bit of money. However, if something can be outsourced, you’re better off getting your wallet out. You’ll avoid the stress and hassle of tedious, time-consuming tasks like organizing your closet or cleaning your house.
Instead, you’ll be able to spend that time doing things that you enjoy.
I hope you got some value out of this list of ways to minimize your life!
Almost everything on this list, minus the idea of selling your car, is practical advice that everyone can benefit from.
Minimizing your life isn’t just about throwing stuff away, it’s also about freeing up time and energy for the things that matter.
It’s about removing the “fluff” from your life and focusing on the essentials.
Whether you consider yourself to be a minimalist or not, we can all benefit from de-cluttering our life and putting more of our focus towards meaningful pursuits.